by Dale Mezzacappa and Charlotte Pope
The seven principals honored Tuesday night with the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation's Distinguished Principal Award had strikingly similar explanations for their success -- and it had nothing to do with achieving high test scores, implementing the Common Core standards, or no-nonsense discipline.
In accepting their honors, most of them talked about love. Some described themselves as missionaries.
“Every day I pray and ask God to send angels to surround the building,” said Kensington CAPA principal Debora Carrera. “We are saving lives. … [Students] need to know there are adults in their lives who love them and accept them for who they are.”
Comprehensive neighborhood high schools across the nation struggle with dropout prevention, and Philadelphia’s are no different.
“What you see in that research is that these schools tend to have a higher concentration of really at-risk kids,” said Kate Shaw, executive director of Research for Action.
“In part because of that, the percentage of kids who graduate is much lower.”
And although principals at a handful of neighborhood high schools – Roxborough, George Washington, Germantown and Ben Franklin – said that helpful strategies aren’t hard to identify, most also acknowledged that implementing changes in an age of budget cuts, staff turnover, and districtwide strategic shifts is a constant challenge.
by Benjamin Herold and Dale Mezzacappa
For months, state and local education officials have had ample evidence pointing to likely cheating on standardized tests in some Philadelphia public schools.
Incoming Superintendent William Hite told a roomful of school leaders at the District's annual leadership summit Monday morning that enforcement of rules is just one piece of school discipline and that "zero tolerance" to him means "a preventive set of strategies," rather than a punishment tool.
Seeking to create a “pipeline” of principals and teachers who are better equipped to deal with the real-world challenges found in Philadelphia’s toughest schools, city education leaders submitted a three-year, $2.5 million grant proposal this week to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Thirty-two District schools will have new principals this year, according to information released last week.
With the District moving toward greater autonomy for schools, two local groups – ACTION United and Education Voters of Pennsylvania – are bringing attention to issues about the role and impact of principals.
An ACTION United report that looks at District schools for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years reveals that there is a significantly higher turnover rate among principals at the highest-poverty schools.
With students mostly gone for the day, Benjamin Franklin High's lone secretary has headed home, replaced at her desk by Principal Christopher Johnson.
Right away, the phone starts ringing.
First, it's a parent requesting a transcript. Then, it's a District complaint about paperwork. A 9th grader straggles in, asking for bus fare. A juvenile probation officer follows, trying to get records on a case.
Johnson deals with it alone.
Working with Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon to develop a new organizational blueprint for the School District, seven “academic design subcommittees” have been meeting since February.
Curriculum development: This committee is expected to develop a pre-K to 12 curriculum with outcomes for each grade level that are aligned to college and career program goals and the new Common Core State Standards.