The School District is proposing an overhaul of its charter school authorizing policy to make it more rigorous and consistent and is seeking public comment on the changes.
The deadline for providing such comment is this Friday, March 7. Comments can be recorded here. Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said the proposed policy will be revised to take the feedback into account.
Specifically, the proposed rules are aimed to support high-quality charters and close underperforming ones, while offering more frequent monitoring, more transparency, and the opportunity for expansion to charters that meet new, higher standards and academic benchmarks.
Renowned actress, playwright, professor, and activist Anna Deavere Smith is in Philadelphia for research on one of her signature projects that combine journalism, ethnography, social commentary, and theater. Her subject: the school-to-prison pipeline.
Smith discussed her work-in-progress Wednesday night in a packed session at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, where the plan is for her finished theatrical work to be produced at the end of the 2014-15 season. A documentary is also being made about her process in crafting the piece.
As she has done for similar projects, Smith is interviewing dozens of people – in this case, students, teachers, parents, principals, judges, public defenders, prisoners, former prisoners, prison officials, politicians, police, advocates, school dropouts, thought leaders, and people working with the anti-violence project CeaseFire – to shed light on the sprawling topic.
The School Reform Commission approved the creation of three small, non-selective high schools Thursday that are meant to personalize learning while stressing inquiry- and project-based learning.
The schools, which are still being designed, will abandon the model of consecutive, subject-based periods for a school day to make more effective use of technology, off-campus internships, and community integration. They are meant to reinvigorate the concept of neighborhood schools, said Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn.
The financially beleaguered School District is on track to end this fiscal year with a shortfall of $14 million, Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski told the School Reform Commission Thursday night.
The news of an unbalanced budget was a grim but not unexpected greeting for new SRC chair Bill Green, who also got an earful from an unhappy capacity crowd of about 250 people. New SRC member Farah Jimenez was not present, fulfilling another commitment that predated her appointment.
The School District of Philadelphia will ask for $320 million in additional funds next year to reach "a bare minimum amount of improved and sustained educational opportunities for our students and families," according to a financial supplement to Superintendent William Hite's Action Plan 2.0 made public Thursday.
Ideally, Hite said, to fully realize his plan -- built on "bold expectations" for creating schools that can prepare all students for college and careers -- the price tag exceeds twice that amount.
The School District does not do enough to train employees or clarify and enforce its ethics policies, a long-awaited report being discussed at the School Reform Commission today concludes.
As a result of the lack of focus, members of the public lack confidence that the School District officials and personnel act in an ethical manner, says the report, which was compiled by a task force of outside experts and completed in December, 2012 -- 14 months ago.
Superintendent William Hite’s Action Plan 2.0 is full of interesting facts and statistics. A few that caught our eye:
1. As a result of school closings and relocations in 2013, school utilization went from 67 percent to 74 percent -- still far from the District's target of having 85 percent of seats occupied, as was specified in its Facilities Master Plan process.
Superintendent William Hite, seeking to demonstrate that the District is moving forward despite profound financial woes, has released an updated “action plan” for improving city schools.
The 42-page plan takes aim at four “anchor goals” that Hite calls “aspirational in scope and urgent in nature,” including having 100 percent of 8-year-olds reading on grade level and 100 percent of students graduating with college-ready or job-ready skills.
Notebook sources and other news reports indicate that Gov. Corbett intends to nominate Councilman Bill Green as chair of the School Reform Commission on Friday and appoint Farah Jimenez, executive director of the People's Emergency Center, to fill a second seat on the commission being vacated by Joseph Dworetzky.
After more than two years of investigations by both the state and the School District, 138 Philadelphia educators have been implicated in test score cheating, according to information given to the School Reform Commission on Thursday.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has filed or is pursuing actions against 69 current and former employees based on its investigation of 14 so-called Tier 1 schools -- 11 District schools and 3 charters -- District officials told the SRC. They provided no more details on that group.
The District found grounds for disciplinary action against an additional 69 educators in 19 so-called Tier 2 schools that it investigated with the help of the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Officials gave more details on the results of its own investigation.
Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky has announced that his term on the School Reform Commission expires on Saturday and that Thursday is his last meeting. His departure leaves the SRC with just three members.
Dworetzky, who was appointed by former Gov. Ed Rendell, could have stayed until his replacement was seated, which could take months. Gov. Corbett has not made appointments to fill either his seat or that of Pedro Ramos, who resigned as chair in October for family reasons.
Commissioners must be approved by the state Senate, and for previous appointees, including Ramos, that process took months.
Corbett is due to visit Philadelphia on Friday morning to declare three high-performing District schools as Governor's Schools of Excellence -- Central, Masterman and Carver. A knowledgeable Harrisburg source said Thursday only that the SRC appointments will be made "soon."
Updated, 3:40 p.m.
The School Reform Commission is hearing a presentation on testing integrity at its meeting tonight -- likely the result of its long-awaited investigation into PSSA test cheating in dozens of city schools.
And in a personnel resolution coming to an SRC vote, three principals are up for termination, effective Friday: Michelle Burns, Deidre Bennett, and Marla Travis-Curtis. All three worked at schools under investigation for cheating on the PSSA exam.
Burns, now principal of Kensington Urban Education High School, was principal of Tilden Middle School when the alleged cheating took place. Bennett, principal of Cassidy, was on the staff at Huey Elementary. Travis-Curtis has been the principal of Lamberton Elementary School.
The School Reform Commission will vote Thursday on a resolution to close Arise Academy Charter High School, which was set up to educate foster children but had been plagued by difficulties since its establishment almost five years ago.
It will also vote on resolutions to renew two charters founded by Dorothy June Brown, Laboratory and Planet Abacus, as well as the Philadelphia Electrical & Technology (PE&T) Charter High School.
With the start of the new year, the two sides in the ongoing labor talks between the School District and the teachers' union have jointly agreed to stepped-up mediation, a development that both sides described as an effort to reach some conclusion -- but not a sign that they are at an impasse.
The high-stakes negotiations have been going on since last spring with no public sign of progress. The contract expired Aug. 31, more than four months ago. Talks were scheduled for every day this week.
Attendance was lower than usual Tuesday, one of the coldest days in recent memory, with just 64 percent of students attending elementary and middle schools and 45 percent in high schools.
"It wasn't a wasted day," said District spokesman Fernando Gallard. Attendance rates at different schools varied widely, ranging from near perfect to numbers in the 30s. Average daily attendance for last school year was just over 90 percent.