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Below is District fact sheet on turnaround school plan

By the Notebook on Feb 25, 2009 04:00 PM

February 25, 2009, Fernando A. Gallard, #024-09
School District of Philadelphia Releases
Strategic Plan Fact Sheet


Imagine 2014: Quality Choices
Just the Facts

Since the presentation of Imagine 2014 to the SRC and public, there have been positive comments, editorials and support for the full implementation of the goals and strategies of this strategic plan.  People are excited about this plan and what it could mean for Philadelphia’s children.  However, particular attention has been focused on the concept of Renaissance Schools, and the strategy to “close failing schools and embrace bold new educational approaches with proven track records for success that include in-district restructuring and external partnerships.”  This fact sheet is developed to clarify elements of the proposed strategy so that the staff and the entire community can focus its attention and efforts to ensure that all of our children have access to a high quality education.


 Q.  Why is closing failing schools and reopening them as Renaissance Schools a viable strategy for improving achievement and student outcomes?

The district has a 37% drop-out rate.  In many of our failing schools the drop-out rate is higher than the district average.  Too many schools have failed students for many years, some for a decade or more.  It is time that the district stop tolerating mediocrity, failure or excuses about why we can’t provide great schools and great choices for all families.

Q.  Have Renaissance Schools been identified?
No.  The District has not identified the criteria to determine which schools will become Renaissance Schools.  There will be an extensive set of data and performance measures that will be used to review each school’s progress over an extended period of time.

Q.  Is the district putting schools up for grabs?
Absolutely not.   The district will work in conjunction with the affected parents and families in each school to choose ONLY instructional models with a proven track record of success that best fit the needs and desires of that particular community.

Q.  What does a proven track record of success really mean?
Instructional models that have led to dramatic improvement in student achievement.

Q.  Will the district hand over 20 neighborhood schools to Charter Management Organizations (CMO) and Education Management Organizations (EMO)?
No.  The district plans to restructure a number of the failing schools as in-district charters (very similar to the district’s previous “restructured schools model”) with the autonomy to select staff and make decisions in the best interest of the school community, free of some of the process challenges and contractual restrictions.  In addition, the district will solicit other proposals from successful principals, charters and other organizations including PFT that have demonstrated experience in producing successful student outcomes.

Q.  How will the district hold the CMOs and EMOs selected to run Renaissance Schools accountable for student results?
Renaissance Schools will be held to the same high standards and performance outcomes as all other district schools.  Annual school report cards will be available for the parents and the larger Philadelphia community on the progress of these schools.

Q.  How will the school community be involved?
Parents and school communities will be invited to review proposals, recommend the model of their choice, participate on site visitation teams and in the selection of staff, and fully participate in the transition process. 

Q.  What about the students?   Will they be displaced in the new schools?
No.   All students will remain in the new schools able to take full advantage of the new instructional program and accompanying resources.

Q.  Why is this process different from past practice?
In the past, communities were not involved in the process of selecting the school models of their choice.  In the past, students were dispersed to other schools while the new school accepted only one grade at a time.  And, in the past, contractors were paid regardless of student results.  Payment and continuation of contracts will be dependent on student results.

Q.  What is the timeline for implementation of the Renaissance Schools Program?
Spring/Summer 2009:  Initiate RFP process to select pool of qualified Renaissance School providers
Summer/Fall 2009:  Identify approximately 10 Renaissance Schools and begin matching process
-District Review
-Community Review
-Recommendations of school and provider matches to SRC
Winter 2010:  Transition process begins with District, school community, and new provider
Fall 2010:  Opening of new school with current student population

Q.  What about the Empowerment Schools Program?
This year, the district allocated an additional $18 million to our lowest performing schools.  The goal of the Empowerment Schools Program is to target resources to the critical support areas that challenge the teaching and learning process in order to accelerate student achievement, thus, reducing the number of schools that may be eligible to become Renaissance Schools.  The Empowerment Schools Program will continue as a strategy for improving student achievement in the strategic plan.

Q.  Where did this plan come from?
It is a compilation of the working groups, various reports, task forces, community meetings, parent roundtables, transition team recommendations and the best thinking of district staff.   It builds upon learning from past reform efforts in Philadelphia and what we know works in other school districts across the county line or nation.

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Comments (10)

Submitted by Paul Socolar on February 25, 2009 4:00 pm

The release of this fact sheet coincided with a Philadelphia Student Union action held at 440 N. Broad St. today, which is raising questions about the "school turnaround" portion of the District's strategic plan.

From the announcement:

PSU celebrates Black History Month by asking:

55 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, are our schools moving in a more equitable and less segregated direction? Do we have the opportunity to access an education for our own liberation? Are adults really making decisions in the best interests of students?

Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009,4:00 p.m., 440 N. Broad St.

Yesterday the district released its strategic plan: Imagine 2014

We have some reasons to celebrate -

PSU's Student Success Centers will be expanded to every high school.

