Educators including Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan will speak on a panel following a screening of the documentary American Teacher at High School of the Future Thursday evening.
School turnaround is about the need to make drastic changes and achieve dramatic improvements in chronically low-performing schools. The approach has been championed by the Obama administration, which over the past three years has awarded $3.5 billion in grants to schools willing to adopt one of four models:
When it comes to school turnaround, Philadelphia is developing a national reputation for its aggressive use of nonprofit charter providers such as Mastery Charter Schools to spearhead overhauls of low-performing schools.
Even though more than 700 teachers plan to retire or resign at the end of this school year, the School District says that it will still be forced to lay off others in the absence of new funding.
As of the beginning of May, 577 teachers had notified the District that they plan to retire this year and another 147 are resigning, according to a District spokesperson. The combined total of 724 teachers departing still falls far short of the 1,260 teaching positions District officials say they must eliminate next fall.
With many school districts facing budget shortfalls, teachers, including those in Philadelphia, will likely face layoffs.
The budget crunch coincides with a growing attack on teacher tenure and seniority as the governing principle for teacher assignment and layoffs. Even Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, and long time teacher union organizer and staffer, has joined the chorus calling for “peformance” as the “driver” in decisions around these issues. And former Washington, D.C. Superintendent Michelle Rhee has made ending tenure and eliminating seniority central agenda points of her “Students First” campaign.
Despite steps to improve the District’s teacher evaluation system, only a tiny fraction of one percent of the School District’s nearly 11,000 teachers were rated unsatisfactory during the last two years, and fewer still were dismissed as a result, according to District data.
Philadelphia’s six new Renaissance Promise Academies were meant to bring dramatic changes to some of the city’s lowest-performing schools.
But some of the changes that have taken place since the start of the school year at the Promise Academy at Roberto Clemente Middle School – including replacement of the principal, at least five teacher resignations, and two major schoolwide roster changes– are not exactly what anyone had in mind.
“It’s been a struggle,” acknowledged Francisco Duran, the District’s assistant superintendent in charge of the Promise Academies.
Here is the full transcript of the teacher roundtable discussion. See anything of interest that didn't make it into the final story?