Inside Take: Philly’s Next Great Public Space? Schoolyards.

A vision for the schoolyard at Horatio B. Hackett. | Plan courtesy of Community Design Collaborative.

A vision for the schoolyard at Horatio B. Hackett. | Plan courtesy of Community Design Collaborative.

(This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)

Over the past seven years, Philadelphians have witnessed a public space renaissance. No longer are apocalyptic Hollywood movies choosing Philadelphia as a backdrop because our physical environment perfectly fits the scene (remember Twelve Monkeys?). Instead, dynamic, transformative public spaces—from Spruce Street Harbor Park, Dilworth Plaza, the Porch at 30th Street, Lovett Park in Mt. Airy, and many others—are reflecting a newfound sense of civic pride.

Now that we have built up in-house expertise in creating truly great public spaces, and developed credibility with public, private and philanthropic funders, we should harness that energy and apply it to what I call Philadelphia’s Public Space Initiative 2.0—the redesign of our public schoolyards. Our schools need to become Philadelphia’s next set of great public spaces. Read more »

In South Jersey, District Instructs Families How to Opt Out of Testing

Via Shutterstock.

Via Shutterstock.

Haddon Township School District isn’t necessarily against PARCC, the highly controversial standardized education assessment that has been adopted by dozens of states nation-wide. But district officials are telling parents how their kids can get out of taking it. And parents opposed to the test are hailing it as a win.

In a letter dated January 26, 2015 (below), District Superintendent Dr. Nancy Ward outlined Haddon Township’s provisions for parents who wish their children to be exempt from the high-stakes exam, which has come under fire by education advocates in other states: Trisha Kocanda, a superintendent outside of Chicago, wrote an open letter on PARCC, which was later published in The Washington Post. In it, Kocanda said she was “wary. We are concerned about the amount of instructional time it will displace, the impact this will have on students, and the usefulness of the results.”

Read more »

Council Members Back Testing “Revolt”

There’s a “revolt” against standardized testing under way in Philly, and some members of the City Council are backing it.

Seventeen percent of students at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences have opted out of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and other standardized tests, City Paper reports. Council members María Quiñones-Sánchez, Mark Squilla and Jannie Blackwell have now backed those efforts.

“Until we put some limits on this obsession with testing students, we will see protests like that at Feltonville,” Quiñones-Sánchez said in a statement backing the protests. “We stand with families who are making the choice they believe is best for their children.”

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Former Philly Educator Named Wolf’s Secretary of Education

Pedro Rivera, a one-time Philadelphia educator who moved on to superintendent of the Lancaster school district, has been named the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education by Governor-elect Tom Wolf.

“Pennsylvania schools are struggling. My top priority is making sure our schools have the resources to teach our children the skills they need to succeed,” said Wolf said in a statement. “Pedro Rivera is nationally recognized for his efforts to improve urban education, and he will work with me to build a strong public education system and get Pennsylvania back on track.”
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School Cleared After Social Media Threat

Classes have resumed at Franklin Towne Charter High School after the school was temporarily cleared in the wake of a “social media threat,” police and school officials say.

Philadelphia Police said the threat was made overnight against the school at 5301 Tacony. The department’s Homeland Security unit cleared the school this morning and found nothing; a spokesman said no arrests were made — though NBC 10 reported that a teen was taken into custody. Any further action will be handled by the school, a spokesman said.

“We’ve been told to say the school is safe and secure,” said a woman who answered the phone at Franklin Towne. “It’s a regular day as usual. There’s no other comments at this time.”

Sex Video with Minors Being Passed Around at Bristol Middle School

A sex video involving minors is being passed around at FDR Middle School in Bristol Township. The clip, of two juveniles engaged in a sex act, has been circulated among students.

Police are investigating, and confiscated several students’ cell phones. (A commenter on the Bristol Township Police Facebook page is furious about that: “Why were their phones confiscated and why were they forced to write statements without contacting their parents first?! What in the world were you officers thinking?! You can’t do that shit!”

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Will School in China Invest in Chester Upland Schools?

Chester-Upland School District is one of the poorest in the state. It seems to always be struggling with funding. In 2012, the district actually sued the state for funds, saying it would have to close otherwise.

Now there’s a new plan: An elite school in China wants to invest. Chester Upland receiver Joe Watkins said yesterday he’ll be taking a trip to China to try to work out the details in the coming weeks.

“This is an opportunity for Chester Upland School District,” Wakins said. “To my knowledge no school district in the United State has even sought to partner with what is arguably the highest-performing school in China.” The school in China would invest a billion dollars in Chester Upland.

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