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October 2011 Vol. 19. No. 2 Focus on School Turnarounds

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Where is all this heading?

Activists, educators, and officials weigh in on how turnarounds will reshape the system in the coming years.

By by Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 21, 2011 09:17 PM
Photo: Benjamin Herold

Gratz High School is one of the latest crop of school turnarounds in Philadelphia. Gary Ray (center), a 10th grader, waits outside the school, now known as Mastery-Gratz, on the first day.

With turnarounds proceeding rapidly in Philadelphia and established providers eager to continue taking over low-performing schools, it is likely that the School District will look very different in five years.

In 2010 and 2011, 13 District schools have been converted to charters, including three high schools. Another nine have become Promise Academies, remaining within the District, but receiving mostly new leadership and staff, as well as expensive new programs. In the first two years of the Renaissance Schools program, the District is averaging 11 turnaround attempts per year.

The Notebook asked several officials, activists and educators to discuss their reform vision and also their predictions, considering what will be financially feasible and politically palatable.

Creating a full choice system

"We are headed away from a monolithic public school model," said Lori Shorr, chief of Mayor Michael Nutter's education office.

"We will see different types of schools managed by different people that have various degrees of private investment and collaboration. That's where the District should be headed. Nationally, that's where you're seeing it go."

The official turnaround initiative doesn't count existing start-up charters, which already enroll more than 40,000 students, or the growing network of accelerated, alternative, and discipline schools, which are almost all contracted out.

It also doesn't take into account ambitious plans to modernize and expand career and technical schools, something that parents are demanding. And it doesn't figure in the District's intention to close or merge underutilized buildings through its facilities master plan.

Finally, it is possible that the General Assembly will enact voucher legislation that will give parents money for private and parochial schools, which Gov. Tom Corbett has declared one of his major priorities for this session.

For parents and students, these are interrelated initiatives and phenomena, affecting available school choices and their quality.

Specifically on turnaround, though, most of those interviewed endorsed public policies that take drastic steps at chronically failing schools.

For Scott Gordon, CEO of Mastery Charter, the largest of the turnaround providers, there is no question about what should happen: The District should pick up the pace of turning over schools to his organizations and others that prove successful.

"My hope and expectation is they will accelerate the program," he said, adding that 45,000 students attend schools with very low ratings on the District's School Performance Index, which measures a variety of indicators regarding achievement and climate.

"We have [the] ability to reduce that number to zero in a few short years."

Mastery's conversion schools, he said, averaged 10 point gains in reading and 15 point gains in math, accompanied by a decrease in violent incidents.

"Why wouldn't we do more of it when there are so many children in need?"

Gordon also said that conversions are cost-effective for the District in an era of shrinking public dollars. Mastery, which has drawn the attention of Oprah and President Obama, raises about a million dollars privately to invest in each school.

The key, he says, is creating a high-functioning organization that knows how to "hire great people, hold them to expectations, measure results, reward high performance, and don't reward low performance."

Gordon wants to take over more schools in a way that will create K-12 mini-districts, in which a child can go to a Mastery school for their entire career.

Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery says his goal is a wealth of choices, perhaps including such mini-districts, in each neighborhood. He is especially interested in improving the career and technical education options.

Asked whether the charter conversions should accelerate, he said, "I have no answer to that. If I answer one way, it makes it sound like the only way to make education better is to have more charters. I want charters to succeed, but I also want our schools to succeed."

Still, he said there is no doubt that the educational delivery system is diversifying.

"The coexistence of charters and other forms of education, including virtual cyber schools, which are galloping ahead, are necessary parts of a full choice system," he said.

"But I also believe the District can be more than competitive. We want to win our share of students across the board."

Rethinking a promise

The District's internal model of turnaround, the Promise Academy, needs to "evolve," said Nunery, in part because it is so expensive, and because it has been so top-down.

"The path we've started upon is a good path, but it needs correction," he said.

There needs to be more collaboration with the teachers' and principals' unions "to get to the next step," he said. Those in the schools "know more about what practices have worked and what corrective actions need to be taken."

Promise Academies mandated Saturday school, but attendance was often spotty.

"Saturday hours could work, but not if a student has other competing interests like sports or family obligations," Nunery said.

He proposed "talking with teachers, principals, and the community about what's worked and how to do it as economically as possible."

