Two icons of the progressive education movement spoke in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to decry standardized testing and urge that a “justice-oriented framework” drive school reform instead.
“Test score gaps are used to label schools as failures without providing resources or strategies to eliminate the gap,” said Stan Karp of Rethinking Schools, an education journal and publisher.
Across the country and here in Philadelphia, schools are being closed, schools that are disproportionally concentrated in poor communities of color and that serve urban students with the greatest needs.
Chicago is the most dramatic example. African American students make up 42 percent of the school population but nearly all of the enrollment at schools that are being closed or phased out.
In Philadelphia, both last year’s school closings and the current planned closures reflect this pattern. While 55 percent of the overall student population is African American, 79 percent of the students in schools projected to close are African American.
A coalition comprised of an array of political, religious and civic leaders on Monday reiterated its call that the School District to impose a one-year moratorium on closing schools, presenting an analysis showing that the proposal to shutter 37 buildings disproportionately affects Black and Latino students and those with disabilities.
At the same time, they announced that the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education will investigate its complaint that last year's closings of eight schools schools was similarly discriminatory.
Proposed school closings and relocations will disproportionately affect Black students in the District, based on District data analyzed by the Notebook and displayed below.
About 15,000 students attend the 43 District schools being closed or relocated. Of those, 79 percent are African American. Only 55 percent of the District's students overall are African American.
Nearly three-fourths of these 43 schools being closed or relocated have student populations that are 80 percent or more African American. More than a dozen of the proposed school closings and relocations are in predominantly Black North Philadelphia, where many of the school buildings are both aging and underutilized.
With Philadelphia firmly committed to creating a "portfolio" of schools as a way to improve outcomes for all students, it seems worthwhile to take note of a study just released by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.
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.
A national report released Wednesday showed that far fewer dollars are spent per student in schools with predominantly Black and Latino enrollments, and that staffing those schools with less experienced teachers accounts for much of the spending disparity.
This guest blog post comes from Harold Jordan, Notebook board chair and staff member at ACLU of Pennsylvania.
The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) recently released comprehensive data about the educational opportunity offered to the nation’s public school students. Known as the Civil Rights Data Collection, this dataset draws from a national survey of 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of the nation’s public school students during the 2009-2010 school year. The data include a profile of the School District of Philadelphia, which paints a disturbing picture, especially in the areas of discipline and the equitable assignment of experienced teachers.
The Notebook has a content-sharing agreement with Education Week, where this piece originally appeared.
by Mark Walsh
Civil rights advocates and opponents of affirmative action are sharply divided on the wisdom—and legal soundness—of new Obama administration guidance to schools and colleges on how much flexibility they have in considering the race of students in areas such as attendance zones and admissions.
The Notebook is no stranger to discussions on improving the life outcomes of Black males in Philadelphia. Recent Notebook posts have examined:
the widely attended "Shifting the Numbers panel" on men of color and education.
Those more familiar with this field know that there are a number of organizations and individuals around the city doing great work on this topic, many of which fly under the radar and often don’t get support to sustain and bring their work to scale.
Which is why I was excited to hear about the creation of the new Open Society Fellowship for Black Male Achievement (BMA), in partnership with Echoing Green.