Study: Philly Support for Public Schools Is On the Rise

School District of Philadelphia

Photo by Jeff Fusco

There is a perception in some circles that the City of Philadelphia has been less than generous when it comes to public schools. But maybe it’s time to rethink that view.

new report from Temple University’s Center on Regional Politics suggests the city has dramatically boosted its financial support for schools in recent years — and that the city’s oft-impoverished residents are carrying a heavier-than-expected tax burden as a result.

The study, “How Well Does Philadelphia Support Its Public Schools? A New Perspective,” avoids concluding that the city “does more than it gets credit for doing.” But it highlights important data: Read more »

Pa. Opts Out of Standardized Testing — For Now

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed a bill that delays implementation of statewide standardized testing as a graduation requirement until the 2018-2019 school year.

The Keystone Exams were to become a graduation requirement in 2017, but the prospect had drawn increasing opposition from educators and parents as the date drew near — with a fear that implementation would drive down graduation rates: Statewide, the passage rate so far has been just 54 percent; last year, NPR reported that four out of five Philadelphia students would be unlikely to meet the standard.

“While we should have high academic and educational standards in the commonwealth, there have been issues with the implementation of the Keystone exams, which is why I am signing a bill to delay their use as a graduation requirement,” Wolf said in a statement announcing the signing. “My administration is currently engaging teachers, administrators and students, community leaders, stakeholders and advocates from around the state to develop a comprehensive school accountability system that will support schools and help Pennsylvania students succeed.” Read more »

What Comes After the SRC If It’s Abolished?

oh schools

Left, City Council Flickr. Right, Jeff Fusco.

When education advocates envision a possible replacement for the School Reform Commission, all kinds of ideas are on the table: How about an elected board? An appointed board? Who would do the appointing? How would charter schools be represented?

Councilman David Oh’s answer? Let’s try a little bit of everything. Read more »

One Philly College Makes List of 50 Best Online Nursing Programs

Drexel

Drexel University received a nice accolade this week. An organization called Best Medical Degrees named Drexel’s online doctor of nursing degree program as one of the top 50 in the country that offers the best value. It was No. 34 and the only Philly-area school to make the list.

DNP programs, as they’re called, allow nursing students to obtain an advanced degree while maintaining their employment. And they’re becoming more and more popular these days. Best Medical Degrees says the number of students enrolled in those programs increased from 14,688 in 2006 to 18,352 in 2015. Read more »

Temple’s Online MBA Ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report

Temple University's Fox School of Business.

Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

For the second year in a row, Temple University’s Fox School of Business was named the No. 1 online MBA program in the country by U.S. News & World Report — but this year it won’t have to share the top spot.

In 2015, Temple was tied with with Indiana University and the University of North Carolina. In both years, Temple earned a perfect score of 100. Read more »

Main Line’s Harcum College Sued for Age Discrimination

(Photo from Harcum College LinkedIn page.

(Photo from Harcum College LinkedIn page.

A former employee is suing Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pa. for age discrimination.

Susan Friedland, 61, filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on December 21st, saying that the two-year college violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by “passing her over for a promotion in favor of a significantly-younger individual who did not meet the minimum requirements for the position, and by terminating her employment because of her age.” Read more »

Helen Gym Draws National Attention in New Role

helen-gym

Helen Gym, the longtime education activist, is drawing national attention this week: She joined City Council as an at-large member on Monday, the first Asian-American woman elected to that body.

NBCNews.com featured an interview with Gym on its “Asian America” site Monday, highlighting her new role and interviewing her about her history of activism. If she continues to receive national attention — she was honored by the White House in 2014, and received support from the American Federation of Teachers during the City Council race — that could help her raise campaign funds in the future.

Some highlights from the NBC article: Read more »

State: Four Philly Schools Have “Curriculum Deficiencies”

Since 1997, the restored building, with a large addition in the rear, has been occupied by the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. | Beyond My Ken, Wikimedia Commons

The Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts is one of four schools cited by the state for “curriculum deficiencies.” | Beyond My Ken, Wikimedia Commons

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has ruled that four Philly schools have “curriculum deficiencies,” and must come up with corrective action plans within 45 days.

The ruling was disclosed Monday morning by the Public Interest Law Center, which is suing the state over what it says are shortcomings in education funding to public schools. The organization said it discovered the ruling as part of discovery for the lawsuit; a Department of Ed official confirmed that a letter was sent to the district on Dec. 8, confirming the finding of curriculum deficiencies.

The schools: Bodine High School of International Affairs, Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, and C.W. Henry School.

“We are delighted the department has decided to take action,” Amy Laura Cahn, staff attorney with the Public Interest Law Center, said in a written statement announcing the finding. “These actions show the Department has finally acknowledged its legal responsibilities.”

District officials said the ruling shows the state has failed sufficiently fund schools. “The findings again highlight an issue that plagues all Philadelphia public schools: a lack of resources due to reductions in revenues from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. ” district spokesman Fernando Gallard said. “For all Philadelphia schools to operate with robust curricula, programming and resources, we must have adequate public education funding.”

Read more »

Report: Jefferson and Philadelphia University to Merge

Jefferson Philly UThomas Jefferson University and Philadelphia University put out a curious press release on Thursday morning, saying the two organizations signed a letter-of-intent “to pursue integration of the two organizations.”

But the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that the two organizations will merge.

Representatives from Jefferson and Philadelphia University declined to offer any additional information. A press conference is set for 3 p.m. on Thursday. Read more »

Op-Ed: Why We Need 300 Different Plans for Philly’s Schools

Philadelphia School District Building

Photo by Jeff Fusco

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from Susan Gobreski, a member of Mayor-elect Jim Kenney’s transition team. She serves on his education committee.)

Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It is a perfect way to understand schools, too. Successful ones are alike in key ways. Children are learning, there is a supportive community, and parents and teachers are happy.

But each struggling school is not succeeding in its own individual way. They have specific children with individual needs. Even schools that appear to be alike may be quite different.

Consider two schools in the same city, each with an 85 percent of their students in poverty and 20 percent of them English language learners. One might have an especially high number of special-education students with mild needs, and English language learners from four different native languages. Plus, they may have an experienced special education staff, a local grocery store, a strong neighborhood organization, an old building and a recent neighborhood outbreak of shootings. The other might have a low special education rate but higher-needs students, English language learners from just one native language, a high asthma rate, high absenteeism, limited health resources in the community, a couple of strong math teachers and a new principal.

The challenges are very different, as are the interventions, strategies, tools and resources needed to make improvements at each school.

The current education reform trend to emphasize governance, district administrative leadership structure and rules, and a strategy to create more charter schools or a portfolio district model, is inherently the wrong emphasis. The focus needs to be on providing and aligning supports sufficient to meet student needs, and school leadership that understands how to do it. Read more »

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