We will get the guidance counselors and smaller class sizes we've organized for.

Steps are being taking to address inequities in teacher quality and distribution.

We also must raise some questions -

Yet another round of what we faced in 2001 – outside providers like the failed Edison schools to deal with the neediest students?

Closing 30-35 schools and re-opening them as charters and privatized schools?

Are poor students, students with special needs, English language learners, and students with disabilities served equally by all schools?

Join us in the spirit of Black History Month as we celebrate our success and continue to push to achieve equity for all students. Our celebration will include a skit:

"Renaissance 2010: No Knight In Shining Armor" – referring to the District's use of Chicago's school reform plan as a model for Philadelphia.

Submitted by Erika (not verified) on February 27, 2009 11:15 am

The action got a lot of local news coverage. The Inquirer and Daily News reported on the opposition to the turnaround plan. And the Daily News reported the student activists' response to a meeting with Superintendent Ackerman.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 26, 2009 9:07 pm

I'm a bit confused. I work in an empowerment school. I have seen no new efforts to improve our school. The return of successful programs such as Read 180 or Reading Recovery has not happened. We see lots of people walking around our halls as if that makes a difference.
Our discipline has never been worse and that does make a difference. Our school does not have a dedicated maintenance staff. Thus our students receive two messages everyday: Education is for other people and mice need a place to winter.
If anyone believes this is anything but a deliberate attempt to defer blame to others on the part of impudent administration with apparently little understanding of where the achievement gap begins they are severely mistaken.

Submitted by Peggy Bradley (not verified) on March 2, 2009 11:41 am

This is so perplexing when I read the explanation for why these schools are being formed. The fact that schools fail students could also be stated this way; students fail. Students fail for many reasons. Many of them do not do work in class, are disruptive and defiant. Many of them need remedial help with reading, writing and math to improve skills that stopped developing in third grade. Many of them need counseling, medical and emotional services. They may have failed before but progressed through the system's summer school to advance to the next grade. This is very common.

These students need private attention which no one is able to give in a regular classroom. Reducing class sizes, analyzing and providing resources for failing students seems like the first step in improving our schools. The problem is not the school (teacher) failing them, it is that the student is failing and needs immediate, individual help!

This was not addressed in the last EMO I worked in. The pressure was on the teacher to pass the student, unless the student was chronically absent. A teacher is not able to teach remedial reading and math when there is a classroom with 20 or more students waiting for attention. This seems so obvious to anyone who is present in our failing schools every day. This is where our resources should be focused, not on new companies and management.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 2, 2009 3:20 pm

I teach in the school right next you grades 3-5 and I found out from a another teacher about the blogs. I am not surprised in the least about what is and will happen in your building. We went through the same nonsense the last couple years. We were relieved when the principal left, but reading all these blogs, I feel bad for your school and the teachers. The discipline is much better this year and it has everything to do with who help and who came over. Hopefully you get the help you need sooner rather then later. Have the teachers called channel 10 or fox news. It is extreme to do so, but it will most likely help you in the long run.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 2, 2009 8:23 pm

I would like to address the inclusion factor. I am for inclusion, but not as it is being applied now. Too many teachers who do not have a special ed certificate find themselves with a large number of students with special needs. In my school, for example, we have classrooms with 30 or so students with 10 or more inclusion students. A special ed teacher travels from class to class, but never sees his or her students more than 45 minutes per day (at best). Which leaves a regular ed teacher with a classroom overloaded with challenges both academic and behavioral.
I do not feel that students who are more than 2 years below their grade level should be mainstreamed. And the number of students included in a regular classroom should be limited to no more than 4 or 5.
A teacher is unlikely to be successful of he or she has to face that many needy students. Differentiated instruction can work if the number of special need students is kept low.
I look forward to the day when all students with special needs receive the special attention they really need and deserve.

Submitted by Alicia Dorsey (not verified) on March 3, 2009 3:39 pm

I agree that our students are failing. I would like to see the schools stop playing the role of the parent and involving more parents in the students educational growth. Parents have to learn their roles as life coaches and help guide their students through school. Students should not be picking classes that effect their future without their parents input, Our students shouldn't be given fines that parents don't know about. I had a hard time being allowed to volunteer in my youths schools last year. This year is better I am very active in my sons decisions. I would hope that an effort to get more parents involved is inculded in the turnaround of our schools. It takes the entire village, we step in when parents cannot but we are not to replace the parents. Education starts at Home. The students environment needs to be taken into account and too many of our high school students cannot read or write. Quality education has been neglected for too long.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2009 11:19 am

Could you publish the original URL for this fact sheet? I can't find it on the district's site.

Submitted by Erika Owens (not verified) on March 10, 2009 11:00 am

I don't think it was on the District's site, it was an emailed press release.

Submitted by Paul Socolar on March 13, 2009 6:00 pm

Here's the link to an updated Feb 26 version of the fact sheet.

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