Corp ed fails the test – Lisa Haver @ Philadelphia Daily News

phila students

How  long do you keep a failed experiment going before you pull the plug – especially when you are using children as its subjects?

About 20 years ago, the seed of corporate education reform – the idea that education should no longer be a cooperative endeavor governed by school district residents, but an experiment in free-market economics overseen by millionaires and billionaires from afar – was planted.

Investors and lobbyists spun the narrative that schools were failing and that teachers and their unions were to blame. Budgets were slashed while standardized testing was ramped up; test results were used to justify handing over neighborhood schools to charters or closing them permanently. The untested Common Core standards were adopted in every state. And in cities including Philadelphia, local school boards were replaced by state appointees. Lasting decisions on the mission and direction of entire districts were being made in the corporate boardrooms of reform heavy-hitters, including The Bill and Melinda Gates and Walton foundations. Their grants came only with mandates to “turn around” schools – by forcing out faculty, converting to charter or closing permanently.

But after all of the billions spent and all of the laws passed to institute these reforms in every major city in the country, those vastly improved school systems, meeting the needs of children and communities, have yet to appear on the horizon.

Yet disasters like New Orleans are still held up by reformers as models for other cities. Before the flood waters had receded 10 years ago, with many thousands of residents still displaced, the New Orleans public school system was dismantled and replaced by a web of privately managed charter schools. The firing of more than 7,500 unionized teachers contributed to the further destruction of the city’s black middle-class. And because there is no longer one district office, thousands of young people who should be enrolled in school are still unaccounted for.

But it seems now that the bloom is of the rose of corporate education reform.

The findings of the 47th annual PDK-Gallup Poll show that a cross-section of Americans and parents believe that the biggest problem in education today is not teacher quality or unions, but underfunding. Only 14 percent of public school parents rated standardized testing as “very important”; in fact, 47 percent believe they should have the right to opt-out their children from standardized tests. The majority of Americans reject the need for national standards or the idea that it is crucial to use tests aligned to those standards to compare test results across states. Most want an end to more federal control in general, having seen the failures of both the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind and President Obama’s Race to the Top.

What has education reform done for us? Philadelphians have lost over 30 neighborhood schools, and ongoing charter expansion threatens the future of those remaining. Imposition of the Common Core standards and the accompanying test-prep curriculum has sucked the joy and creativity out of teaching and learning. And we are stuck with a School Reform Commission which seems to have better things to do than explain its decisions to the public. Could anyone make the case that this experiment in corporate reform has delivered a more thriving public school system?

What would real reform look like in Philadelphia? Every school with a librarian, music and art teacher; aides in all kindergarten and special education classes; lower class size; full-time nurses and counselors; proven reading programs taught by reading specialists; sufficient security to keep schools a safe haven for all children.

The corporate model creates winners and losers. It diverts public resources to create profits for private entities. It has not worked in education and it never will. Time to pull the plug and give our schools back to the people.

Lisa Haver is a retired teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.

The Op Ed is posted at:

Corp ed fails the test 

Philadelphia Daily News – September 18, 2015

APPS Testimony at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – September 17, 2015

In order of appearance.

Click the picture to view the video.

Karel Kilimnik - SRC testimony - 9-17-15

This video is of APPS member Karel Kilimnik testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – September 17, 2015.

The written transcript of Karel’s testimony.


Diane Payne - SRC testimony - 9--17-15

This video is of APPS member Diane Payne testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – September 17, 2015.

The written transcript of Diane’s testimony.


Lisa Haver - SRC Testimony - 9-17-15

This video is of APPS member Lisa Haver testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – September 17, 2015.

The written transcript of Lisa’s testimony.


 Eileen Duffey-Burnt - School Reform Commission testimony - 9-17-15

This video is of APPS member Eileen Duffey-Burnt testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – September 17, 2015.

The written transcript of Eileen’s testimony.


Peg Devine

This video is of the testimony of APPS member Peg Devine  testifying before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – September 17, 2015.

The written transcript of Peg’s testimony.


Carol Heinsdorf - SRC testimony - 9-17-15

This video is the testimony of APPS member Carol Heinsdorf testifying before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – September 17, 2015.

The written transcript of Carol’s testimony.


