Commentary: District’s ‘turnaround’ plan is bad for students

Lisa Haver SRC 1-21-16

The following commentary by APPS member Lisa Haver was printed on April 1, 2016 in the Philadelphia Daily News.

If you read the paper or listen to the news, you probably have some opinions about the issues facing the Philadelphia School District.

You know that Harrisburg’s repeated slashing of education spending and its failure to come up with a fair and permanent funding formula continue to take a toll.

Adding to that problem are questionable district priorities, which have resulted in:

* More than 160 teacher vacancies, leaving at least 5,300 students without a full-time teacher this year.

* The substitute fill rate plummeting from 65 percent to below 40 percent after the School Reform Commission’s vote to outsource jobs.

* Lack of support staff, including counselors and classroom aides, resulting in an increase in serious incidents in many schools.

* Fewer than eight certified school librarians in the entire district.

Also, the physical condition of the buildings themselves, along with the dearth of full-time nurses, has resulted in higher student absenteeism.

The school district, though, has a different take on the situation: The problem is that teachers and principals are in the wrong buildings, and that moving them is the solution.

Last month, Superintendent William Hite announced yet another “turnaround plan” for four more neighborhood schools, the main feature of that plan being the forced transfer of principals and teachers.

Hite has rejected critics’ characterization of his plan as “destabilization,” but recent history shows that it represents only the latest chapter in a pattern of destabilization for all four schools. Consider:

* S. Weir Mitchell in Kingsessing was a K-5 elementary until 2013. When the district closed two nearby schools, Mitchell incorporated those students and added seventh and eighth grades.

Comments to the article can be read at the Inquirer post:
Commentary: District’s ‘turnaround’ plan is bad for students | Philadelphia Inquirer – April 1, 2016