For the Rev. LeRoi Simmons, an activist with the Germantown Clergy Initiative, Promise Academies are an important breakthrough because the District gives them more money, not so much because they exemplify a sure-fire improvement model.

"We need to figure out a way to put more resources in the schools that are worse off," he said.

Others express concern about being too quick to embrace privatization and charter conversion as the dominant reform model. "Under [Arlene Ackerman's] tenure there almost seemed to be a desire to dismantle public education as we know it," said Gerald Wright of the advocacy group Parents United for Public Education. "There have been issues, certainly, with public education, but I think the biggest problem has been the management."

He said the District should look inside itself to determine what makes its best schools successful rather than seek outsiders to come in and shake things up.

"If we're looking for what should happen to improve the District, why aren't we talking to professionals in those schools?" he asked.

Jennifer Lowman of the Education Law Center also said that she thinks the District should take a step back. She is especially concerned about whether the charter organizations taking over District schools will adequately serve special needs students.

But her misgivings go beyond that. "The end shouldn't be choice in and of itself," she said. "They need to reassess and say, 'What really are we trying to achieve? Smaller schools? Different management style? Different educational programming?' And then decide whether that is going to be better delivered by charter schools or not."

Setting a system for accountability

Attorney Pedro Ramos, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to become a member of the School Reform Commission, said resource allocation is important, but that overall "the District has to become much more sophisticated about how it manages and leads."

To ensure that funds are properly targeted and the various providers will be held accountable, it will have to develop ways to gather "increasingly granular data, school-based data, and individual student and teacher data," said Ramos.

"The District administration has to continue to adapt more to that diverse system and how it goes about setting standards and deals with accountability."

Diane Castelbuono, a former associate superintendent in Philadelphia who now coordinates education policy at United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, echoes Ramos's concern about devising a more sophisticated accountability system.

"Central office needs to develop a portfolio-management strategy," she said. "Whether it's charter, contract, or District schools, we need a systemwide accountability system for measuring success that's just not about test scores, but about making sure schools are serving neighborhood kids."

Castelbuono said it also has to focus more on recruiting and keeping top talent: "We've forgotten that the school turnaround process is very dependent on the quality of the labor force in that school."

Like Nunery, she predicts that the Promise Academy model will change substantially. On the one hand, she said, it is based on the premise – as are charters – that top principals should be able to hire talented, committed teachers who can help develop and execute the school's mission. On the other hand, the educational model is dictated from the top down, leaving little room for creativity and innovation.

"Those are two reform premises that undercut each other," she said. "Either the principal is leading because she has the ability to hire teachers and do instructional programming, or there is a scripted curriculum because she can't control who is going into the school."

Finally, there are those who hope that within the next five years the conversation will have finally shifted from management strategies to the substance of education and what we want schools to do besides raise test scores and make sure more students graduate.

"Parents should be able to walk into a school and ask anyone, teachers, students administrators, the theory of teaching and learning and how that is manifest in practice," said Chris Lehmann, principal of Science Leadership Academy.

"We need more conversation about what teaching and learning in the 21st century needs to look like."

Renaissance Schools PSSA gains

About the Author

Contacting Notebook Contributing Editor Dale Mezzacappa at

Comments (55)

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 21, 2011 11:40 am

I have been waiting for the appropriate blog to make this comment in support of Marc Mannella and the KIPP charter school team.

I visited KIPP Philadelphia Elementary Academy last week, chatted with Marc and his team, and observed classes in action. I was quite impressed with the school, the instruction and his colleagues at KIPP. I also spoke with a parent who had transferred her child there from a different charter school. She was very happy.

I was impressed by what I saw and the sincerity of Marc and and his staff. I feel very confident in recommending KIPP to parents and educators who want to make a difference and embark on an innovative model of schooling.

Good job everyone!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 2, 2011 6:35 pm

I wonder when the fantasy of "charter school" will hit the rocks of reality.

I have served at one charter high school and three traditional public schools in 12 years ( the last 3 being forced transferred as Promise Academies came online).

The charter school I served for two years started as a nursing school. The owner/president of the school regularly joked about "helping those people get a clue." He was a racist . He would take in special ed. students and once paid, suspend the students out of school so they would have to return to their local school. The man also took medicine for multiple personalities. He would regularly forget his medicine and start to hallucinate. I once had to call the security guards after the man head-butted a young lady claiming she was going to attack him. She was 30 feet away from him and never even looked at him until he assaulted her! He also would fire the entire staff about every two weeks and we would be re-hired by the school attorney within an hour!