Deborah Grill SRC 9-17-15

This video is the testimony of APPS member Deborah Grill testifying before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – September 17, 2015.

The written transcript of Debbie’s testimony.


For the results of the SRC vote on September 17, 2015 see Eyes on the SRC – September 17, 2015.


Eyes on the SRC – Second Edition

SRC                         

Welcome to the second edition of Eyes on the SRC.

The next SRC Action Meeting is Thursday September 17 at 5:30, 440 North Broad Street. Call 215 400 4180 by 4:30 on Wednesday September 16 to sign up for your 3 minutes to speak on Thursday.

When you sign up, identify yourself as a community member, as only a certain number of persons from one organization are permitted to speak. We support each other so we are not alone when we speak. Please consider attending as every voice is needed in this struggle. If you want some help with your testimony, email us—we will be glad to help.

Included here are resolutions to be voted on by the SRC which we believe will have a serious and lasting impact on the academic and financial future of the district. If you have any questions about them or about the SRC in general, email us at philaapps@gmail.com.

Resolutions SRC 2, 3, 7

Last Spring only five new charters were permitted to open. Charters were granted to charter operators KIPP (KIPP DuBois High School); Mastery Charter School District (former Gillespie Middle School, now to be an elementary school to feed into Mastery Gratz); Independence Charter School (new elementary school in West Philadelphia); MaST Community Charter (additional campus in Lower Northeast); and Freire (new high school called Freire Tech). How can Belmont Charter, Boys Latin Charter, and Tacony Academy Charter “add facilities location” when their applications were not approved? Is this going to be the new charter school expansion policy –to simply request a new location?

SRC-2
Belmont Elementary Charter School – Amendment to Add Facilities Location

SRC-3
Boys Latin Charter School – Amendment to Add Facilities Location

SRC-7
Tacony Academy Charter School – Amendment to Add Facilities Location


Here they come! Rejected last spring? Try again with a new revised application for your charter school.

SRC-9 (Pending)
Proposed Action on Belmont Charter High School Revised Application

Resolution A-4

“Volunteer tutors will be integrated into the daily classroom instructional strategy.” Guess who is going to supervise these volunteers? Yup. Classroom teachers. Instead of smaller class size, Reading Specialists, Reading Recovery, and School Librarians classroom teachers will now have volunteers to supervise. Would this be acceptable in a private school or in the suburbs? Absolutely not! Volunteers should be supplemental not taking the place of experienced educators. Volunteers are well intentioned but do not have the educational background or experience. Volunteers are a mainstay of the Doomsday Budget mentality created by this administration. Our students deserve a full-time, every day professional staff.

A-4
Categorical/Grant Fund: $160,000 Acceptance of a Sub-Award Grant from AARP – Evaluation of K- 3 Literacy Project

“Description: This William Penn Foundation has provided AARP a grant to conduct a project to provide literacy support in K-3 classrooms with high poverty populations. Utilizing the AARP network, 56 additional volunteer teachers will be recruited, as well as 8 new Team Leaders. Schools will opt-in to this program in order to participate.

Volunteer tutors will be integrated into the daily classroom instructional strategy. Teachers will supervise the various literacy interventions, focusing on general classroom literacy support across the curriculum. Volunteers will utilize strategies including one on one tutoring, interactive technology-based cross curriculum literacy assistance, and guiding reading group sessions targeting specific literacy problems. Team Leaders will monitor implementation of blended tutoring through daily observations. Literacy Coaches will conduct weekly observations and real time one on one tutor couching at each site. There will also be written mid-year evaluations completed for all tutors.

The AARP is providing the School District $160,000 of this grant from William Penn in order to analyze the results of this project. The School district will perform a two year mixed method evaluation and analysis to determine viability of scaling up using full classroom level literacy assistance tutoring in combination with sustained tutoring. The District will also collect and analyze quantitative data for students and classrooms by tracking baseline and year-end reading skills using standardized Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) scores and teacher evaluations of students’ decoding skills, expression, fluency, reading, comprehension and overall reading/literacy performance. “


Another example of outsourcing services – aren’t custodial staff at 440 unionized ?

A-19

Operating Budget: $3,800,000 Contract with Elliott-Lewis Corporation – 440 North Broad Street Property Management Services – 3 years
“RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform a contract with Elliott-Lewis Corporation, to provide property management services at the School District’s 440 N. Broad Street Education Center, for an amount not to exceed for $3,800,000, for the period commencing October 1, 2015 through June 30, 2018, with two one-year options to renew through June 30, 2020.

