APPS News: October 2017

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by Karel Kilimnik

Six More Schools Targeted for Possible Turnaround

 The 2017-18 school year started with a bang as Superintendent William Hite announced his second cohort of Priority Schools: Steele, Rhoads and Gideon elementary schools; Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences (FSAS) and Wagner middle schools; and Penn Treaty Middle/High School. Just as Kensington Health and Science Academy was targeted last year even after it had been designated a Community School by the City, so has Gideon this year. Following last year’s $200,000 payment to Cambridge Education, the SRC has paid the company an additional $100,000 to perform a “School Quality Review” at the six schools now designated part of the district’s “System of Great Schools (SGS)”. The SRC passed a resolution authorizing Cambridge Education, for $100,000 this year, “…to retain a consultant to conduct objective third party school quality reviews in a number of schools that have been identified as under- performing through the District’s SGS process. The consultant’s purpose will be to conduct an onsite review of school performance and to document and communicate the primary factors supporting and impeding learning at the school…”

APPS review of Cambridge’s 2016 report showed that it was so lacking in substantive data and anecdotal reporting that it could not be used to decide the fate of the eleven schools.

In the district’s September 19 press release, Dr. Hite stated that the Institute of Student Achievement (ISA), a subsidiary of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) has already been hired to perform coaching and professional development at Penn Treaty:

“Last year, the District launched a high school improvement cohort supported by a high-performing high school support organization – the Institute for Student Achievement. Penn Treaty will be joining this cohort of high schools, alongside Overbrook, Kensington Health Sciences Academy, and Fels. School Quality Reviews and community feedback will be used to inform priorities and focus for that work.”

Why has this decision been made before hearing from the Penn Treaty community? Why does the district have to hire one company to tell another company what to do?

Click here to read the entire APPS News

Ears on the SRC: October 19, 2017

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by Diane Payne

 Chair Joyce Wilkerson and Commissioners Estelle Richmond, Chris McGinley and Farah Jimenez were present for the entire meeting. Missing in action once again was Commissioner Bill Green. Green has been exhibiting a disdain for his position by failing to be present for part or all of five meetings since April. No other commissioner has had such an abysmal attendance record. Green has come in at the tail end of two meetings this year, after staff presentations and public speakers, but was still permitted to vote. He has left two other meetings early only to call in by phone much later, again, just in time to vote. This time he never showed, and no explanation was given by the Chair.   Resolution B-1 Donation: $2,700,000 Ratification of Acceptance of Donation of Services and Resources from Temple University had to be withdrawn by staff because McGinley and Wilkerson abstained due to their Temple employment. That left the vote an unpassable tie of 2-2. This resolution was to accept “the donation of professional development services from Temple University to improve leadership, instruction and parent engagement of English Learners valued at $2,700,000 for the period commencing September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2021

APPS once again calls on Chair Wilkerson to address the issue of the disappearing commissioner. If Green cannot or will not perform his duties, he should resign.

Eleven members of APPS attended the October meeting; two addressed the Commission on matters of defending public education. A number of other speakers called on the SRC to vote to dissolve itself now. When the first speaker, student speaker Samuel Dennis, requested the SRC introduce a resolution to abolish, Chair Wilkerson denied his request. The Our City Our Schools (OCOS) coalition members, bearing signs, stood in solidarity. When Wilkerson refused, the members of OCOS loudly chanted “tick – tick – tick…” for the remainder of Samuel’s three allotted minutes, (during which Wilkerson tried to bring up the next speaker) symbolizing time running out for the undemocratic, unelected SRC.

Conduct Unbecoming to a Public Figure

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Do Communities Truly Have A Say in the Future of Priority Schools?

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by Lisa Haver

In mid-September, just weeks after the start of the new school year, Superintendent William Hite announced this year’s list of schools targeted for some type of turnaround through his “System of Great Schools”: Rhoads Elementary, Steel Elementary, Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, Penn Treaty Middle/High School, Gideon Elementary, and Wagner Middle School. This is the second year the district has engaged in a months-long process of data collection, choice of schools, community hearings, in-school focus groups, and determination of the fate of these schools. The district has again contracted with Cambridge Education for consulting services, this year for $100,000, to conduct focus groups with teachers and students. Temple University has been hired for $70,000 to conduct the public outreach and facilitate meetings.

Last year, eleven schools were designated Priority Schools. After the hearing and focus group period, three schools forced out principals and most faculty after being placed in the district Turnaround Network. Two other schools developed internal turnaround plans which mandated that teachers reapply for their jobs.

Some schools, including Harding Middle, have put into place an all-blended learning curriculum in which students spend a significant amount of time learning on the computer rather than interacting with the teacher and other students. The district hired ISA (Institute for Student Achievement) to be embedded year-round for intensive professional development and teacher coaching at Fels, Overbrook, and Kensington Health Sciences Academy high schools. [The resolution approves a contract with Education Testing Service (ETS) as ISA is now a subsidiary of ETS.]

The district also contracted with Jounce Partners (see Resolution B23) for similar intervention at McDaniel Elementary.

The plans implemented at many schools ignored the stated wishes of the parents who attended the community meetings. At both Blankenburg and KHSA, principals were removed over the objection of the parents and educators. At none of the hearings we attended did parents call for the reconstitution of faculty. No district representative mentioned the contracting of outside consulting companies.

Community members who attended last year’s meetings are experiencing a strong sense of déjà vu at this year’s meetings. The district is using the same Power Point presentation, with the same disclaimer that the schools are not performing “despite investments” made in them. Again, the district does not explain what the options involve unless specifically asked by community members. The district has attempted to place the onus on the public to give them information without any explanation of what could happen to the school.

One difference between this year and last is the haste in getting public participants into separate “breakout” rooms—even before any real information is provided. People at several meetings refused to move into those rooms until questions were answered by the district. At the second round of meetings, there was no general auditorium meeting; people were directed immediately into separate rooms. It seemed to be a deliberate strategy to keep educators, parents and community members from forming alliances. There were reports that teachers at three of the schools were told by principals not to attend community meetings.

As defenders of public education, APPS members are attending community meetings and posting reports from each school.

We will be updating information on the Priority Schools as the meetings continue and when Dr. Hite makes his decision.

APPS reports on Priority School meetings (in progress)

Gideon Elementary School

Penn Treaty Middle/High School

Rhoads Elementary School

Wagner Middle School

 

 

 

Defenders of public education testify at the October 19th meeting of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission

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Click on the picture to view the video of selected speakers defending public education at the October 19, 2017 meeting of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. Speakers are listed in order of appearance before the SRC.

At this meeting the SRC announced they are exploring the dissolution of the SRC. See the video at 0:36. Also see:

What comes after the SRC? City likely to move soon on new Philly school board | Philadelphia Inquirer – October 20, 2017