Charter schools should be governed by the same student and staff safeguards as the local public school or it is just another case of the "haves" (money and political connections) victimizing the "have-nots"!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 21, 2011 1:19 pm

Before any more schools are turned over to anyone, our policymakers should read the book: The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch.

Diane Ravitch is an "education historian" who was a former US assistant secretary of education. She helped write the NCLB legislation. She has now stepped back and written an authoritative scholarly work on the history of the charter and privatization movement and the real effects of NCLB. She cites the credible research studies and discusses their application to the serious issues which have emerged since the charter school movement began. She cites successes and failures.

That book is by far the most objective, well researched and well written book on the issues which are before us today. In her chapter about accountability and its problems, she fully discusses the issues which have emerged with standardized testing such as the PSSA's and their uses to turn schools over to management organizations. She professionally and objectively points out the flaws in the validity and reliability of state produced measures and how their results differ with the NAEP exams. The NAEP exams are the gold standard. She also fully discusses how many educators "game" the testing system to make it look like they have made gains when in reality there are no gains in achievement.

The book opened my eyes and made me aware of the big picture and serious issues behind the privatization movement. I read every word. No wonder she is one of the most respected authorities in America.

Before we start turning our public schools over to private interests, we need to pause and do our homework. First, we need open and honest collegial discussion and debate on what really are the best practices in education.

Our children deserve well educated and well schooled decision-makers. They also need decisions made in their best interests and the best interests of the total community.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2011 5:05 pm

Charter Schools are accountable to no one. They are anti-teacher, and they don't support unions. They are functional because they retain 5-10% of their total tax endowment for administrators who are essentially businessmen and make Ackerman type money. Don't be fooled, it is a business, and the results are skewed because they send undesirable students back to neighborhood schools. The people running these schools will constantly proclaim selflessness in a defensive posture to hide imperialistic motives. Pride goeth before the fall.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2011 6:32 pm

Being pro-teacher and supporting unions are not the same thing. Unions are interest groups with certain interests related to political power for both their group and their members. There is some overlap with supporting good working conditions for teachers, but there are also many ways in which unions creates structure that many teachers find restrictive.

Many teachers are not strong supporters of teachers unions, and it's not because they are ill-informed or don't understand the system. They understand it just fine, and simply disagree with the priorities and efforts put forth by most modern teacher's unions. Many teachers working in charter schools actually prefer it. And it's not because they are too naive to know better. For them the slightly reduced job security (technically you are at will, but no reputable charter fires very many teachers, since it would create huge instability), is well worth the freedom to have different types of work rules, etc.

Also, the "undesirable student" argument is starting to become pretty hard to sustain in light of the actual enrollment numbers. If I remember correctly, nearly every single Renaissance Charter actually increased the enrollment of neighborhood students, compared to the same building as a District-run school the previous year.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2011 9:08 pm

I can only believe that you are being whimsical and satiric. You simply can't be serious so I'll stop commenting here about your silly post.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2011 10:01 pm

An "at will" employee is subject to the whims of the charter's board and CEO. I have seen a local K-8 charter school throw out a teacher because she questioned the status quo and an incompetent boss. Due process is important for teachers and a union is the only way to guarantee due process. Most charters are anti-union because it diminishes the power of the CEO and Board who are "all powerful" in the charter world.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2011 11:02 pm

Bingo--exactly right. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It's good to be the king, especially when the crooked pols who put you there and share the profits, will cover your tracks as much as your kick backs are worth to them. This is all part of the larger agenda which is to destroy the unions and the Middle Class and as always, keep the poor, uneducated and well....poor. I like your post better than mine !!

Submitted by Actually working for kids (not verified) on October 24, 2011 1:39 pm

Right... and that isn't at all happening with PFT? Have you seen Jerry Jordan in action. How about accountability on all fronts?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2011 1:26 pm

I never liked Jordan and I now i like him less to borrow a phrase from King Henry V111.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2011 1:36 pm

Yes, I agree too--Jordan and Obama are both disppointments--death by friendly fire.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 8, 2011 2:54 pm

Charters are rarely pro-teacher. Their first priority is how cheap they can get teachers to work for them at a charter. This is why many of them will hire teachers fired by the Philadelphia Public Schools, but won;t interview teachers still employed in the district. Desperation is a plus in their eyes. As for "undesirable students" quoting enrollment of neighborhood students does not address the problem. It is not neighborhood students that are the problem, but undesirable neighborhood students. Charter routinely take these children in at the start of the year and then jettison them once the waiting period for the money has cleared. We see these same student come back before the year is over once mom and dad realize that the charters aren't going to put up with their kid's nonsense the way the public schools are forced to do.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 8, 2011 5:51 pm

KIPP and Mastery pay more than the district.

