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The Notebook's latest news posts.

Text messaging: A proven strategy for parental engagement

By Fabiola Cineas on Jul 30, 2015 12:24 PM

It was near the end of the school year, and parent Heather McFadyen thought her honor-roll son Jonathon was doing fine as he cruised toward finishing 8th grade at LaBrum Middle School in the Northeast. 

But then her phone lit up with a text message from his teacher, Sandra Knight.

It was a reminder to check her child’s grade book, where she saw Jonathon had missed some assignments. She got on his case.

Pa. early-childhood programs stretched to financial limit, study finds

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 29, 2015 11:35 AM

Common sense might suggest that the best early-childhood programs would do better financially.

But a new study finds that providers in Southeastern Pennsylvania have little fiscal incentive to reach for high quality.

A Nonprofit Finance Fund study of nearly 150 early-care and education programs in the Philadelphia area found that all of them – no matter their quality rating – operated on razor-thin margins.

So for operators, it's more of a moral choice than a fiscal one to offer robust programming run by college-educated, certified teachers.

As budget standoff continues, House speaker urges override of Wolf veto

By Mary Wilson for WHYY/NewsWorks on Jul 27, 2015 04:26 PM

The top House Republican says he'll try to override the governor's budget veto if negotiations don't starting yielding consensus.

"We have to look at overriding if we're not going to have a substantive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai during his appearance Monday at the Harrisburg Press Club luncheon.

Turzai said an override should be the "goal" of the GOP-controlled legislature, though he's not sure whether such a move would have the votes to pass.

Concerns and 'nuanced' case for merging two low-performing schools

By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Jul 24, 2015 10:03 AM

In the old Kensington High School building, two distinct schools have their own budgets, principals and classes. There's even a physical barrier, a kind of wall between the two spaces.

Essence Whiting, a rising sophomore at one of the schools, Kensington Urban Education Academy, said there are doors in the wall, but students stay on their own sides. She said she prefers Kensington Urban -- which has just over 300 students -- and relationships she has there over her old middle school, where the grades were three times as large.

Two more Philly educators disciplined in cheating investigation

By David Limm on Jul 23, 2015 03:55 PM

Two more Philadelphia educators have been disciplined in the multiyear investigation into cheating on the state's standardized tests.

Darlynn L. Gray, 54, a former principal of Delaplaine McDaniel Elementary School, and Ellen Berson, 45, a former assistant principal at McDaniel, surrendered their educator's licenses earlier this year. 

They are alleged to have "violated the integrity and security of the PSSA exams," according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education's list of teacher certification actions. 

For some Pa. schools, fiscal hardship will drag on

By Mary Wilson for NewsWorks on Jul 22, 2015 07:01 PM

Pennsylvania schools represent a growing chunk of the school districts that have the most desperate finances in the country, according to one credit rating agency.

Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the credit of eight Pennsylvania school districts since March, and it says the worst of those aren't likely to recover anytime soon.

Watch White House event on school discipline

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 22, 2015 11:56 AM

The White House is holding an all-day event on rethinking school discipline, which has been a major focus of the Obama administration's civil rights efforts. Data have repeatedly shown that Black and Latino students are disciplined at far higher rates than Whites and Asians, starting the slippery slope to the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Notebook board chair Harold Jordan, senior policy advocate at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, is participating in the event.

Thorny issues explored at summer institute for teachers

By Fabiola Cineas and Michaela Ward on Jul 21, 2015 04:56 PM

Fellows at the Teacher Leadership Summer Institute are spending three days doing what they rarely get to do during the school year: They're developing teacher voice, tackling thorny issues, and thinking deeply about what they can do to change the system in which they work.

Maryland developers see opportunity in closed school buildings

By Jared Brey for PlanPhilly on Jul 21, 2015 01:04 PM

A group of real estate investors from Bethesda, Maryland, are betting big on Philadelphia schools — the closed ones, anyway.

In the next few months, Concordia Group expects to close on a deal to purchase five school buildings put up for sale two years ago when the Philadelphia School District was trying to raise money through real estate sales. The former schools, in Pennsport, Point Breeze, Port Richmond and Germantown, had all been shut down. According to the School District, Concordia is expected to pay $6.8 million for the five buildings.

Ethics Board fines teachers' union over contribution

By Dave Davies for NewsWorks on Jul 21, 2015 11:26 AM

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics has fined the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers $1,500 for contributions to City Council candidate Helen Gym in violation of the city's campaign finance law.

Political committees are permitted to give candidates for municipal office no more than $11,500 per year. The board found (and the PFT admitted) that the union's political committee gave Gym's campaign twice that, routing a second contribution through the committee of the American Federation of Teachers' Pennsylvania chapter.

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