Description: The proposed award represents completion of the public solicitation under RFP-455: Property Management, issued to the public on July 1, 2015. The bid due date was July 28, 2015.

The vendor will be responsible for the cleaning management and operational maintenance of 440 N. Broad Street, an office building with a square footage of 740,000 square feet and usable square footage of 570,000 square feet with current occupancy of 600-700 employees.

The vendor is responsible for the management of all building operations. Work includes the direction of a staff engaged in the operation, maintenance, and cleaning of building(s) and in the maintenance of the building envelope and roof, equipment and care of the grounds. The vendor is also responsible for the management of 19 full-time School District of Philadelphia cleaning and maintenance employees, according to their union contract. The vendor approves purchases, initiates requisitions and assumes responsibility for the receipt and distribution of supplies, equipment and materials for the operation and maintenance of the building(s). Work also involves periodic inspections of building(s) and grounds for cleanliness, proper maintenance and safety.

The District has restructured the contract to include a base contract for personnel and basic services, and to require all other expenditures, including subcontractors and ancillary services, to be approved in advance. This gives the District greater control over spending on this contract. The personnel costs are lower in the awarded vendor’s proposal than they were in the previous contract.

The proposed contract award is needed in order to:

  • Increase efficiency and savings at our flagship 440 N. Broad Street location
  •  Continue existing District initiatives to provide building and repair services in a more cost-effective manner to maximize financial resources that can be committed to educational resources and ensure a safe, productive, and equitable environment for all students and employees; and
  • Permit the District to take financial advantage by reducing the scope, staffing levels, and annual cost of third-party building services provided at our headquarters location. “

Resolution A-20

Instead of having a full time counselor and nurse in every building, the District is now offering to send teachers from up to 3 schools to this training. Every school needs a stable staff that includes a counselor, full-time nurse, and support staff to meet the needs of our students.

Student Support Services

A-20
“Categorical Grant Fund: $25,000 Grant Acceptance from the Van Ameringen Foundation – School Climate and Safety
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the acceptance by the School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent, of services valued at $25,000 from the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, made possible by a grant from the Van Ameringen Foundation to be used to improve school climate and safety and address students’ mental health needs, for the period commencing August 1, 2015 through April 30, 2016.

This is presented as a partial ratification because the funds were received by the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia but the program has not been implemented.

Description: With the funding received, the District will choose up to three schools to participate in an 8 hour course called Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). One elementary school will be selected based on the percentage of children who are reading below grade level and one high school will be selected that is not receiving any other climate program and was at one time designated as a Persistently Dangerous School.

YMHFA is designed to be disseminated widely throughout the community at all levels of the populace. The program empowers individuals from all personal and professional backgrounds to recognize the signs and symptoms of adverse behavioral health conditions and respond to mental health crises, directing those in need to appropriate supports, including professional- and self-help services. The District is an important partner to the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) in training in YMHFA and its efforts to train its staff will help DBHIDS reach that goal.

Because YMHFA is an eight hour course, few teachers have been trained. The funding will provide a stipend to District teachers for attending the course on a Saturday or other non-school day. In addition, the funding will provide a $500 incentive to those schools that have over 60% attendance at a training.

The District will work with each principal to establish the dates to train the staff. The trainings can be spread throughout the year and allows for a majority of the staff in the schools.

To track the number of individuals who have received training in YMHFA, trainings will be scheduled through the District’s professional development system, and individuals will be required to register in advance of the training. Participants will sign in upon arrival to the training and sign-out at the conclusion of the training. This method ensures that participants have received the prescribed full amount of training.

The District estimates that on average (accounting for size of school), 60 staff members at each school will be trained. This will add a significant number of MHFA “aiders” to the District, having the maximum impact at the selected schools by training a significant number of the assigned staff members.”

ABC Code/Funding Source $25,000.00


Resolution A-25

How much are these leases ? Who are these companies the District rents from? If Source 4 Teachers pays $11,500 per year ($16.50 per sq. foot)to rent at 440 (Resolution A-24, August SRC Action meeting) then what is the rate for these two properties?