Also, how many teachers are getting "fired" by the SDP? Laid off, yes. Fired, though?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2011 10:54 pm

OBVIOUSLY, you are completely right. Charters are a fiasco masquerading as a charade wrapped in a scam. It's particularly evil because it focuses on ripping off the poor. It's nothing more than slum lords wheeling and dealing while pretending to care about the kids. I still believe people will wake up before it's too late. How can clear thinking person not see the truth as in profit behind all this foolishness. All charters do better than regular Public Schools is lie and cheat because as you said, they are accountable to nobody and the politicians who placed them will try to protect them every kick back dollar of the way. In a larger sense, it's corporations separating the poor from what little money they have for their kids all under the pretext of school choice. Vouchers like Charters are more of the same. VERY few poor kids will benefit from them and, of course, you and I know that too.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 8, 2011 7:55 pm

Charters show blatant age discrimination. I am a teacher in my mid 40's with over 10 years of experience, and certified in two content area subjects. While I did get an interview with Mastery, read an "article" for the interview, and go through a 1 hr interview process....I still did not get the job. Yet, th "under 30 crowd" roamed the halls.
Corrupt is not even a good enough word to describe how they are.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 8, 2011 7:44 pm

Whatever is the cheapest way is the best way. By the way, Gordon's shell game will end soon enough. Lots of details will be coming out about issues like yours and much worse.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2011 6:43 pm

I don't have a very strong opinion of Dr. Nunnery either way, but I have been pretty impressed with most things he has said publicly. He seems to exude a lot more humility and willingness to work reflectively and collaboratively, as opposed the previous administration's "My way or the high way" approach. And he doesn't spend a bunch of time in public trying to deflect blame and draw praise for himself.

In this article he expressed support for the model that is being undertaken, but acknowledged the need to reflect on it and consider how it fits into the community and the context for the students. That's pretty refreshing, compared to the "This is how we're doing it. Don't ask questions" message that has been coming from 440 for the past three years. It's also an unfortunately rare and nuanced message that is too often missing. There is way too much dichotomous debate in education, and having a leader interested in nuance and truly adjusted system to work well (as opposed to dogmatically implementing an agenda) would be fantastic for the SDP, I think.

Again, I don't know much about him, but I'm increasingly inclined to think that perhaps seeing how Dr. Nunnery performs as a permanent superintendant might be better than conducting another national search and having another high powered "leader" come in and tear down everything that has been working for the past 3 or 10 years so that they can have their own stamp on the system.

Another factor that is rather appealing about Dr. Nunnery is that he is not a transient figure in Philadelphia. Regardless of the particular long-term vision, a measure of stable competence would do the SDP very well right now. Between charters, Renaissance schools, etc., the ball is well rolling on "reform." I think the system would now benefit from a leader who is content to calmly nurture these developments in a stable framework so that each entity involved (district schools, charters, students, etc.) can stop worrying about constant disruption and chance.

Submitted by tom-104 on October 21, 2011 11:36 pm

That Nunery held a showing of "Waiting for Superman" at 440 on Thursday evening says it all. It is a propaganda film demonizing public schools and promoting charters. Nunery is continuing Ackerman's attempt to privatize public schools for the profit of the already wealthy at the expense of the children of the working class and unemployed.

Get a copy of "The Inconvenient Truth About 'Waiting for Superman" which was produced by New York City teachers and parents to raise awareness about what charters have done to the New York City public school system. Information can be found here:

The movie trailer is here:

Ordering information can be found here:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 22, 2011 12:38 am

Tom-104---------------I agree totally. I complained downtown about this but was told that it was out of their hands whatever that means. I couldn't believe Nunnery would allow this but he did. Yes, it does tell us all what we're dealing with and it isn't good.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 22, 2011 10:51 am

I attended the showing of Waiting for Superman by Parent University at 440. It was very well handled by the district PU staff. It was not presented in a biased manner at all. They read a simple statement sent by Mr. Nunnery about the movie being provocative for discussion.

