As the Philadelphia School District continues its shift toward portfolio management for its public schools, it makes sense to look at another city at the forefront of this movement: New Orleans, where I spent the summer of 2011 working for the Recovery School District (RSD).
As part of its Renaissance Schools turnaround initiative, the School District of Philadelphia has outsourced management of 17 struggling public schools over the past three years.
The result is a transformed educational landscape in which a patchwork of seven independent charter school management organizations has replaced the traditional school system in large sections of the city, as shown in this graphic by NewsWorks, the Notebook, and geospace analysis firm Azavea.
For the School District of Philadelphia, 2012-13 is shaping up as one of its most challenging school years ever.
The School Reform Commission must close dozens of schools, borrow $300 million to stay afloat, and begin a challenging negotiation with the teachers’ union on a new contract. The District will seek big financial concessions from teachers but also changes in seniority practices and how teachers are evaluated and compensated.
Through the Great Schools Compact, the SRC is setting a goal for creating more “high-performing seats” and more choice for parents through “portfolio management” of schools, a strategy that assumes the continued expansion of charters. But its careful planning to manage that expansion without running out of money for District-managed schools is threatened by charter legislation pending in Harrisburg.
Asked what “portfolio management” means to him, Jerry Jordan’s answer was swift and certain:
“Big business. Outsourcing. It’s literally getting rid of public service,” said the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
But when asked about the PFT’s strategy for slowing a trend that has seen thousands of teaching jobs shifted to non-union charter schools, Jordan’s answer was more general: “We have to work more closely with the parents and the people in the community in order to make sure our schools are funded adequately. We can’t survive another billion-dollar cut.”
School closings. Private providers running public schools. Downsizing the central office while giving principals the reins to hire, budget, and set curriculum. Rapid expansion of charters.
Not too many years ago these might have been radical ideas. Now, they are commonplace, with two dozen urban districts – including New York City, Washington, New Orleans, and Los Angeles – embracing what is called the portfolio model.
Cierres de escuelas. Proveedores privados a cargo de las escuelas públicas. Recortes de personal en la oficina central mientras a los principales se les da control sobre la contratación, el presupuesto y los planes de estudio. Expansión rápida de escuelas chárter.
After years of youth organizing groups making arguments against the District’s “zero-tolerance” policy, members of the Campaign for Nonviolent Schools achieved a victory in August.
The School Reform Commission voted to adopt a new student code of conduct, which gives principals more authority to handle disciplinary cases and puts more emphasis on intervention and prevention rather than punishment.
Last fall, the District was weighing a consultant report that recommended closing 26 schools.
Now, the SRC is weighing another report that recommends closing about twice that many schools by the next school year.
Last spring, after a months-long process, the School Reform Commission voted to close just eight. Now, facing huge funding shortfalls and committed to continued charter growth, the District says it must be more aggressive this time and close 29 to 57 schools – possibly as many as 50 of them this year.
El Departamento de Educación de Pensilvania (PDE) y el Distrito Escolar de Filadelfia continúan investigando un posible fraude en los exámenes estandarizados en 53 de las escuelas del Distrito de acuerdo con evidencia forense – en su mayoría, hojas de respuestas de los años 2009, 2010 y 2011 en las que aparece un número estadísticamente improbable de respuestas incorrectas borradas para ser cambiadas a la respuesta correcta.
The District’s annual bell-ringing ceremony for the first day of school took place this year at AMY Northwest Middle School. On hand to participate were (from left) the mayor’s Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr, School Reform Commission Chair Pedro Ramos, AMY Northwest principal Marco Zanoni, Superintendent William Hite, Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon, and AMY Northwest 7th grader Benjamin Frazier (in front). The ceremony marked the first day for AMY students at their new Roxborough site.