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There are some glimmers of progress. The percentage of Philadelphia high school graduates who enroll in college immediately after finishing school is on the rise, from 40 percent in 2008 to 44 percent last year.
"It's low, but I definitely think we're moving in the right direction," said Fran Newberg, the District's deputy for accountability and technology
For three of this year's four Renaissance Schools, the selection process is over. The public meetings are complete, the School Reform Commission has voted, and barring any unforeseen complication, next September they'll open as neighborhood charter schools.
But at Creighton Elementary in the Lower Northeast, supporters of a unique plan for a teacher-led administration are holding out hope that their school can buck a very big trend.
He steered into the high school parking lot, clicked off the ignition and scanned the scraps of his recent weeks. Crinkled chip bags on the dashboard. Soda cups at his feet. And on the passenger seat, a rumpled SAT practice book whose owner had been told since fourth grade he was headed to the Ivy League. Pencils up in 20 minutes.
The boy exhaled. Before opening the car door, he recalled recently, he twisted open a capsule of orange powder and arranged it in a neat line on the armrest. He leaned over, closed one nostril and snorted it.
President Barack Obama's call for states to raise the minimum age at which students can drop out of high school seems about as popular as a homework assignment on Friday afternoon.
Since the president urged the change in his State of the Union speech in January, only one state has raised its dropout age to 18, and that won't take effect for five years.
Even legislators in Obama's home state of Illinois wouldn't go along with his proposal, despite an endorsement from the governor. They quickly dumped the issue into the limbo of a special study commission after it became clear there wasn't enough money to support it.
U.S. News and World Report released their “Best High Schools” state lists last week, ranking eight School District of Philadelphia high schools among the honorees in Pennsylvania, and awarding Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration school as the number one high school in Pennsylvania overall.
To determine the Best High Schools in Pennsylvania, schools were analyzed at the state level based on how students performed on state assessments. Masterman students proved to be 98 percent proficient in reading, and 100 percent proficient in math. U.S. News also recognized that Masterman students boast a 94 percent participation rate in Advanced Placement coursework and exams, and score an 83.8 on the college readiness index.
In a growing number of states a single reading test determines which third-grade students advance to fourth grade. Proponents of the rule say that kids learn to read until third grade, and then read to learn. But critics argue that holding students back does more harm than good in the long run.
Philadelphia’s new Great Schools Compact lays out an ambitious goal: replace or transform 50,000 seats in low-performing schools with better options.
But will the Compact include a push to close low-performing charter schools and help successful District-managed schools flourish? Or will it function solely to accelerate existing efforts to close District-run schools and expand the city’s burgeoning charter sector?
Those were the biggest questions on the table during a lively discussion Monday night attended by about 100 people before the School Reform Commission’s “choice, rightsizing, and turnaround” committee.
This guest blog post comes from the Philadelphia Urban Food and Fitness Alliance. PUFFA solicited questions from students, parents/guardians, and other community residents and received responses from the Food Services Division of the School District of Philadelphia.
1. Why can't our children have organic milk to drink?
The total cost allotted to a school lunch is approximately $2.73, and $1.39 is allotted for food, $1.03 for labor and
39 cents the balance for infrastructure/administrative costs. Within the budget of $1.39 for food, 25 cents is available for milk. At this time, the cost of organic milk would significantly exceed the available funds for this item.
Like almost 14 million other Americans, Monica Reyes is looking for work.
"Macy's, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Friday's, Outback," said Reyes, ticking off her list of recent unsuccessful job applications.
A sluggish economy has made finding work difficult for people from all walks of life. Nationally, the unemployment rate is still above 8 percent. Four people compete for every job.
Few of them will have a tougher time finding work than Reyes.
Last summer Heston Elementary School Principal Icilyn Wilson-Greene received a phone call from the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePac) about an opportunity to restore the school’s library.
It was a welcome call because a large and growing number of Philadelphia public elementary school students don’t have access to a school library or a certified school librarian, and Heston was struggling to keep its own library doors open.
“The best way I think is to look for things that interest them,” said Anthony Martin, the founder of What it Takes (WIT), a Philadelphia-based e-mentoring program aimed specifically at connecting at-risk Black male students with successful Black men.
The School District's on-time graduation rate climbed 3 percentage points last year to 61 percent, the first time in memory that more than six of ten Philadelphia students have graduated on time. That figure is the percentage of students who entered 9th grade in fall 2007 and finished high school by 2011.