There was a panel discussion afterward led by an author who also reports for, I believe, the Daily News (?) who asked good questions of the panel. Mr. Lapp (I believe that was his name) from the Education Law Center was on the panel along with a parent from Constitution HS, an Asian teacher from Southern, another Asian from Southern (I am not sure of his connection) and a parent of a student who struggled in various schools and has not graduated. She was also a teacher.

Rather than buy into the Waiting for Superman hype, they mostly dispelled the myths put forth by the clearly one sided documentary. The parent, a very well versed man from Constitution High pointed out some of the movie's shortcomings and talked about how wonderful CHS is and that it is a regular high school with unionized teachers who do an outstanding job. They also pointed out that a commentator in the documentary itself stated that only 1 in five charters outperform regular schools in state tests.

Wendell Pritchett visiteded and spoke near the beginning of the program. He could not stay because his father is seriously ill (I wish him well). Mr. Pritchett said the director of Waiting for Superman is a friend of his! He also stated quite strongly that the present state of our schools is "unacceptable."

The spectators in the room did not appear to buy into the Waiting for Superman hype, but there was no opportunity for us to ask questions or comment.

To be honest, I thought it was very well handled by the presenters and I came away with renewed hope for us to have an open and honest discussion about these critical issues. Of course, my opinion is that they should next show and discuss, "The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman."

As I and others have said one thousand times, the most important thing is that "trust and integrity" is built through this process.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2011 2:17 pm

I thought Pritchett said the director was a classmate at Penn though he may have called him a friend as well. His remarks seemed to anticipate the panel’s deep criticism of the film.

The Constitution High parent was Gerald Wright of Parents United for Public Education. I think he is also a parent at Jenks. The other Asian panelist was a parent from Southern and recent refugee.

I was surprised there weren’t any charter shills on the panel (Universal especially, since the invitation flyer mentioned the Promise Neighborhood) though maybe they changed the line up once word got out. I was disappointed they didn’t take questions but really by the time each panelist answered one question, it was very late.
They should definitely screen other movies like The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman or Race to Nowhere.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2011 4:25 pm

Yes, it would be nice to show the other movies too which, of course, are supported by evidence and those pesky little things called facts. The whole Charter fiasco is just that and all business minded people know it. Hopefully, all people will know it soon enough.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2011 2:51 pm

I thought Pritchett said the director was a classmate at Penn though he may have called him a friend as well. His remarks seemed to anticipate the panel’s deep criticism of the film.

The Constitution High parent was Gerald Wright of Parents United for Public Education. I think he is also a parent at Jenks. The other Asian panelist was a parent from Southern and recent refugee.

I was surprised there weren’t any charter shills on the panel (Universal especially, since the invitation flyer mentioned the Promise Neighborhood) though maybe they changed the line up once word got out. I was disappointed they didn’t take questions but really by the time each panelist answered one question, it was very late.
They should definitely screen other movies like The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman or Race to Nowhere.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 8, 2011 1:48 pm

Waiting for Superman is a biased movie. Just the fact that it was presented shows a bias. Where is the rebuttal? As for KIPP how can they justify two students being dumped back into the public schools two weeks before the end of the school year. I thought they knew what they were doing and could handle tought problems the way public schools have to do everyday?

Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on January 2, 2012 4:07 pm

The head of the KIP Charter schools of "Waiting for Superman" famie earns over $400,000 per year for overseeing two schools. He made more than the head of the NYC school district. . The charter schools are making money on the backs of children with our tax dollars and paying their CEO's handsomely The NY TImes ran an article about cyber schools which were declared a success by Wall ST. standards and an academic failure. They spend millions of our dollars on advertising. . It doesn't seem to me that anyone is minding the store. Just because something is different doesn't mean that it is good. Also, my school, Roxborough High School made extraordinary academic gains. Our violent incidents decreased from 75 to less than 10. I don't think Mastery will match those gains. With the right leadership, things can change. I've been trying to get the press interested in how our tax money is being spent in the charter schools. Aside from the salaries paid to multi-level CEO's, I've learned that the schools regularly tape teachers without their knowledge or permission. Some were asked to wear buzzers on their belts which would go off every several minutes or so to remind the teacher to "monitor" behaviors. Is this good educational practice? Where is it documented that taping teachers and making them wear buzzers leads to success? How much is this costing the taxpayer? Can The Notebook investigate these practices?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2011 10:20 pm

