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Stories tagged: Commentary

A farewell to Philly schools: 'I've loved every day'

By Eileen DiFranco on Feb 27, 2015 10:52 AM

I had never thought about school nursing until a friend told me about an opening at Germantown Academy, the prestigious private school where she worked. I had four children, and working in labor and delivery during the night and on weekends in a hospital had become a nightmare. As a school nurse, I would have the same schedule as my children. An added perk: They could attend the school tuition-free. I was psyched.

I didn’t get the job. At first, I was disappointed. The specter of endless night shifts loomed again. But then another friend told me about public school nursing in Philadelphia. Since I lived in the city, I took the test in the fall of 1989 and began work the following January.

It was the best career choice I ever made. I've loved every day I spent as a school nurse.

To Gov. Wolf: Childhood trauma is the elephant in the classroom

By Daun Kauffman for NewsWorks on Feb 26, 2015 01:35 PM

Dear Gov. Wolf and Education Secretary-designee Pedro Rivera:

I write regarding injured, marginalized children in Pennsylvania schools, to ask that you include them explicitly in a broad, “Healthy PA” paradigm in your new administration.

I am an educator serving children in elementary and middle school classrooms in my own neighborhood in a major urban center for 14 years. I advocate today regarding an aspect of education rarely discussed, but clearly visible to experienced classroom educators.

How to opt your child out of the PSSAs

By Jen Bradley for NewsWorks, Philly Parenting blog on Feb 25, 2015 11:19 AM

You may have heard the buzz around the growing "opt out" movement in Philadelphia and throughout the nation. In just one city school, Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences, parents of over 100 students have opted their children out of the state standardized tests this spring.

This movement is not by accident. It has been carefully orchestrated by activist educators and parents from organizations such as the Caucus for Working Educators and United Opt Out, and it is growing by the day. The opt-out movement is a response to both the standardization of the educational experience and the damage of high-stakes testing. 

An overlooked reason why charters serve fewer poor families

By Matthew Brooke on Feb 24, 2015 12:12 PM

For the last several years, I've held a job at a homeless services agency with a somewhat unusual responsibility: I've helped parents navigate the charter system. 

After a few years, I can't help but feel conflicted about it.

On the one hand, the charter system is an enormous drain on the traditional District system. On the other hand, having the choice to send children to high-quality charter schools is an incredible opportunity for individual families.

But even putting aside the larger question of whether it's fair for the charter system to prosper at the District's expense, there's the question of equity. Do very low-income students have the same access to charters as better-off students? In my experience, the answer is no, and for a variety of reasons -- but one in particular has rarely been discussed.

In a tough spot, the SRC got it right

By Christine Carlson on Feb 23, 2015 12:44 PM

A child asks for a puppy. Presented with a hole-punched gift box, he opens it with excitement, only to find a venomous snake.

So it was with the cigarette tax. As public school advocates, we pleaded for the revenue that the cigarette tax would provide. Although we got the funding we asked for, it was delivered with a life-threatening twist. The bill’s last-minute addition, which reopened the District to new charter school applications and allowed an appeal process for those rejected, threatens the existence of the District schools we sought to help. Each new charter seat added drains even further the resources needed to keep District schools afloat.

It's time for broad-based pressure to support city schools

By James H. Lytle on Feb 19, 2015 12:07 PM

Come May, I hope the primary elections for mayor and City Council will be the event that catalyzes the city to act in support of public education in Philadelphia.

Last November, I wrote about what public education issues mayoral candidates should address. Much has happened in the last few months, most notably the ascension of a new governor committed to increased funding for public schools and the emergence of the likely candidates for mayor.

Parents United prevails in getting BCG school-closings list

By Helen Gym on Jan 28, 2015 06:20 PM

What could possibly justify the closing of Northeast High School, the largest school in the city and each year bursting at the seams? Why would anyone suggest closing four elementary schools in Olney, a neighborhood that once housed some of the most overcrowded schools in the District?

We may not find out the answers to these questions, but we know now that these were some of the ludicrous ideas proposed by the Boston Consulting Group in a long-secret 2012 report presented in a private meeting to the School Reform Commission.

BCG called for closing 88 District-managed schools, which would have displaced a conservative estimate of 22,000-31,000 students districtwide – more than triple the number of students displaced by the actual 2013 school closings. A five-year plan sought the removal and reassignment of up to 45,000 students, more than one-third of the District.

Approve quality charters or reject them all? Which is the irresponsible move?

By Joseph Dworetzky on Jan 23, 2015 01:05 PM

Note: Joseph Dworetzky served as a School Reform Commission member from 2010 to 2014. The opinions expressed here are his own and are not to be read as the views of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, the law firm where he is a shareholder, or of the SRC or the School District of Philadelphia.

Last week, I received an email from the Philadelphia School Partnership expressing outrage over a recent report by Public Citizens for Children and Youth that recommended the School Reform Commission should not approve any of the 40 pending charter school applications. The group said PCCY’s recommendation was deeply flawed.

Thirteen of the 40 applicants – representing 13,000 new charter seats -- deserve approval, PSP said. The reason? These 13 schools are being proposed by high-quality charter school operators, with many of their existing schools serving a similar cohort of low-income students as District-run schools but receiving better school ratings. According to PSP, to reject these applications wouldn’t just be mistaken, it would be "outrageous."

Changing world demands that teachers have more specialization in early grades

By Bill Davidson on Jan 8, 2015 04:58 PM

American teenagers dipped in all major subject categories as measured by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development between 2009 and 2012, sliding in the global rankings from 10th to 20th in reading, 19th to 23rd in science, and 24th to 30th in math.

In order for this trend to reverse, elementary schools, where the foundation of each subject is established, need to adjust to the increasing demands of a changing educational landscape.

During the Great Depression era, only half of all 13- to 17-year-olds attended high school, and many of them didn’t graduate. A select few pursued advanced degrees. In 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68 percent of high school graduates immediately enrolled in college.

Although our students’ academic expectations are drastically higher now than they were in the 1920s and '30s, little has changed in the model used for their instruction.

Let's stop this talk of 'great' or 'failing' schools and talk about student needs

By Elliot Seif on Jan 7, 2015 11:22 AM

Charter school proponents often suggest that the ills of urban education can be solved by simply creating more charter schools. And even more people believe that, if we could just have better teachers in all urban public schools, we could increase student achievement and success for all students.

But are schools and teachers really at fault? My own examination of urban children and their families suggests a very different reality.

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