Philadelphia, distinct among large urban districts for its long history of pursuing school turnarounds using outside management organizations, has been a real-world laboratory of reform experiments for more than a decade.
By studying the successes and failures of the District's recent efforts to turn around academically underachieving schools, a team of researchers wants to create a body of knowledge that all schools can use to improve.
Mark Gleason, the executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, has been named one of four "education reformers to watch" nationwide by the Walton Family Foundation.
Walton, which has given some $1 billion to its education causes, is one of the country's leading backers of parental choice in education, including vouchers and the expansion of charter schools. It believes that choice is the best path to equal opportunity for low-income students.
by Julie Mazziotta
On a yearly list of Pennsylvania’s low-achieving schools, the number of Philadelphia schools increased in 2013, raising the District’s total from 158 in 2012 to 177 schools, according to the state’s Department of Education.
The Philadelphia School District now constitutes about 44 percent of the list, with 177 of the 406 lowest-achieving schools. Pittsburgh has 21 schools on the list.
Students at these schools are eligible to apply for the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OITC) program, which provides scholarships for students to transfer to a participating public or non-public school.
Four months after William Hite took the helm of one of the most troubled big-city school districts in the nation, the new Philadelphia superintendent is set to release his blueprint for turning the system around on Monday.
Hite is facing a grim reality. He is already committed to closing 37 schools -- nearly one in six -- and needs to stave off what will turn into a $1 billion annual shortfall by 2018 if austerity measures aren’t taken now.
Education advocates worked this fall to ensure a community voice in the discussion about the future of Philadelphia schools: The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) sought input through two forums and a survey aimed at parents, educators, students, and other public education supporters.
As part of its Renaissance Schools turnaround initiative, the School District of Philadelphia has outsourced management of 17 struggling public schools over the past three years.
The result is a transformed educational landscape in which a patchwork of seven independent charter school management organizations has replaced the traditional school system in large sections of the city, as shown in this graphic by NewsWorks, the Notebook, and geospace analysis firm Azavea.
By Bill Hangley, Jr.
With just a few months before Superintendent William Hite issues his recommended reforms for the School District of Philadelphia, a coalition of education and labor advocates is hoping to bring its influence to bear.
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools includes the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), the Philadelphia Student Union (PSU), Youth United for Change (YUC), Action United, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and more. The group opposes many aspects of a reform plan produced for the District by the Boston Consulting Group that calls for the closure of over 60 schools and the introduction of a decentralized "portfolio management" model.
Last fall, the District was weighing a consultant report that recommended closing 26 schools.
Now, the SRC is weighing another report that recommends closing about twice that many schools by the next school year.
Last spring, after a months-long process, the School Reform Commission voted to close just eight. Now, facing huge funding shortfalls and committed to continued charter growth, the District says it must be more aggressive this time and close 29 to 57 schools – possibly as many as 50 of them this year.
Portfolio management is a hot trend in school reform, and Philadelphia school leaders have embraced the concept. Nationally, Democrats, Republicans, and big foundations are on board. It’s a strategy for cities like Philadelphia that have many students in low-performing schools and want them in high-performing ones.
How is it supposed to work? For starters, shrink the size and role of the central office. Shift its focus to identifying and closing poor performing schools and finding managers who can operate better ones.