Elmer Gantry meet Scott Gordon--No conscience at all. That house of cards will crash soon; lots of folks are catching on, including the parents and especially staff. Mark it down !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2011 10:01 pm

I agree--What a bunch of lies Charters spread at least, the ones with whom I have contact. All they do is lie which is amazing to witness. I agree also it really is the slum lord mentality--completely dishonest with the dollar sign the ONLY thing that counts. Hate to tell you, folks, but as Diane Ravitsch so eloquently states, there is no magic bullet and all charters do is make money for the rich and the politicians who slither around those buildings quite a bit. Really, it's like the big secret that everybody is in on except, of course, the parents, who want to believe the hype. It's shameful and sad to see charters play both sides of the game while lying from both sides. Hopefully, more and more people will come out and speak; if not, our kids' dreams will be dashed forever. This guy, Gordon is a laughing stock but a dictator within 2 buildings of which I am certain. Obama himself wouldn't have the clout to cover up Gordon's antics for too long.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 22, 2011 1:45 am

We should pick up the pace of turning around schools that prove successful.

I agree.... except which "provider" has actually been proven to be successful? Anyone can drill PSSAs. Anyone can keep only the students that make them look good. Anyone can take more money and smaller class sizes and make it look good.

What is going to happen to PUBLIC EDUCATION when these idiot companies won't educate the PUBLIC anymore? Education is turning into an industry, just like health care. Should have been the other way around. Charters occasionally do well but it is completely unsustainable on a grand scale and if we are talking about proof they have proven themselves to be either no better than or worse than real public schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 22, 2011 10:11 am

Of course !!!! Great Post. Any time, objective standards have been used, Charters score WORSE than their horrible Public School cousins--WORSE !! Yes, they do all the cherry picking they can,lie 24/7, get paid and toss the kids they don't want and still they suck! I also agree that sooner or later, their collective shell game will be exposed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 22, 2011 10:50 am

Trust and Integrity are 2 things for for which Politicians have no regard. You are much more optimistic than I. I personally know a handful of "Providers" and there's not an ounce of integrity among them. They are ALL in it for the money and they joke about their political hack friends who have no honor among thieves. I hope you're right but I doubt it very much.

P.S. I was also at the viewing and I felt the same as you regarding the way it was handled.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 22, 2011 11:39 am

I share your concerns very much. Hope and optimism are two different things. Whether trust, integrity and credibility emerge from our new leaders remains to be seen.

Lee Nunnery has asked us not to judge him until we know him. That is not too much for anyone to ask and I respect him on that. That is all any leader can ask.

Maybe he will emerge as that collegial, student and community centered leader we so desperately need.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 22, 2011 12:38 pm

We shall see but unless charters are stopped--at least for a while--this out of control train will keep flying out of control and likely backwards. Make the playing field even and reward on real merit not on political whim which, of course is code for $$$. Overall though, our Public Schools should always be funded fairly and haven't ever been over the last 35 years.

Submitted by (not verified) on July 29, 2013 8:20 pm
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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 22, 2011 10:10 am

"The state of our schools" is a direct refection of the neighborhoods where they are located. Poverty, Crime and Despair will continue as long as WE allow it. WE need to demand--by any means necessary--our fair share of the pie--no more waiting and praying !! Yes, Charters are nothing more than another way for the rich to hurt us but hopelessness runs rampant in our communities.

Submitted by Dustin on October 23, 2011 4:58 am

There is a lot to be said for the ability to make the choice of which school parents want their children attending. I think that competition is a good thing and that when there are monopolies there are huge problems.


    There will be new casino guides come online all the time so gamblers can make the rounds at all the casino games.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 23, 2011 12:38 pm

Dustin--Good points but there's a lot more to it than that.

Submitted by H Scribner (not verified) on October 24, 2011 6:38 pm

You should all try this!!! Every teacher I know!! Such a simple, fun idea with loads of return!!

Not SPAM try


Submitted by Mr. B (not verified) on November 2, 2011 8:41 pm

All, i have spent 27 plus years as an active union member in phila. but now retired and working on a 2nd pention. I have to say that the charter school are doing a great job with the underserved children of phila. and it sounds like everyones not in agreement with whats happenig...... please open your eyes

The SDP has gravely failed our children and now there trying to fix the problem by asking for help.... charter school. Please be THANKFUL but it seems to only be making the union members of the SDP angry by posting anonymous complaints and worries.

