Testifying before the City Council Education Committee on Tuesday, several charter school operators blasted the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact. The compact is an effort to help District and charter schools work together more productively and create more high-quality educational seats.
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, called for an end to the Renaissance Schools initiative, a program that has converted low-performing District schools into charters.
Rhonda Brownstein, a Philadelphia native and graduate of Northeast High, Penn State, and Temple Law School, has been appointed the new executive director of the Education Law Center. She succeeds Len Rieser, a Notebook board member.
[Updated Friday with video] At Thursday's School Reform Commission monthly action meeting, more than 40 speakers were on the agenda, with school closings and charter renewals and expansions among the hot topics.
As at other recent SRC meetings, contingents turned out again from two elementary schools targeted for closing, E.M. Stanton and Sheppard. The SRC heard passionate testimony from both schools. Notebook news partner PlanPhilly compiled video testimony on the topic of school closings from those who came because of the issue.
Recent recommendations from District staff to close two charters have set up a difficult question for the School Reform Commission.
Should charters whose mission is to take in the students who are most at-risk – those in foster care, children who have suffered trauma, youth returning from juvenile placement – be shut down if their test scores don't match up to the standard applied at other schools?
Supporters of Arise Academy and Hope Charter defended their schools at the SRC meeting Thursday night. The two high schools are awaiting an SRC vote April 19 on renewal of their charter. Both learned just days ago that the District staff is recommending that the SRC not renew their charters. Such a vote would close their schools down.
Arts education in Pennsylvania is declining and policymakers at all levels need to take action to restructure priorities and resources to make rich arts experiences accessible to all students, according to a new report.
Among other things, the report, from the Arts and Education Initiative of the Education Policy and Leadership Center, recommends that the State Board of Education revise its standards to require requiring an arts credit for high school graduation.
A new study by the Keystone Research Center says that contracting out student transportation has increased costs for Pennsylvania school districts instead of saving them money.
"Handing the reins over to the private sector is not always a good bargain for taxpayers," said Keystone executive director Stephen Herzenberg, a co-author of the study with labor economist Mark Price.
Parents at Creighton Elementary School, one of four schools slated to become a Renaissance Charter, plan a rally in opposition this afternoon. District officials will return to the school tonight for a second meeting to explain the decision to turn around the school.
With PSSA testing less than a week away, the School District has appointed former Temple University President David Adamany as an advisor to coordinate ongoing investigations of potential cheating at schools. Adamany is also expected to help ensure greater test security in the future.
Update 2/29, 2:40 p.m. PDE has just confirmed that three charter schools, including the Chester Community Charter School and the Hazleton Area School District, have also been required to follow this protocol. The other two charter schools are both in Philadelphia: Philadelphia Electrical and Technical Charter High School and Imhotep Institute Charter High School.
PDE spokesman Tim Eller said that even though hundreds of schools in Philadelphia have not been flagged for any suspected testing irregularities, "The Department believes it is necessary to apply the policy districtwide."
He also confirmed a statewide change: In the past only the building principal had to sign a certification that the testing protocols had been followed. Now multiple signatures are required. The building principal, the district and school assessment coordinator, and the proctor must all sign documents affirming that they have followed protocol and not tampered with the test booklets.
The reading area ordered removed from a 3rd grade classroom at the Lea Elementary School has been restored after the teacher’s husband complained to the School Reform Commission and wrote a widely circulated post about it for the Notebook.
School District spokesperson Fernando Gallard confirmed that the furniture had been moved back into the classroom from storage after Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon personally visited the class.
After four months, 21 meetings, and testimony from hundreds of people, the School Reform Commission is getting ready for the last phase of the process that could lead to the closure of as many as nine schools at the end of this school year.
The final public meeting – with people concerned about the proposed closing of the Levering Elementary School in Roxborough – took place Thursday night. In total, some 1,400 people turned out.
Schools turned around under the Renaissance Schools initiative, both charter conversions and District-run Promise Academies, showed student achievement gains in the first year that outpaced those of comparable schools, according to a study released today by Research for Action.
Speaker after speaker at a marathon School Reform Commission meeting Thursday night urged the five members to fight for more money for the District rather than passively accept deep cuts from the state.
About 400 students, parents, and teachers from mostly low-income school districts around Pennsylvania traveled to Harrisburg on Valentine's Day to tell Gov. Corbett how his budget cuts are hurting their opportunities for a quality education.
UPDATE: District statement
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is alleging that the School District is violating the school code and endangering children because it has ordered untrained school personnel to administer medication in the absence of nurses.
The District laid off 47 nurses in December, and the ratio of student-to-nurse now exceeds the recommended ideal. As a result, many schools have nurses on site only one or two days a week.