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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.