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Stories tagged: Commentary

What's the point of testing when Pa. schools are so unequal?

By Jan Gillespie-Walton on May 14, 2015 12:15 PM

The PSSA booklets have been batched and packed. The No. 2 pencils are back in their boxes. The sheets of paper covering every inch of bulletin board have been removed. Everyone is breathing a little better now that schools are no longer paying homage to The Test.

Watching the annual ritual, I was struck by mind-boggling incredulity. Many schools even held extraordinary rallies designed to spur Test Warriors on to success. How could anyone believe that bravado, cheers, and songs about overcoming adversity would somehow make up for years of meager funding, skeletal staffing, and few instructional materials?

Relieve testing frenzy and abuse with new policy

By Debra Weiner on May 5, 2015 11:49 AM

When an increasing number of parents in school districts as different as Philadelphia and Lower Merion opt their children out of standardized testing, it's clearly time for state and federal education agencies to rethink whether testing, as it has been practiced, drives better instruction or undermines fundamental educational values.

Unlike many who are philosophically opposed to standardized testing, I believe that we need objective measures beyond grades from teachers to assess student growth. I also believe that the punitive use of standardized testing results has led to the crippling of creativity in the classroom, the elimination of art and music and sports and recess, the departure of good teachers from the profession, the discouragement of talented young people from entering the profession, and the temptation to cheat. 

Time to end the charter-District divide and build a united front

By James H. Lytle on Apr 21, 2015 02:44 PM

It’s time to end the charter vs. District school schism in Philadelphia. The horse is out of the barn. The deal is done. Get over it.

If Philadelphia’s public schools are going to get adequate funding, there needs to be a “united front” of charter and District leadership marching arm in arm to City Hall and Harrisburg. Supporting one or the other should not be a litmus test for mayoral or City Council candidates. Division won’t bring victory in Harrisburg.

Success of immigrant communities starts with neighborhood school support

By Dai Lai Htoo for NewsWorks on Apr 17, 2015 03:41 PM

Since I came to South Philadelphia in 2008, the demographics of my neighborhood have changed constantly. I see American neighbors move out because of the increase in property prices. Then I see new immigrant refugees move in with the support of a resettlement agency that pays their rent for a few months. After that time, they move out because they need to stand on their own, and they need to look for cheaper rent.

My newest neighbors are refugees from Burma, like me, and refugees from Nepal who have the same refugee experiences as us. We also have neighbors who are Chinese American, African American, Latino, and White.

The case against closing Kensington Urban Education Academy

By Ron Whitehorne on Apr 15, 2015 05:39 PM

Once again the School District is moving ahead with a school closure plan that excludes the community and fails to look at other options.

This time it’s Kensington Urban Education Academy, which the District wants to close and merge with Kensington International Business, citing low enrollment and poor academic performance.  Both high schools are housed in the old Kensington High School building.

Lecture explores why racial literacy should begin in schools

By Samuel Reed III on Apr 14, 2015 12:39 PM

Earlier this month, Penn held its annual lecture named after Constance Clayton, Philadelphia's first Black superintendent. The title of the lecture was "Do Black and Brown Lives Matter? Reframing Public Media Racial Narratives for Urban Schooling." Addressing that issue was Dr. James Peterson, director of Africana studies and an associate professor of English at Lehigh University.

Peterson, a leading hip-hop scholar who regularly appears as a media contributor on MSNBC and other media networks, spoke about why the Black Lives Matter movement means so much for organizing and transforming classrooms and communities. Educational institutions, he said, should be at the forefront of unpacking the issues of systemic inequities found in schools, police departments, and other areas of civic life.

A strategy of ready, fire, aim for student behavioral health

By Debra Weiner on Mar 23, 2015 01:05 PM

At the risk of being the fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread, I am astonished by the great consternation around the question of how to assess the effectiveness of behavioral health services for students. After all,  these services have been provided for long enough that we ought to know what works and what assessment criteria and protocols have been agreed on.

Or are we just pursuing the strategy of ready, fire, aim?

The many components that determine school quality

By Eileen DiFranco on Mar 13, 2015 01:55 PM

Education pundits often toss the phrase “high-quality schools” around like footballs. Soon everyone and their sister or brother uses it, from universities to the media. They jump on the bandwagon of “high-quality schools," as if such a term can be defined by numbers on a spreadsheet.

From my 25 years of experience, many things other than numbers determine a school's quality. And those things must all be fulfilled before that phrase can even be put on the table.

Only a fair tax system will fully fund Pa. public schools

By Bishop Dwayne Royster on Mar 12, 2015 01:21 PM

A week after Gov. Wolf’s budget address, we’re seeing reactions from all sides to the governor’s proposal -- some celebratory and some critical.

Members of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild), an interfaith organization that has prioritized the fight for full funding for our schools, have been watching this debate as it unfolds and assessing what it means for our children. As people of faith committed to a prophetic critique of “the world as it is,” we must speak truth about what is being left unsaid. When it comes to the funding of our schools, economic inequality and education inequality in Pennsylvania are intertwined -- and we are not moving fast enough to fix it.  

Sustainable community schools: An alternative to privatization

By Ron Whitehorne on Mar 9, 2015 12:02 PM

Public education is at a crossroads in Philadelphia. An aggressive and well-funded charter school lobby wants to rapidly expand the city’s already sizable charter sector.   

Lavish campaign contributions have secured political support in the Republican-dominated state legislature and from mayoral candidate Anthony Williams here in Philadelphia. A well-oiled public relations and media operation has crafted a narrative about children trapped in failing schools and the thousands of families on waiting lists for charters. 

The reality of understaffed, poorly resourced public schools destabilized by punitive and largely ineffective school transformation policies has driven many families to seek refuge in charters, few of which perform better than the schools they left. The charter lobby ignores the fact that charter school expansion, given the present charter school law and the absence of additional funding in the form of a charter school reimbursement line in the state budget, can only come at the expense of children in traditional public schools. 

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