This Report May Make You Look at the SRC Differently

Philadelphia School District Building

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to shut down the School Reform Commission and return Philadelphia’s public schools to local control. Former Mayor Michael Nutter is also on board with the idea. And last year, city voters approved a non-binding referendum calling on the state to ditch the SRC.

Does the evidence show that is the best arrangement, though? The Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative compared Philadelphia’s setup with that of 15 other big-city school districts. The report laid out a few important findings that both advocates and critics of a proposed local board should keep in mind: Read more »

Philly Mag Cover Criticized at Second Event This Week

From L to R: | Photo courtesy of Ben Waxman

From L to R: Panelists Wei Chen, Paul Socolar, Cherri Gregg, Josh Block and Tayyib Smith. | Photo courtesy of Ben Waxman

For the second time this week, the widely criticized cover of Philadelphia magazine’s October issue was a major topic of discussion at a roundtable event.

The cover, headlined “A City Parent’s Guide to Schools: How To Get Your Kid a Great Education … Without Moving to the ‘Burbs,” features a photograph of seven Greenfield Elementary students, none of whom are African-American. The student body is 32 percent black; the School District of Philadelphia is 52 percent black.

“Teachable Moments: A Conversation About Race and Education in Philadelphia” was hosted at Greenfield Elementary School on Thursday by the Friends of Greenfield and Greenfield Home and School Association. At the event, parents, administrators and former students at the school, as well as the roundtable’s panelists, expressed outrage at the cover.

Dineth Allen is the mother of a sixth-grade boy at Greenfield. She said that when he saw the cover, her son said, “I felt like Greenfield wasn’t proud of me.”  Read more »

3 Ways William Hite’s Action Plan 3.0 Could Revitalize Philadelphia Schools

Supt. William Hite spoke to reporters, unveiling "Action Plan 3.0."

Superintendent  William Hite spoke to reporters while unveiling “Action Plan 3.0.”

After two years spent slashing programs, closing schools, and laying off thousands of workers, Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite on Wednesday declared a victory of sorts.

The work of stabilizing the district is largely complete, he told reporters during a morning press conference — Philadelphia schools will end the fiscal year with a balanced budget. Now it’s time to turn to the work of actually improving schools and rebuilding public education in the city. Read more »

Mayoral Front-Runner Anthony Williams: “I’m Not Machiavellian”

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams.

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams.

State Sen. Anthony Williams is the consensus front-runner and the top fundraiser in the Philadelphia mayor’s race. But what does he stand for?

Citified sat down with him for a 35-minute interview to find out. This is the second part of the Q&A; the first half ran Sunday. Our questions have been paraphrased and Williams’s responses have been edited lightly for clarity.

Citified: You said you would change the city’s tax structure as mayor. How? Are you a Paul Levy guy? The Center City District CEO’s proposal is to shift Philadelphia’s tax burden away from business and wage taxes and onto property taxes.

Read more »

Education Firebrand Helen Gym Lands Big Union Endorsement, Donation for Council

HELEN-GYM-alex-hogan-flickr-940x540

It’s official: The firebrand education activist Helen Gym says she is running for Democratic City Council At-Large in the May 19th primary.

Though she hasn’t made a formal announcement yet, she’s already got one major endorsement under her belt: The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ executive board voted Thursday to support her.

Read more »

These Are the 88 Philly Schools Boston Consulting Group Recommended Closing

School District of Philadelphia

Education activist Helen Gym and a group of civil rights lawyers have won a two-and-a-half-year battle to get their hands on a secret report by consultants on proposed school closures.

The Public Interest Law Center and Parents United for Public Education, which Gym co-founded, first tried, and failed, to obtain the report by the Boston Consulting Group from the school district in 2012. When the state’s Office of Open Records ruled that the district had to release it, the district appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. The district lost, and appealed again to the Commonwealth Court.

On January 20th, the district finally decided to hand over the report and withdraw its appeal. Gym writes in The Notebook that it was quite revealing:

Read more »

Will District Slap Anti-Testing Teachers?

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Teachers at a Philadelphia school say they face discipline from the school district for helping parents opt their children out of standardized tests.

Kelley Collings, a teacher at Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences, said Monday she is one of a half-dozen teachers called to an “investigatory conference” on the matter, scheduled for Thursday. Collings is also on the steering committee of the Caucus of Working Educators, which helped organize the effort to help students and their families opt out of the tests.

The nature of the accusation against the teachers is unclear, Collings said, but she said the district is attempting to “instill fear” in educators who resist the testing regime. “I’ve never been written up, and I’ve been doing this 15 years,” she said.

Officials at the Philadelphia School District did not respond to inquiries on the topic.

Read more »

Philly Schools: Worse than Detroit?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

You know the School District of Philadelphia is strapped–in a big way–for cash. You’ve heard the stories about the lack of counselors and nurses; the $160 budget for a 400-kid elementary school in Germantown. Then there’s the cigarette tax, the sales tax, the property tax increases. Part of the reason for the mess is easy to identify: Pennsylvania is one of only three states that do not use a comprehensive school-finance formula to distribute state education funding to individual districts.

But a new report (see below) from the Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative puts the district’s financial struggles into an alarming national context, and shows that city schools are underfunded not just compared to wealthy suburban districts, but to peer cities as well. Indeed, the School District of Philadelphia has less to spend on classroom instruction per kid than even other high poverty cities, like Cleveland, Baltimore and Detroit. (Full disclosure: I’m working with Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative on an unrelated project.)

Read more »

INSIDE TAKE: Six Predictions for City Schools in 2015

School District of Philadelphia(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)

Reading the big headlines, 2014 seemed like another rough year for Philadelphia’s schools, but we shouldn’t forget that some positive things happened too. With a new governor and a mayoral race, 2015 will bring a lot of debate and new ideas. Here are a few predictions for Philly school watchers:

Read more »

« Older Posts