Deborah Grill’s testimony transcript from the September 14, 2017 SRC meeting.

Deborah Grill SRC 7-6-17
Click the picture and go to timestamp 15:48 to view the video.

There has been a lot of talk recently around the school district’s stability, most of it referring to the stability of having the same superintendent for more than 3 years. But it seems that while a stable leader is a good thing for the district , according to prevailing theory, it isn’t for individual schools within the district.

Since the state has taken over the Philadelphia School District, principals and faculties are constantly shuffled around or eliminated as the district jumps from one flavor of the month reform to another: contract schools, turnaround schools, transformation school, priority schools, Renaissance charter schools, redesigned schools, innovation schools, closed schools.

Dr. Hite announced that he intends to close 15 more schools over the next 5 years despite the fact that there is no research that supports the positive effect of school closings on academic achievement, and district finances.[1] In fact, even a recent study done by so-called “corporate reform cheerleaders” concluded that school closings do not benefit students academically.[2] Other studies have found the same results. Students from closed schools rarely go on to better performing schools. Most end up in schools similar to the one they left. Many of those displaced students have to travel long distances. Some students disappear. A study of the results of the district’s closing of 30 schools found that district enrollment went down, and charter school enrollment went up as did the district’s charter school costs.. Some 600 students were unaccounted for.[3] Possible drop-outs?   Most of the closings were in minority and low-income neighborhoods resulting in a loss of a key institution that serves all students and binds a neighborhood together. Germantown and Point Breeze residents still mourn their closed schools and still want them reopened.

Many of the closed buildings were sold well below asking price. The money accrued from the onetime sales will not go anywhere near plugging the hole in the budget due to the recurring charter school costs which are now the district’s biggest budget item.

Instead of losing money on closing schools and wasting money on the other questionable reforms, you could concentrate on the tried and true measures that really improve schools: smaller class size, sufficient resources, teachers and support staff, and no churn. The district actually did that for 3 years under the office of Restructured Schools using its own experienced administrators and school staff. According to report by RAND and RFA the academic gains of schools that were restructured under the district led intervention outpaced other district managed schools and those managed by EMOs and universities.[4]   Unfortunately it was only for 3 years. Once again you ignored tried and true reforms for shiny unproven ones.

Closed schools are a testament to the SRC’s failure—failure to lobby for and provide the district with the funding it needs, failure to provide it with the resources it needs, and the complete and total failure to implement educational strategies that actually work.

[1]Jack, James & John Sludden. “School Closings in Philadelphia”.

[2] Singer, Steven. “Study: Closings Schools Doesn’t Increase Test Scores.”

[3] Langland, Connie. “Where Did They Go: Displaced Students Didn’t End Up Where Expected.”

[4] Travers, Eva. “Office of Restructured Schools: A District Turnaround Model?”