Screening of Backpack Full of Cash

The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools Invites You to a Screening of

Narrated by Matt Damon, this feature-length documentary explores the growing privatization of public schools and the resulting impact on America’s most vulnerable children. Filmed in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Nashville and other cities, BACKPACK FULL OF CASH takes viewers through the tumultuous 2013-14 school year, exposing the world of corporate-driven education “reform” where public education — starved of resources — hangs in the balance.

2:00 PM – Sunday, January 27, 2019
Unitarian Society of Germantown
6511 Lincoln Drive, Phila., PA 19119
(parking lot is located BEHIND the building at GPS address 359 W. Johnson St, between Greene and Wayne Sts.)

Discussion following the film

Click on this link to register to attend the screening:

 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/backpack-full-of-cash-tickets-54628324790?fbclid=IwAR2tyX-2scbE8eMl_llQZgYa-_sOjfWy2iczUD883Go52gjLSpnvlUBsM5c

 

Eyes on the Board of Education: January 17, 2019

by Karel Kilimnik

Budget Issues

The largest single allotment in the District’s budget goes to the 87 charter schools. Although there are no Action Items on this month’s agenda regarding charters, the Board will consider three new applicants next month. The Board must remember these facts when they decide in February:

  • The District cannot afford any more charters.
  • The Charter School Office is seriously understaffed; it has only 12 staff members to monitor 87 schools.
  • Our review of renewal evaluations shows consistent barriers to enrollment, lack of due process when students are accused of infractions, and expulsion for minor infractions such as uniform violations.
  • Many if not most charters pay rent and management fees to private companies; the Board has no control over those costs.
  • Neither the Board nor the public has access to the financial records of the Real Estate/Management companies which profit from the charter system, thus they have no control over those costs.
  • Administrative salaries and compensation are decided by the boards of the individual charters, not the Board of Education.  Ten charter CEOs, according to the most recent tax information, are paid over $200,000 in salary and compensation–and all of those schools have SPR Achievement ratings which place them in the Intervene category.
  • Charters do not offer “choice” to parents. The charter school chooses its students.
  • The PA Charter School Law has been called one of the worst in the country by many, including PA Auditor General Anthony DePasquale.

According to Nobel Laureate economist Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz, the US has the highest rate of economic inequality among “any of the advanced countries”. Gains achieved over the last fifty years have gone almost exclusively to the top 1%.  The destruction of “The American Dream” is felt deeply in our public schools where resources are scarce, union collective bargaining rights are rolled back, and teachers are blamed for this situation even as their wages and buying power diminish. Students suffer in toxic buildings with inadequate resources. . In 2013 the SRC passed Dr. Hite’s Doomsday Budget, resulting in massive layoffs of counselors, teachers, and other support staff. Our District is still reeling from the $1 billion budget cuts implemented by former Governor Corbett. The District is now led by a Broad Academy-trained superintendent. Eli Broad, an advancer of free-market ideology and policies,  is one of many uber-wealthy “philanthropists” pushing their corporate education agenda in public school districts across the country. Experience and degrees in education are secondary. Self-proclaimed innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit will suffice. Charter school proliferation at the expense of traditional district-run schools has been an important strategy in the corporate education agenda of privatization. Relationships in the school community have become secondary to competition and technology.

Ongoing Website Issues

Board of Education members are government officials with a stated commitment to  “…provide our diverse audiences with information that is relevant, timely, and easily accessible.”  If so, then why is navigating their website so complicated? It’s akin to wandering through a labyrinth in search of the exit (or information in this case).

Some questions:

  • Why is information dated prior to 2015-16 still not posted? When the City of Philadelphia made its transition to a new website, users were given the option of using the previous format or the new one. We suggested that the District do the same, but that fell on deaf ears. We were told that it would take about a year to fill in the older documents, but they remain unavailable.
  • Older documents can only be obtained by filing an official Right to Know request, which can take over 5 weeks to process.  It is also an unnecessary waste of staff time to search for information that should be online.
  • Why is nothing posted from the October and November Action Meetings?

