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Should Pa. require students to pass standardized tests to graduate?

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jan 28, 2015 04:22 PM

The clock is ticking.

By 2017, in order to graduate high school in Pennsylvania, students must pass three state standardized tests: algebra, literature, and biology.

Based on most recent student scores — especially in biology — if trends continue, Pennsylvania will soon see far fewer of its students walking down the aisle in cap and gown.

In order to preempt that scenario, State Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Dauphin) has introduced a bill that would repeal the state-mandated graduation requirement, leaving the decision to local school districts.

Ask the mayoral candidates: How would you solve the kindergarten conundrum?

By Brian Hickey for NewsWorks on Jan 28, 2015 10:43 AM

As part of a regular series leading up to Philadelphia's May 19 mayoral primaries, NewsWorks will pose a question of the declared candidates. Do you have a question? Email it to

The inaugural question comes from me ...

Kindergarten concerns

Question: My wife and I are currently in the process of determining where our 4-year-old son will go to kindergarten next school year.

Our catchment-zone school does not meet our expectations. We have entered several public (charter) school lotteries, but whether he will attend any of those is up to luck and chance.

District investigating school with 20% opt-out rate

By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Jan 26, 2015 09:00 PM

Parents of about 100 students at North Philadelphia's Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences have signed letters withdrawing their children from standardized tests.

Now the Philadelphia School District is investigating whether those parents "have been fully informed," according to District spokesman Fernando Gallard.

Pa. House speaker blasts City Council on PGW, warns of repercussions to schools

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jan 26, 2015 04:55 PM

One of Pennsylvania's most powerful state lawmakers says the actions of Philadelphia's City Council may put additional funding in jeopardy for the cash-strapped city School District.

Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) criticized City Council's decision not to hold a hearing on Mayor Nutter's plan to sell the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works.

Nutter's proposed deal with UIL Holdings Corp. of Connecticut would have privatized the utility for $1.86 billion. A portion of those proceeds would have been used to reduce the city's unfunded pension liability.

Is 'grit' racist?

By Benjamin Herold for Education Week on Jan 26, 2015 01:25 PM

"Grit" has in recent years captivated the imagination of educators and policymakers, leading many to embrace the idea that schools should seek to cultivate in their students a set of personality traits demonstrated by researchers to be closely tied to academic and personal success.

Increasingly, though, critics are offering a different take, arguing that grit is a racist construct and has harmed low-income students by crowding out a focus on providing children with the supports they deserve and the more-flexible educational approach enjoyed by many of their more affluent counterparts.

That view was on full display Saturday at EduCon 2.7, a progressive education-technology conference being held in Philadelphia.

City Council president proposes tax alternative for nonprofits

By Tom MacDonald on Jan 23, 2015 02:47 PM

City Council is considering a plan to enlist the help of Philadelphia colleges and universities to help the city's public schools. That assistance would be in lieu of taxes because most property owned by nonprofits is tax-exempt.

Council President Darrell Clarke says that instead of coming up with ways to tax them, he wants them to voluntarily help the struggling Philadelphia public schools.

Approve quality charters or reject them all? Which is the irresponsible move?

By Joseph Dworetzky on Jan 23, 2015 01:05 PM

Note: Joseph Dworetzky served as a School Reform Commission member from 2010 to 2014. The opinions expressed here are his own and are not to be read as the views of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, the law firm where he is a shareholder, or of the SRC or the School District of Philadelphia.

Last week, I received an email from the Philadelphia School Partnership expressing outrage over a recent report by Public Citizens for Children and Youth that recommended the School Reform Commission should not approve any of the 40 pending charter school applications. The group said PCCY’s recommendation was deeply flawed.

Thirteen of the 40 applicants – representing 13,000 new charter seats -- deserve approval, PSP said. The reason? These 13 schools are being proposed by high-quality charter school operators, with many of their existing schools serving a similar cohort of low-income students as District-run schools but receiving better school ratings. According to PSP, to reject these applications wouldn’t just be mistaken, it would be "outrageous."

'EduCon,' an ed-tech conference without vendors, set to begin

By Benjamin Herold for Education Week on Jan 23, 2015 11:05 AM

It's been called "the best bake sale in education."

Friday marks the opening of EduCon 2.7, an unorthodox ed-tech conference that stands apart from other such gatherings because of its approach (a strident commitment to progressive, inquiry-driven teaching), its location (a high school, Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy), and especially for the way it is funded (no vendor sponsorships, product exhibition spaces, or sales pitches allowed, in stark contrast to other large events in the sector).

After false start, DHS evaluating afterschool programs for possible cuts

By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Jan 22, 2015 02:38 PM

Last week, Philadelphia providers of afterschool programs such as tutoring and college prep were shaken up when their budgets were cut without warning.

Logging onto internal invoicing and attendance software, providers saw that their "slot levels," or the number of students they serve through Philadelphia's Department of Human Services funding, had dropped.

Who is Doug Oliver? The relatively unknown mayoral hopeful with nothing to lose talks schools

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jan 21, 2015 01:51 PM

Doug Oliver wants Philadelphians to face harsh facts and make tough choices when it comes to education spending.

Having just stepped down from his post as senior vice president of marketing and corporate communication for Philadelphia Gas Works to run for mayor, Oliver speaks like a man with nothing to lose.

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