Philadelphia, distinct among large urban districts for its long history of pursuing school turnarounds using outside management organizations, has been a real-world laboratory of reform experiments for more than a decade.
By studying the successes and failures of the District's recent efforts to turn around academically underachieving schools, a team of researchers wants to create a body of knowledge that all schools can use to improve.
As news of violence and disarray at Bartram High School dominated Philadelphia headlines, national education researchers were downtown at the Convention Center, discussing the theory and practice of a “portfolio” school reform strategy that relies on management changes – converting low-performing schools to charters or closing them.
And although many have tied Bartram’s troubles to the budget cuts that sharply reduced staff levels at the school, Philadelphia School Partnership head Mark Gleason does not agree.
When the School Reform Commission meets Monday for its monthly public strategy session, its goal will be to discuss the pros and cons of an unprecedented proposal: unifying the enrollment process for Philadelphia’s public, charter, and parochial schools.
But behind the scenes, a lengthy process involving a working group that included multiple stakeholders appears to have created little consensus over how this “universal enrollment” system might work, who should be in it, and even whether one should exist at all.
“There’s consensus that there’s a problem,” said David Lapp of the Education Law Center, a working group member. “We should improve on having over 80 different systems for how kids enroll in school.”
However, Lapp said, there has been no consensus on “the big [questions], who would run it and who would participate in it.”
by Benjamin Herold for Education Week
With fewer available seats in good public schools than families who want them, many cities face a vexing challenge: How do you decide which children go where?
Enter Neil Dorosin.
"You have to allocate public school seats fairly, transparently, and efficiently, but it turns out that's not so easy to do," said Mr. Dorosin, the executive director of the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice, based in New York City. "We help cities solve that problem."
With their schools' mandates to operate running out in just a matter of days, leaders of 10 charters are deep into negotiations with District officials who are determined, at least for now, to defer plans by the schools to expand.
Citing the budget crisis, Superintendent William Hite last month announced he would not recommend any charter expansions in the coming year -- a setback to the publicized ambitions of 21 charter schools to add more than 15,000 students over the next five years. Such expansion would cost the District $500 million.
The process of enrolling in a District or charter school can be complex and fraught with requirements that may discourage some parents and students. Advocacy groups like Education Voters Pennsylvania are pushing the District to simplify the process of how students are assigned to schools by implementing a common or universal enrollment system.
Thursday's School Reform Commission vote on the recommended closure of nearly 30 schools will undoubtedly have a major impact on the future of the city's public school system. In advance of the vote, the Notebook asked prominent Philadelphians to offer their thoughts, using new data and maps on school attendance patterns in the city as a starting point.
by Sandra Dungee Glenn
At the heart of school closings and school choice in Philadelphia is the question of equity -- or lack of it. For the last three decades, parents have been migrating to what they perceive as better options for their children, largely as a result of the neglect of schools in neighborhoods of color.
For almost an hour, Frank Thorne stood in line, waiting to denounce Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite.
It was early January. Nearly a thousand angry people were packed into a school auditorium. Along one wall, looking unhappy, stood a handful of North Philadelphia politicians, including Darrell Clarke, the president of City Council.
A 1st grader, then a teacher, then a parade of parents and activists blasted Hite's unprecedented plan to close 37 city schools, including Strawberry Mansion, their neighborhood high school.
By the time Thorne got to the microphone, he could barely contain his anger.
by Charlotte Pope
The deadline for applications to attend citywide admission or special admission high schools, or to transfer to District neighborhood schools is Friday, Nov. 30.
All students in grades 8 through 11, including English language learners and children with disabilities, may apply to neighborhood high schools outside their neighborhood attendance area and citywide and special admission high schools.