The District has a fully staffed IT Department. If  they cannot resolve these issues, they should demand a refund from the vendor that sold them this program. These are public documents that, as the Board acknowledges, should be “easily accessible”. They are not. What is being done to remedy this situation?

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Student Achievement Committee Meeting: December 6, 2018

by Lynda Rubin

Attending: Co-chairs Dr. Chris McGinley and Dr. Angela McIver, Committee members Julia Danzy, Mallory Fix Lopez, Maria McColgan, Student Representatives Alfredo Practico and Julia…

McGinley opened the meeting. The November 8, 2018 Minutes were approved.

Every Student Succeeds Act Changes Assessment

Chief of Schools Dr. Shawn Bird gave his presentation on the first item on the agenda—modifications made to the federal ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) which has replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Pennsylvania’s plan, entitled “Future Ready PA Index” (www.FutureReadyPA.org), stipulates that schools will be judged on two years of data instead of one and will cover more than just academic proficiencies and less emphasis on just standardized tests. The new plan will track academic proficiency, on-track progress and college and career readiness indicators. Within those categories new items will include annual growth, English language proficiencies, chronic absenteeism, 3rd grade Reading and 7th grade Math proficiencies, 4- and 5-year graduation rates, and career standards benchmarks. The status of all schools in the state can be accessed on this Index.

There will no longer be the NCLB designations for progress and support needs according to Priority and Focus schools. The current categories into which schools will be placed for support are CSI– Comprehensive Support Improvement,  ATSI– Additional Targeted Supports and Improvements, and TSI– Targeted Support and Improvements. Schools in CSI and A-TSI designations will be tracked for three years. Charter Schools Office Director Christina Grant reported that this year 60 of Philadelphia District schools, including 10-12 charter and cyber schools, are in CSI and A-TSI categories. As of this meeting, the names had not been given to the district, but had been shared with the actual schools. Those schools assigned to CSI will be the bottom 5% Title I schools and high schools with graduation rates of 67% and below.A-TSI schools will track any school with a student group that meets CSI parameters in one or more subgroups. TSI will comprise, for one year, any school with a student group that meets CSI parameters for one or more subgroups and is designed as an early warning system. However, the progress of one or more subgroups (e.g. English learners, chronic absenteeism, etc.) will have more weight in determining the status of each school.

Click here to read the rest of the report

 

Ears on the Board of Education: December 13, 2018

by Diane Payne

All members of the Board were present with the exception of Leticia Egea-Hinton. Seven APPs members were present; five testified on behalf of public education.  Edison High students gave a beautiful performance of Christmas music. In a very touching ceremony, honorary diplomas were awarded to two World War II who enlisted before they graduated. The student violinist played Pomp and Circumstance as they walked down the aisle. (All Board meetings can be viewed on the District website at https://www.philasd.org/schoolboard/ scrolling down and clicking on Watch Previous Board Meetings )

Superintendent’s Remarks

Nurses

Dr. Hite acknowledged the dedication and work of school nurses, particularly Ben Franklin High Nurse Santos. She had attended to a student in cardiac arrest until the ambulance arrived; she undoubtedly saved his life.  The student is recovering. This incident illustrates the crucial role of school nurses and shows that the District should never let budget cuts, or any circumstance, undermine the safety and well-being of our students. Many remembered the termination of 50 school nurses in December 2012.  In June 2011, nurses positions were decreased due to attrition leaving District children’s health and safety in a precarious position.

Computer Science

Hite reported that the district is increasing its computer science offerings including expanded digital learning experiences for both elementary and high school students.  Without further information, it is hard to decipher whether this is increasing computer literacy using technology as a tool or there is an increase in “personalized learning”, a misnomer if ever there was one. This model places children in front of screens for algorithm-driven programs in lieu of classroom teachers.  Technology, as a tool, is useful; algorithm-driven programs need close inspection. Our students are not guinea pigs to be used for the benefit of edu-vendors.

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