Her neighborhood school was targeted for closing, and Dawn Hawkins was angry. As she confronted Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite at a community meeting, she was clear about one reason why.
Ten years after the School Reform Commission was established to pull the School District out of a financial tailspin and accelerate academic progress, the current panel is trying to rebuild credibility with new personnel and a new commitment to transparency.
The five-member volunteer body replaced the local nine-member Board of Education as part of a state takeover of the perennially beleaguered district. It presides over a $3 billion budget and is the third largest public entity in Pennsylvania, after the state and Philadelphia governments.
Once again Philadelphia is in the market for a superintendent. Many have grown weary of the approach – tried with David Hornbeck, Paul Vallas, and Arlene Ackerman – of anointing powerful leaders to impose their reform plans on this troubled system. With Ackerman, this approach even included enforcing a scripted curriculum that teachers in a hundred low-performing schools had to follow religiously.
A few weeks back I stumbled on an unusual proposal by the Wisconsin teachers’ union (WEAC) to deconsolidate, or break up, Milwaukee’s public schools.
It appears that deconsolidation’s coming back in vogue as a "when-all-else-fails" strategy for district reform.
A hearty congratulation is due to everyone who is responsible for the continuing increase in the Philadelphia School Districts PSSA test scores. The continuing improvements that our students have demonstrated during the last eight years are a result of several different converging factors.
School "turnaround" is not a new concept. Faced with evidence that schools weren't working well, especially for impoverished Black and Latino students, educators here have tried many things to "turn them around."
Despite the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision rejecting “separate but equal” schools in America, it took years for districts like Philadelphia – as racially segregated in some ways as any in the South – to focus attention on the gap in academic performance between Black and White children.
Las reformas impulsadas por exámenes que inspiró la ley NCLB están funcionando. Al menos esa fue la conclusión a la que llegó el entonces presidente de la SRC James Nevels en agosto, después de la publicación de los resultados más recientes del examen PSSA. Nevels le dijo a un grupo de principales “que las reformas básicas que esta SRC ha implantado verdaderamente se han solidificado y les han dado a los estudiantes y maestros las herramientas que necesitan para tener éxito”.
The test-driven reforms inspired by NCLB are working. At least, that was the conclusion then-SRC chair James Nevels drew in August, following the release of the most recent PSSA test results. Nevels told a meeting of principals “that the core reforms this SRC has enacted have truly taken hold and given our students and teachers the tools they need to be successful.”
He wasn't alone. This verdict was echoed by elected officials, editorial writers, and many observers on the city's education scene.