Deborah Grill’s SRC testimony transcript – November 14, 2016

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Good evening. My name is Deborah Grill. I am a a retired Philadelphia school teacher and school librarian.

An October 21st article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the chaos at Kenderton Elementary School and the district’s decision to replace the new inexperienced principal with someone with many years of experience.[1] The district’s chief of academic support explained that building management was important and she added “The research says: Give the most challenging assignments to people who have done that work before.”

This statement raises an important question. If you knew the research supported using an experienced person to takeover a school that had been through years of churn and uncertainty, why didn’t you place an experienced principal in Kenderton in the first place? By ignoring the research you failed the students, parents and teachers of Kenderton as well as the inexperienced principal that you initially assigned there. I can only hope that you have learned by your mistakes.

This, however, leads to the matter of how you train your new principals.

Last month I questioned your use of TNTP in the district’s teacher recruitment process, in the screening of teacher and principal applicants, and in the coaching of employees in the Office of Talent. Most of the members of TNTP’s leadership team have little experience teaching. TNTP’s educational research findings are questionable at best. Yet you continue to rely on them.

Tonight I want address the use of TNTP in the PhillyPLUS principal training program—a program in which district employees are enrolled. Employees of TNTP provide the training, in partnership with the Philadelphia School Partnership and the Gates-funded Great Schools Compact which is controlled by the Philadelphia School Partnership. Of the 13 member PhillyPLUS team of coaches and directors, 7 are former Teach for America corp members with an average of a little over 2 years teaching experience. Only 4 team members had experience as a principal in a public school or charter school. Only 2 of those had more than 4 years experience as a principal. One coach was the founder of 2 Rocketship charters, a chain of charters that has had questions raised about the time students spend in front of a computer screen, the student-teacher ratio, disciplinary measures, and student health and safety.[2]   I could go on, but I only have 3 minutes.

I would think that the district would look to a program that relied on quality, peer-reviewed research and employed people with many years of experience in teaching and school administration to train its principals.

PhillyPLUS’s connection to the Philadelphia School Partnership and its embrace of dubious corporate educational reform policies raises many more questions, but I will save that for another 3 minutes.

[1] Woodall, Martha and Kristin Graham. “Veteran Principal Sent to N. Philly Elementary to Restore order.” 

[2] Kamenetz, Anya. “High Test Scores At A Nationally Lauded Charter Network, But At What Cost?”