Schools must close. Some buildings in Philadelphia are just too expensive to maintain. The process will be painful -- this much we can all agree on.
As I listen to the public discourse and read different editorials supporting or opposing school closings, I am disappointed by the lack of knowledge as to the specifics of recommended closures. Those who call for no school closings at all, as well as those who agree with all proposed closings, have not dug deeply enough into the School District's plan. I support closing schools that are poorly utilized, are in poor condition, and have high operational costs. It is what school districts do, both in times of fiscal security and insecurity. Some of the recommendations in the District's Facilities Master Plan meet these criteria, and some do not.
In June, the U.S. Conference of Mayors – during the meeting at which Mayor Nutter became its president -- enthusiastically endorsed parent trigger laws, which allow parents to instigate a school turnaround. If 51 percent of parents sign a petition at a low-performing school, they can force drastic reorganization according to one of the four federally prescribed methods – from replacing the principal to replacing half the faculty to charter conversion to outright closure.
My education world has exploded this school year. I feel like this is true for a lot of teachers across the nation, and especially in Philadelphia. Not that each year of teaching doesn’t bring about pain and change, but this year was something else. And I mean explosion in a lot of different ways. Some explosions were bad, some explosions were fantastic.
Ex.plo.sion - n. a violent and destructive shattering or blowing apart of something
City Councilman Bill Green is co-organizer of an event Wednesday to bring together education entrepreneurs and spur innovation. From the lineage of the Sunday Soup movement, which has manifested in Philadelphia as PhilaSoup and Philly STAKE, comes Philly SEED (Supporting Entrepreneurship in Education). PhillyCore Leaders and the Spruce Foundation are also helping organize the event, which uses a crowd-funding model for prizes and crowd-sourcing model for ideas.
EduCon is a conference that brings innovative educators from across the country to Philadelphia to learn from leaders at Science Leadership Academy, and from each other. Instead of conference sessions, attendees participate in engaging conversations. In addition to the two of us, our panel will include:
“We have made no decisions; there are no deals.”
With that statement, School Reform Commissioner Wendell Pritchett made clear what Saturday’s facilities master plan meeting was about: dialogue. It was evident in the tone of the meeting and the ease with which District leadership and the public spoke to each other that listening is indeed taking place.
Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced that 26 of the state's lowest performing schools will receive a share of $66 million in the second round of federal School Improvement Grants funding. Five Philadelphia District schools and two charters will receive grants this year.
Schools applied for the grants by describing plans to undertake one of four federally endorsed reform models. Due to the "transition" within the School District of Philadelphia, the state has "asked the district to revise its plans" for schools awarded grants this year and last, which may affect the funding needs of schools, according to an email from Department of Education spokesperson Tim Eller.
The unfolding story of possible cheating on the 2009 PSSA exam is terrible news. It likely means educators acted unethically. It almost certainly means that the level of trust between the public and schools is even worse than it has been. And it could mean that those who confuse evidence of real learning with standardized test score results will yell even louder about the failings of our schools.
I teach in Philadelphia, have for the past five years. The last four of those years have been at Olney Elementary, a school that has been flagged for suspicious erasure patterns in this report. I can say I have never witnessed any answer erasure in my years there, including 2009. This news saddens me.
I've been watching a lot of "Top Chef All-Stars" recently. If you are unfamiliar with the show, it pits chefs against each other in a series of challenges rated by some of the most famous chefs in the world. Each episode, the chefs are challenged by the ingredients, style, preparation time, and evaluators they are given.
The evaluation panel includes names that even a little-cooking, non-foodies like myself recognize. The contestants clearly admire and respect those judging their food. Each contestant gets to answer the panel's questions about the dish before the master chefs deliberate over whose food was the best. Even the losing chefs get told exactly where their dish went right, and where it went wrong.
How do you think a "Top Educator" show would compare?