State: Four Philly Schools Have “Curriculum Deficiencies”

Parents complained. The district didn't respond. Now state officials are stepping in.

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.”

The process, as described by the Public Interest Law Center, makes it sound as though the district could’ve avoided the ruling. The organization filed more than 800 complaints about deficiencies in district schools — ranging from lack of music, art, physical education, gifted and foreign language offerings to the lack of counselors and nurses with the Department of Education more than two years ago — the department, in turn, sent the complaints without requiring a response. This year, the department followed up and asked for a response; the district sent back an email describing gifted programs at one school.

“Due to lack of response from the district to inquiries made by the Department, curriculum deficiencies were determined to exist,” Nicole Reigelman, the department’s press secretary, said in an email to Philly Mag.

Education activists said they hoped today’s news would have ripple effects. Helen Gym, the city councilwoman-elect and a longtime public education advocate in Philadelphia, was among them, “By filing complaints and taking legal action,” she said in a written statement, “we have blazed a trail for all Pennsylvania parents to get results when their child’s school isn’t offering the curriculum required by state law.”