Just to let everyone know I've visited many charter and public schools over the past year and if you talk to a child in a charter they are full of dreams and ambitions to hopefully become doctors,lawyers and business owners. But when talking to our children in the public school ,when i could find a few of them in school and not cutting class, their dreams of being rappers or hustlers like friends in the neighborhoods.. Open your Eyes please........

Submitted by tom-104 on December 8, 2011 3:24 pm

Mr. B.

Do you really believe the charters have come up with some magic formula that has created the conditions you describe?

The charters are a politically motivated and manged plan to destroy our public school system and create a two-tier system, one for the children of the shrinking middle class and wealthy and one for the children of the working class and poor. This is being done by draining resources from the public schools to create the conditions you describe in the charters. Public schools are saddled with endless testing and requirements even has they are given fewer and fewer actual education resources. The tests are then used, not to improve the children's education, but to vilify the teachers who dare to teach in these schools. The "inferior" public schools are always there for the children who the charters choose to kick out.

Submitted by tom-104 on December 16, 2011 4:58 pm

"Charter schools enrolling low numbers of poor students" from Daily Kos, 12/16/11

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on December 12, 2011 9:04 am

I agree with you Mr. B. From a homeschooler's perspective, charters are not a lot different than traditional public schools. They in fact get less per child funding from the State. What is different is the amount of bureaucracy that a charter has to deal with. From comments about other problems and issues that the SDP has, this seems to be an insurmountable problem with the SDP.

Traditional SDP schools: On the one hand there are complaints about "pick and choose", and on the other hand there is ample support for the special admission schools such as Masterman, Hill Freedman, AMY NW, Central, etc...seems like hypocrisy to me. Having said this, there are traditional SDP schools which are not special admission which are doing a great job improving their students' achievement as a whole: Cook Wissahickon comes to mind. Good parent and community involvement are the key here. Time will tell if they can sustain their exemplary work pitted against the SDP's bureaucracy.

Both traditional and charters understand what needs to be done to teach children well; some are actually doing, while others are finding excuses. As a parent who is not rich, I value being able to use my judgement in finding the best for my children.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 2, 2012 6:26 pm

C'mon off Cheng! The majority of public schools do not have any "special admission" as you have stated. To try and pass off the few exceptions as the rule is just dishonest. Charters do jettison problem students that sneak by their screening admission process. As soon as the check clears the bank the charters bounce these kids right back to the public schools. The majority of the public schools take any and everyone in. Do you really think that most public schools are anything like Masterman?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 2, 2012 7:28 pm

Agreed, then let's get rid of the special admission, and then we'll be a real public school system.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 2, 2012 8:44 pm

Good luck, you saw what a hissy fit Nutter and the other elitists threw when Ackerman tried to change the admission policies into these magnet schools. I agree that they should be all the same. Good enough for our kids, good enough for yours, Nutter.

Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on January 2, 2012 8:43 pm

I am a school nurse. When I screen incoming 9th graders and transfer students, I ask them the name of their sending schools. Almost every single one of them who comes from a charter school tells me that the charter schools were doing a poor job. One student went into great detail how the bright and shiny main office hid the drab classrooms. There are certainly good charter schools. However, the Credo Report from Stanford University found that only 17% of charter schools outperform their local public school. We receive an influx of charter school students in NOv., right after they receive their state payment and again, right before the PSSA's. We also receive the kids they choose not to handle. As for the public schools doing a terrible job...For 22 years, all I experienced were cuts, cuts cuts. The school band went. The music program. The paper. The play. The attendance officers and the dental hygienist were eliminated in the mid 90's, most of the NTA's several years ago. The school district provided terrible leadership and appointed people with limited ability as principals. The SD needs to examine its own conscience when it looks at the situation we're now experiencing.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 3, 2012 10:23 am

What was intended as a motivator for improvement in achievement, that is competition for enrollment, seems not to affect the decision making at the SDP at all. The establishment of charters seems not to affect the SDP's inefficiency and bad decision making, except to make it worse (evidence the Promise Academies). So much for that premise for reform.

