Three women identified as former Philadelphia school teachers are suing the School Reform Commission, saying they were deprived of First Amendment rights when they had signs and posters confiscated during the SRC’s controversial meeting February 18th to discuss approval of charter schools. Read more »
— Holly Otterbein (@hollyotterbein) February 18, 2015
[UPDATE] The SRC has approved 5 of 39 new charter school applications — with conditions.
[ORIGINAL] As promised, the School Reform Commission will be deciding on all 39 new Philadelphia charter school applications this afternoon. Philly Mag’s Holly Otterbein is on the scene, providing a blow-by-blow account of what’s sure to be a contentious meeting for public school advocates and school reformers. Follow her live coverage, and the #phled conversation, on Twitter below:
(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)
At Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School in South Philly, students are offered majors in music and visual arts and every kid participates in ballet weekly. About half of its student body is middle class and white. At the other end of Broad Street, in North Philly, at the Multi-Cultural Academy charter school, there is no ballet. By design, there are very few extracurriculars available at all. The school’s model is “no-nonsense, academics-focused.” The student body is nearly all black and about 80 percent of the students are low-income.
(This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)
Conditions in the School District of Philadelphia have hit a new low after four record breaking years of state disinvestment in education and years of meager improvements in school performance. That situation is poised to change for the better if the new governor and legislature heed the voter sentiment expressed in the historic ousting of a sitting governor largely because of his sweeping education funding cuts. Unfortunately, while the new players in Harrisburg are still unpacking their boxes, the School Reform Commission must decide whether to approve new charter schools and what cuts to impose on traditional schools to pay for charter expansion. Read more »
The School Reform Commission has scheduled a special meeting to approve or reject each of 39 applications to start new charter schools in Philadelphia.
The February 18th meeting is bound to be controversial: Public school advocates say new charter schools draw resources away from public schools, making it harder for students in those schools to succeed. The Philadelphia School Partnership has offered to give the district $35 million to ease the costs of approving new charters, as school reform proponents say Philly schools have already failed students, who deserve a chance to choose an education that better fits their needs. Skeptics say that money covers only a fraction of the money the district will lose.
The meeting will be 3:30 p.m. on February 18th at Philadelphia School District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St.
Read more »
Yesterday, the Philadelphia School Partnership made what seemed, at first blush anyway, like an offer too good for the School District to refuse: $35 million, in exchange for the authorization of enough new charter schools to educate at least 11,000 kids.
“We are trying to make it cost-neutral for the district, so they consider the applications on their own merits,” PSP Executive Director Mark Gleason told the Inquirer’s indefatigable Kristen Graham. The donation was supposed to “take the cost issue off the table.” Read more »
(Editors note: The following is a response from MaST CEO John F. Swoyer III to a controversial column this week from Citified insider Andrew Saltz. Citified fact-checked the central assertion of that column here.)
In the opinion piece of January 19th written by Andrew Saltz, a teacher at a district special admissions high school, he appears to conclude that my team at MaST Community Charter School, by virtue of the fact that we are a charter school, may use practices to bar or dissuade disadvantaged or racially diverse students in order to achieve our stature as one of the best academic performers without academic admissions criteria in Philadelphia. The blatant misrepresentation of our school was not only irresponsible of a professional educator, but was offensive to our hardworking students, parents, and teachers. I felt compelled to set the record straight on a number of the accusations in Saltz’s piece.
When MaST started in 1999, our founder, a seasoned school district leader, had a vision for a K-12 charter school. A small number of families took a leap of faith in the MaST model in its early stages. There was no wait list at that time, and everyone who applied was accepted. Many, if not all, of these families were from Northeast Philadelphia near the school’s location. Thus, our demographics reflected those of our surrounding neighborhoods. Over several years, MaST went from a few classrooms in an old steel building to one of the most innovative schools in Philadelphia serving students K12. Through careful fiscal management and creative use of resources, we developed and grew the school over time, offering an environment of rich student engagement through a STREAMbased (science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts, and math) curriculum. Fortunately, those families who initially ventured with MaST loved the school and what it provided for their students. As happens in all schools that do a good job (district, charter, and private), these parents, and those that have followed, stayed with us as their families grew.
Yesterday, English teacher (and Citified insider) Andrew Saltz argued that the highest-performing charter schools do as well as they do in large part because they enroll students with fewer challenges than typical district schools. Saltz zoomed in on MaST, in Northeast Philadelphia, to make his case. Read more »
(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)
(Note: This story has been updated to correct an editing error in the graphic that misidentified the percentage of economically disadvantaged students at MaST. For a Citified factcheck on one of Saltz’s central assertions, click here.)
“Our neighborhood public school is just horrendous on every scale of measurement.” This truism, proclaimed with the same certainty as the “the sun rises in the East” or “the Sixers turn the ball over,” leads off a Daily News article previewing what could be a new charter school boom in Philadelphia. Read more »
Sure, Twitter is an ephemeral, terse medium. Yes, it is better suited for pithy one-liners and insults than for substantive policy debate. But every so often, Twitter’s immediacy, its frisson-stoking powers, yields fascinating and relatively unfiltered discussions between those Philadelphians who are wrangling with the city’s Big Issues. Read more »