At the end of April 2012, the School District released a reform plan - a "blueprint" to radically transform public education in the city by closing dozens of schools, expanding charters, and reorganizing the School District into decentralized "achievement networks" run primarily by private entities.
Keep up with the latest developments on the plan and community reaction here.
New Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite says that he will not reconsider the direction and reform strategies set forth by the School Reform Commission, maintaining that “some of those things have already left the station.”
Pedro Martinez is on board with the need to “increase quality seats” in Philadelphia schools, endorsing the primary reform strategy of the School Reform Commission that is considering whether to hire him as the next superintendent.
But while Martinez described himself as a strong supporter of school choice, he emphasized that charter schools are part of the solution but “not a magic bullet” and said that the cornerstone of lasting reform are strong principals and well-supported teachers.
"My belief is that the key to really showing significant and sustainable gains is to work with staff," he said. "When principals and teachers are on your side, there is no limit to the potential of the school district."
Currently the deputy superintendent for instruction in Clark County, NV (Las Vegas), Martinez, 42, is one of two finalists for the District's top job. The other, William Hite, is the superintendent of the Prince George's Country, Maryland School District.
Listen to Benjamin Herold's radio report for WHYY News.
Students and organizers from local groups Youth United for Change and the Philadelphia Student Union joined grassroots activist groups from across the country Thursday in decrying “top-down” school closings and school turnarounds as a violation of students’ civil rights.
“We are letting the School Reform Commission know that they are closing the schools which serve communities of color, including Black and Latino youth,” said YUC member Tone Elliot, 18, speaking at a press event in Chicago.
My education world has exploded this school year. I feel like this is true for a lot of teachers across the nation, and especially in Philadelphia. Not that each year of teaching doesn’t bring about pain and change, but this year was something else. And I mean explosion in a lot of different ways. Some explosions were bad, some explosions were fantastic.
Ex.plo.sion - n. a violent and destructive shattering or blowing apart of something
This guest blog post responding to the District's transformation plan comes from Cathy Weiss, executive director of the Stoneleigh Foundation, and Paul DiLorenzo, member of the Stoneleigh Foundation’s board of directors.
In the midst of the drama that surrounds the School District of Philadelphia, perhaps it might be worth considering another perspective.
What if we agreed that the challenge is not just about education, organizational structure, and finance?
What if we focused on the growing number of children who come to the educational environment already at a disadvantage? It’s not just that they are poor. They suffer from inconsistent health care and early learning deficits; some of them are deprived of food and, increasingly, of hope. We have found no research that shows that children facing these odds will succeed, unless something is done.