Operations
A-25 (Pending)
Renewal of Lease Agreement with 2130 Arch Street Associates, L.P. – Science Leadership Academy

A-26 (Pending)
Renewal of Lease Agreement with 18 South Seventh Street Associates, L.P. – Constitution High School


 Please take a minute to look these over. We need more eyes on the SRC. We need to make sure that our children benefit when the SRC spends money—not a charter investor or edu-entrepreneur.

Email us at philaapps@gmail.com . Check out our Facebook page and our APPS website.

See you on the 17th!

PSSA state tests are failing Pennsylvania’s children. It’s time for parents to act.

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by Alison McDowell

Students, teachers, and parents deserve to savor the exciting possibilities of a new school year without the dark shadow of standardized testing hanging over their heads. Labeling nearly half the students in the state “failures” during the first weeks of school only discourages children from seeing themselves as capable, curious, engaged learners. What’s surprising is not that nearly 50% of Pennsylvania students “failed” the new PSSAs, but that the percentage of failure wasn’t even higher. In states where “rigorous” standardized tests aligned to the Common Core have been implemented­­-including New York, Washington, and Connecticut-failure rates of 70% have become routine.

Local administrators will feel pressured to boost PSSA and Keystone results that were manufactured via manipulated cut scores, questions on complex texts that sometimes required students to select multiple correct or incorrect answers (Scroll to presentation that starts at 2:20. Screen will initially be black), and questions covering content that may not have been aligned to the curriculum that was being taught. (Scroll to timestamp 14:00) Many Districts will be expected to achieve improvements under austerity budgets caused by ongoing underfunding by the state. At the same time, Governor Wolf’s proposed budget allots $58.3 million for administering and grading state assessments, the same amount allocated by Governor Corbett last year.

Non-tested subjects like social studies, art, music, and foreign languages become more vulnerable as additional minutes for test-prep and benchmarks are demanded. Lower grades, where testing must be done one-on-one, could see a significant loss of instructional time to interim testing. A review of the 2015-16 Philadelphia School District calendar of standardized assessments shows that testing will interrupt many days of teaching and learning at all grade levels. With so many standardized tests queued up, will children even have time for recess? All this bubble-filling would be enough to overwhelm an average student, but imagine you’re among the thousands of students in the state whose primary language is not English, who have an Individualized Education Plan, or who experience test-taking anxiety. For them, these tests are traumatic.

School and teacher evaluations are now tied almost exclusively to “growing” test scores on assessments that have been engineered to ensure students do worse. Members of the Pennsylvania School Board Association publicly expressed their reservations about new PSSA cut scores this summer, noting they had serious concerns about using the results for accountability purposes. Child-centered, inquiry-based learning has gradually become the domain of private schools whose freedom from state-mandated testing is increasingly touted in advertising campaigns.

Many Pennsylvanians have come to realize one-size-fits-all, high-stakes assessments that cannot be reviewed by parents, teachers, or administrators, and are graded by non-educators, should not hold such considerable power over the futures of our children. Why should taxpayer funds continue to pad the bottom line of corporations when students in underfunded districts desperately need reduced class sizes and school libraries, things that actually improve student outcomes? Even superintendents in well-funded districts like the West Chester Area School District are finding it fiscally draining to manage remediation for Keystone Exams.

Seeds for the opt-out movement were sown last year in Philadelphia and its suburbs. Parents are starting to realize something is very, very wrong-not with their child, or their child’s teacher, or their child’s school, but with a testing industry that profits when children are “failing.” Proponents of market-based reforms use test scores to rank and sort school “portfolios.” When organizations like the Philadelphia School Partnership want districts to “dump the losers,” test scores are their tools of choice.

Real education is not about high-performing seats. Our children are neither test scores nor data points. They are individuals. Standardized tests don’t create engaged citizens or contributing members of society. Rather, they create profits-profits for testing companies and those selling test-related hardware and software. Parents have the legal right to opt their children out of standardized testing. If done in sufficiently high numbers, we can begin to return our schools to places of creative teaching and learning.

Alison McDowell is a Philadelphia public school student and Chair of the Opt-Out Committee of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools. Email her at optoutphilly@gmail.com.

This Op Ed was published in the Philadelphia Daily News on August 9, 2015, but without links.