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Wolf's education transition committee has heavy Philadelphia presence

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 19, 2014 06:17 PM

Half of the members of Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's 18-person transition committee for education issues have Philadelphia ties, including co-chair Pedro Rivera, the Lancaster superintendent.

Rivera was born and raised in Philadelphia and spent 13 years in the system as a teacher, principal, and director of human resources before heading to Lancaster in 2008. There he has drawn attention for improving student achievement and the district's financial position.

District: We need $309M more next year to provide effective education

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 18, 2014 02:30 PM

Updated | 7:50 p.m.

Tonight Superintendent William Hite presented two five-year financial plans to the School Reform Commission.

One is called "Inadequate Status Quo" and reflects the "grim reality" of current conditions in schools. 

The other, called "Transformation," asks for enough resources to "provide all ... students with the kind of educational opportunities that will enable them to fulfill their promise."

Ground rules set for 2nd round of charter hearings in January

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 16, 2014 05:24 PM

The School District has established the ground rules for a second round of hearings on charter school applications next month.

According to an email from the District's Charter Schools Office, each of the 40 applications will get a two-hour hearing. Last week, the applicants went through a first round of hearings in front of a District hearing officer, in which they had 15 minutes apiece to make their case.

Head of state charter coalition: Not sure of size of waiting lists

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 12, 2014 04:58 PM

The head of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools said Friday that there is no way of knowing whether the claim is accurate that 40,000 students in Philadelphia now are on charter school waiting lists. 

Is the number larger? is it smaller? Is it close? What is the relationship between the number of names on lists and the actual number of students waiting to get into charters?

Can't say, according to Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. 

U.S. labor secretary praises Philly apprentice program, announces $100M grant competition

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 11, 2014 04:01 PM

Tyler Buck skillfully dismantled the screen of an iMac computer and showed U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez how to put it back together.

"You're on the education superhighway," Perez said, telling Buck he has the skills for the future. "The sky's the limit."

Said Buck, "I still have a lot to learn."

State appeal board upholds decision to close Truebright Academy charter

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 9, 2014 06:25 PM

The state Charter Appeal Board has upheld the decision of the School Reform Commission to close Truebright Science Academy Charter School.

School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the decision of the seven-member board was unanimous. Tim Eller, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, confirmed the action.

Author Elizabeth Green speaks in Philadelphia about teaching

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 5, 2014 11:41 AM

Journalist and author Elizabeth Green came to Philadelphia this week and made the case that good teachers are made, not born.

Once you accept that, Green said, then it becomes obvious why school districts, higher education, all levels of government and the private sector should be developing policies and practices that will better support the people in the nation's largest profession.  

Green, who is also the editor-in-chief of the education news outlet Chalkbeat, appeared at the Notebook's annual member appreciation event Wednesday. That was also the day that her book, Building a Better Teacher, was named one of 100 notable books of 2014 by the New York Times.

Constitution High students march to Liberty Bell to protest Ferguson

By Shannon Nolan and Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 25, 2014 03:07 PM

Cimani Cox was sitting in English class when teacher Rob Paul brought up what had happened the night before in Ferguson -- a grand jury's decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

She decided she had to do something about it. After all, this is Constitution High School.

Before long, she had the support of principal Tom Davidson and teachers for a protest march. 

SRC votes to close Imani Charter; school vows appeal

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 20, 2014 11:50 PM

The School Reform Commission voted 4-1 Thursday night to close Imani Education Circle Charter School in Germantown, leading the school's board and CEO to promise a swift and strong appeal to the state.

"We will go through the appeal process and will be fine," said CEO Francine Fulton after the vote.  "I have no fear the state will deny our charter."

On second day, funding panel hears from POWER, charters

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 19, 2014 11:23 PM

On its second day in Philadelphia, the Basic Education Funding Commission heard Wednesday from two distinct groups.

First were charter operators, who highlighted their successes and parsed the complexities of the state's education funding streams, mostly to argue that their schools are being shortchanged.

And then there were the ministers, parents, and advocates from POWER, the faith-based advocacy group, who urged the legislators to to think of school funding as a matter of justice.

Commission hears from Philadelphia that spending cuts have created a crisis

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 18, 2014 06:12 PM

Experts, advocates, and ordinary citizens from Philadelphia on Tuesday told legislators charged with revising Pennsylvania's education funding formula that city schools are reeling from the consequences of insufficient revenue and urged the panel to base state aid on real student need. 

"Philadelphia schools are now a strong investment," said School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green to the members of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which has been holding hearings around the state. He said that several years ago, while on City Council, he didn't believe this, but that he is now confident in the leadership of Superintendent William Hite.

Groups plan actions for when education funding body meets in Philly

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 16, 2014 11:55 AM

The Pennsylvania legislature's Basic Education Funding Commission is coming to Philadelphia for hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, and two advocacy groups have announced plans to make sure that its members hear from the public whether they want to or not.

Four schools approved for redesign

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 12, 2014 06:00 PM

Update | Friday, noon 

The School District has approved three elementary schools and one middle school for redesign overhauls that could significantly change how students experience education. 

All the plans, in one way or another, appear to involve more intensive use of technology and a shift to inquiry- and project-based learning.

The schools are:

With days until deadline, 46 new charter applications

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 11, 2014 05:04 PM

The deadline for filing is not until Nov. 15, but the School District of Philadelphia already has 46 letters of intent from groups wanting to open new charter schools.

It is seeking help to evaluate them all.

A letter sent to universities says that "budgetary constraints require the District to seek application reviewers who are willing to give of their expertise on a volunteer basis." 

Hite and others see racial disparities in funding as alarming

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 7, 2014 05:14 PM

"Stark" and "alarming" are words that were used Friday to describe the results of a recently published analysis of state education aid. It shows that Pennsylvania districts with similar rates of poverty that are almost all White get higher per-pupil amounts of basic education funding than districts that are more racially diverse.

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