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Education advocates are poised to take SRC to court over lack of transparency

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 7, 2014 05:13 PM

When the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to unilaterally cancel the District teachers' union contract last month, it did so in way designed to attract the least immediate pushback.

Education advocates believe the SRC's action violated the state's government transparency laws.

From the archives: Commissioner Glenn's biggest challenge

By the Notebook on Nov 7, 2014 10:57 AM

The Notebook was launched in 1994 as a newspaper committed to ensuring quality and equity in Philadelphia public schools. We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first publication this spring. We are featuring an article from our archives each week, shedding light on both the dramatic changes that have taken place in public education and the persistent issues facing Philadelphia's school system.

This Q&A is from the Spring 2002 print edition:

The Notebook invited the five School Reform Commission members to speak with us individually about their perspectives on key issues facing the School District. Only Commissioner Sandra Dungee Glenn responded in time for this issue. She was interviewed on Feb. 26 by Notebook Editor Paul Socolar. Here are excerpts from that interview.

Notebook: What do you think most urgently needs change in the Philadelphia schools?

Days after election, Pa. releases standardized test score data

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 6, 2014 07:42 PM

The Pennsylvania Department of Education released a trove of academic data Thursday -– more than a month later in the year than usual.

For the second year in a row, the state downplayed year-to-year trends in standardized test score results, instead trumpeting its School Performance Profile – an aggregate measure that takes into account holistic factors including graduation rates and student progress.

State releases school performance scores

By David Limm on Nov 6, 2014 03:33 PM

The state's Education Department today released the scores it uses to rate Pennsylvania's public schools.

The number of schools meeting the state's standard stayed flat this year, Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq announced Thursday. Nearly three-quarters of the state's 2,947 district and charter schools, she said, received scores of 70 or higher.  

Racial bias evident in Pa. funding system, analysis shows

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 6, 2014 10:39 AM

During the gubernatorial campaign, advocates emphasized that Pennsylvania is one of the few states that has no education funding formula. In other words, it has no rational, predictable, enrollment-based system for distributing state school aid.

The process now in place is based on an accumulation of old formulas and ad hoc decisions made over decades.

And a new analysis shows in dramatic fashion that this system, now under review by a special legislative commission, has a discriminatory impact based on race.  

What will Tom Wolf's win mean to Pennsylvania classrooms?

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 5, 2014 09:56 PM

Education advocates got exactly what they wanted in Pennsylvania's gubernatorial election Tuesday: a progressive Democrat who puts education at the top of his priority list.

Gov.- elect Tom Wolf has big plans for providing relief to resource-strapped classrooms across the commonwealth, but onlookers and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle concur that Wolf's agenda faces a very steep climb.

Despite a fervent effort to push incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett out of office, Wolf supporters aren't so naive to think the York county businessman can wave a magic wand and give schools all the resources they need immediately.

How can parents help their kids learn to read?

By Shannon Nolan on Nov 4, 2014 04:06 PM

Monday night’s School Reform Commission meeting on strategy, policy, and priorities brought together teachers, partner organizations, and District officials working on a new citywide campaign. They were all looking for answers to the same question: How do we get kids to read?

The common answer that night: Parents need to be involved, preferably from their children's early stages of development. Parents at the meeting, however, represented a small minority of attendees.

The campaign, called READ! by 4th, stands for Ready, Engaged, Able, and Determined, and aims for reading proficiency for all Philadelphia 4th graders by 2020. The program launched in August.

One month in, Philly cigarette tax boosting business in the 'burbs

By Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks on Nov 3, 2014 04:05 PM

The $2-per-pack cigarette tax in Philadelphia has been in effect for more than a month, and some people are hitting the road to avoid paying the additional cost.

If you pull into the Wawa parking lot in Trevose on Route 1 just over the city line, it's hard to find a parking space because the store is selling cigarettes at the state minimum, without the $2 tax that must be collected just down the road.

District, community work to restore heat to volunteer-run library

By Neema Roshania for NewsWorks on Nov 3, 2014 10:12 AM

Houston Elementary's volunteer-run library reopened last year after being non-operational for two years. Since then, it has grown by at least 500 books, says Elayne Blender, a community member who leads the library effort.

Now adult volunteers — who include grandparents, parents, neighbors and community members — are working with administration and the School District of Philadelphia to make sure that students have access to the library no matter the temperature outside.

More on the Notebook/NewsWorks PSSA investigation

By Paul Socolar on Oct 31, 2014 04:05 PM

Notebook contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa will be on WHYY's NewsWorks Tonight, Friday at 6 p.m., discussing the Notebook/NewsWorks investigative report about the Pennsylvania Department of Education's delayed release of the 2014 PSSA results. (Listen to the show live at or by tuning into 90.9 FM. A recorded version will also be available at

The article, published Thursday evening, also discussed an across-the-board decline in statewide PSSA scores in reading and math in 2013 that had not previously been reported in the press.

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