by Sara Neufeld, The Hechinger Report
Upper Dublin High School had the 10th-highest SAT scores of any public school in Pennsylvania last year. It occupies a gleaming, just-completed $119 million building where a sushi chef supplements the cafeteria offerings on Wednesdays. Its graduation rate exceeds 99 percent, and more than 95 percent of graduates go on to two- and four-year colleges.
Yet even here, teachers are worried about being able to get all their students to pass state exams in algebra, literature and biology, which will likely be required for a diploma beginning with the current freshman class. So where does that leave the rest of Pennsylvania?
Among the items that Superintendent William Hite included in this week's "status report" to state officials that preceded the release of a $45 million state grant was an explanation of how seniority is no longer the sole factor in determining where teachers are assigned.
"For the 2013-14 school year, the primary factor in making assignment and transfer decisions -- including decisions about recall from lay-off -- has been and will be the best interests of the students and the school's educational program," the superintendent's letter to acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq said. "Seniority will be among the relevant factors considered, but not the sole factor. For example, when restoring teacher, counselor, and secretarial positions in preparation for school opening this fall, decisions were driven by the best interests of school communities, including the need to have staff who are invested in the schools in which they were working."
by Isaac Riddle
In a Tuesday evening School Reform Commission meeting intended to discuss and encourage parental involvement, parents and community leaders vented their frustrations about the conditions in local schools and their feeling that they aren’t being included in the decision-making process at schools or the District.
[Updated 5:10 p.m.]
Gov. Corbett announced Wednesday that he would release the $45 million that the state had appropriated to the Philadelphia School District but had been withholding pending reforms, including in the teachers' contract.
In a statement, Corbett said that he felt sufficient progress had been made in the operations of Philadelphia schools by the School Reform Commission and Superintendent William Hite to justify release of the funds.
Hite immediately said that he would restore 400 jobs.
“Superintendent Hite and the School Reform Commission are working to build a system of public schools that has adequate resources and has the policies in place for students and teachers to thrive. The reforms they are pursuing are critical to the district’s ability to better manage costs, ensuring that any new money that goes to the district gets spent on things that will improve the quality of education for students," Corbett said in a statement.
The governor was responding to a letter dated Oct. 15 that Hite sent to acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq.
After three years of stops and starts, the state of Pennsylvania is moving ahead with new public education standards and exams required for high school graduation. But without funding to implement the new mandates, educators in Philadelphia and other cash-strapped districts say their students are being set up for failure.
Many teachers, administrators, and advocates praise the Pennsylvania Core Standards for their emphasis on critical thinking and greater depth in fewer topics. They also like the idea of graduation exams to make sure a high school diploma has value. But they vehemently disagree with state officials’ contention that schools should not need additional resources to comply with the new requirements, since districts train teachers and revise curriculum routinely anyway.
by Mary Wilson for NewsWorks
As state senators in Pennsylvania consider how to address soaring school property taxes, some say serious attempts at reform are a long way off.
Many lawmakers have expressed interest in bringing down school property taxes by replacing the levies with other revenue streams.
But consensus over this is lacking -- and not just because shifting a tax burden is always going to be controversial.
Across the river in New Jersey, the neediest school districts have more money per student to spend, not less, than their nearby and generally better-off neighbors.
What a concept.
This is directly opposite to the situation in Pennsylvania, where wealthy districts spend more and the gap is growing.
Solomon Charter School abruptly announced that it would be closing, having opened only in September 2012. A letter, written by the school's CEO and principal David Weathington, was posted on the school's website making the announcement to parents.
by Sarah-Whites Koditschek for NewsWorks
In late September, a Bryant Elementary School 6th grader died from asthma complications. Her parents and Philadelphia school administrators have offered conflicting accounts of the incident.
In the wake of the child's death, asthma educators are concerned about the impact that reduced staffing will have on medical emergencies that occur at school.
by Isaac Riddle
With District schools suffering from severe cuts in arts and music education, a new program is offering the city's high school students free admission to 12 of the city’s museums and attractions.
Students at Museums in Philly, or STAMP, targets young people between the ages of 14 to 19 who live in the city. Students can enroll in the program by registering at the STAMP website, after which they will receive the STAMP Pass free of charge to present to any of the 12 participating institutions during non-school hours.