What is indeed tragic is that the SDP is cutting and losing those things that do give it an advantage over charters: the ELL, Nurses, Instrumental Music, etc.

It is ignoring the (I feel key) need for better principals, who do still have say over their individual school budgets after all, and are crucial to teacher and staff morale, and quality parental involvement.

Corruption leads to inertia. Charters are just as guilty, but parents/caregivers will catch on. The kids who will be hurt most are those whose parents/caregivers don't get involved, or those who get involved for their own reasons/gratification (I never would've believed till I saw...)

Submitted by MBA to M'ed Mom (not verified) on April 14, 2012 11:37 pm

I agree. Part of the reason I get so so upset about what I see at public schools is because I truly believe in public education, not charter or private. I believe we as Americans are entitled to a decent public education and I really do think the school district needs to wake up and change if they want my support. Insulting me and other parents is a really big problem as our children are they customer and Charter schools don't insult where do you think parents feel better sending their kids to?

But parental involvement also means more work for the school and more scrutiny, and if you aren't doing what you are supposed to, then you don't want parents as partners. A red flag for me is when I hear how horrible the parents are, not helping with homework etc...

Isn't there anything the teachers could do to change how this district is run? From an organizational view, teachers and their ability to educate are the product and students (and their parents) are the customers and both seem very unhappy. Why isn't the superintendent a teacher who worked in the school district? Why are there incompetant principals allowed to run schools. I can only speak of the one horrible principal that I had the unpleasant experience to deal with and I had to ask about her degrees because her behavior was so juvenile and unprofessional I just knew she had faked her degrees...Why is there such a seperation between 440 and the teachers?? It doesn't make sense and must be why this district is sooo disfunctional.

Submitted by MacMaven (not verified) on April 15, 2012 8:57 am

MBA: Unfortunately the district was infected by the "Broad Virus" during the Vallas era with the illness becoming chronic through the Ackerman era. Virus carriers have been intentionally placed in strategic positions within the district (including principals) to infect and spread the disease throughout - and they still exist though Vallas and Ackerman are long gone. Please don't place the blame on everyone, there are still many fighting this disease and looking for a cure. Read the articles below and this might explain to you why the separation and demoralization - they couldn't be more true.



Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 15, 2012 11:31 am

Thank you for the links to the articles on the "Broad Virus". Trying to superimpose a capitalist private enterprise framework upon a (in operation) socialist structure is bound to inflict damage. Clearly, paying a superintendent as if he/she were a corporate CEO without the ability to "gain market share" or "raise capital" is just insane/walking into a fantasy world. The articles also clarify the protest against "merit pay" which till now was a mystery to me.

There is a lot of thoughtful commentary presented here on the Notebook about more democratic administration. What seems to be missing in the current system and all the proposals however, is a viable system of checks and balances. There are problems with the current appointed "watchdogs": Parents vary in their awareness and ability to be involved; SRC members, administrators and teachers must work within a system, that can and has operated, without the best interests of the children first and foremost; elections are too easily rigged. Even if the system were completely overhauled/privatized we know the free market does not impose adequate guarantees; almost the opposite. There is a need for a truly third party or parties to "check and balance". Any ideas out there?

Submitted by The Janitor (not verified) on December 8, 2011 1:00 pm

Mr.B, Maybe because the charter schools can send all the troubled students back to the public schools.Thus making the charter schools have the top students.Lets see if the charters held on to all the students and see where they would be.

Submitted by Mr. B (not verified) on December 8, 2011 3:59 pm

Open your eye's ,,,, if the public schools had such great students then their would not be a need for charters to take jobs .... and bring in new teachers to teach the same students that were well left behind by the public school teachers and administration ..... sorry for the wake up call

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 2, 2012 8:08 pm

Hmm.....When are the parents going to take some accountability for the children. After all, the apples don't fall far from the tree!

Funny, it's always the teacher's fault!

Submitted by MBA to M'ed Mom (not verified) on April 15, 2012 12:51 am

That tree is accountable for her child. I am not a criminal, a drug addict, nor am I on welfare. I have a BSBA, a MBA and soon will have an M'ED. so yes, my offspring will be just like me.

I really get tired of insulting the parents, and kids, find another district with the kind of kids and parents that you like instead please.

I prefer to work with teachers and staff who care about us, not insult us.

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Submitted by The Janitor (not verified) on December 11, 2011 6:38 pm

My eyes are wide open... thats the problem..

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