Eyes on the SRC: May 18, 2017

SRC logo

by Karel Kilimnik
May 15, 2017

Outsourcing of professional development for teachers and administrators continues with this month’s resolutions. Relay Graduate School of Education, which received a contract just two months ago, will be paid to send three assistant superintendents and nine principals to a twelve-day summer program in Texas. Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP, is also one of the Relay founders. KIPP has a large presence in Texas.

After four years, the district still has not reached a settlement with PFT members. That may be the reason that the district has had to undertake a large recruitment effort for the second year in a row. Resolution  A-2 calls for the Office of Talent to “develop, implement, and refine a pilot Teacher Residency Program for the District”. It’s ironic that this recruitment effort is being underwritten by the Philadelphia School Partnership. PSP has made the forcing out of teachers a condition for funding school transformations, including Blaine and WD Kelley elementary schools.


What If…?
Instead of paying $415,800 to a vendor to provide a summer school literacy program at seven schools, every school could determine what summer enrichment program to provide for its students. If we took all of the money from contracts going to corporate education vendors at this one SRC meeting, there would be over $1 million for almost 20 summer school programs.

Note: The next two SRC Action Meetings will be held on Thursday May 18 and Thursday May 25, both at 4:30 PM. To register to speak, call 215.400.4180 before 3PM the previous day.


A-2
Donation: $181,500 Acceptance of Donation from Philadelphia School Partnership – Recruitment and Selection Specialist Position – Teacher Residency Program

RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept with appreciation, the grant of $181,500.00 from the Philadelphia Schools Partnership to pay for the salary and benefits of one Program support position for the Teacher Residency Program, for the period commencing May 19, 2017 through November 30, 2018.

Description: Over the next two years the Office of Talent will develop, implement, and refine a pilot Teacher Residency Program for the District. This program will target current district employees, career changers, and other professionals to work as teachers throughout the District with a priority focus on hard-to-fill schools and hard-to-fill content areas. The Teacher Residency Program is a one-year, full-time teacher preparation program that recruits talented college graduates and career changers and gives them the skills and experiences needed to make an immediate impact in the classrooms of the School District of Philadelphia. The cost of the program is waived for participants who commit to three years of teaching at an SDP school.

APPS Analysis : Every position becomes hard to fill when the district has failed to negotiate a fair contract for over four years. Teachers have gone without a raise for five years. The purpose of this resolution seems to be to recruit teachers who will make a commitment to stay. At the same time, the district is losing experienced teachers who cannot afford to stay and can no longer tolerate the daily message of disrespect. With every year comes another plan by Dr. Hite to “turn around” schools by doing little other than force out most of the faculty. How is creating more instability by severing relationships between teachers and students beneficial for anyone? How much oversight will PSP have over this program?


A-3
Categorical Grant Fund: $219,000 Contract Amendment with Relay School of Education – National Principals Academy Fellowship
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver, and perform an amendment of Contract No. 0762/F16, originally entered into with Relay Graduate School of Education for principal development pursuant to Resolution A-2, approved by the School Reform Commission on April 28, 2016 by increasing the dollar amount of the contract by an additional $219,000 from $99,000 approved by Resolution A-2, to an amount not to exceed $318,000, and by extending the term of the contract from its original scheduled expiration date of June 30, 2017 through June 30, 2018, for three Assistant Superintendents and nine principals to participate in the National Principals Academy Fellowship Program.

Description: Relay GSE has developed the National Principals Academy Fellowship (NPAF), a comprehensive program for school leaders from across the country. The School District of Philadelphia has participated in this program since 2015, with 18 SDP school leaders having attended the NPAF in the past two years. This year, the District has identified a targeted group of three Assistant Superintendents and nine Principals to participate in NPAF. The recommended principals hold full-time school leader positions. The National Principals Academy Fellowship is focused on instructional and cultural school leadership. The program begins in July 2017 with a 12-day summer intensive in Houston, Texas (July 10- 21, 2017). Sessions during the summer intensive program will focus on instructional and cultural leadership, with differentiated tracks for principals and principal supervisors. During the 2017-2018 school year, there will be four weekend intersessions to review content, support implementation challenges, and introduce new content. These sessions will also be differentiated for principals and principal managers.

APPS ANALYSIS: The flow of money to the non-accredited Relay School of Education continues. It seems that Relay and The New Teacher Project can count on the School District of Philadelphia to continue buying their low-quality “leadership” programs. Principals have degrees and certifications. Teachers have degrees and certifications. This is not about creating better educators—it is about paying for an ideological program which justifies outsourcing and privatizing education


 A-4
Categorical/Grant Fund: $150,000 Contract with Mindset Works, Inc. – Growth Mindset Professional Development
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 Mindset Works Inc. to develop and administer professional development for school leaders and central office leadership, for an amount not to exceed $150,000 for the two year period commencing July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019.

Description: The District has set aggressive goals in its strategic plan, Action Plan 3.0. Over the next two years, professional development for school leaders and central office leadership will be aimed at creating leadership mindsets and behaviors that will lead to the achievement of the District’s anchor goals.

Growth mindset is the understanding that human abilities and intelligence can be developed. This is different from fixed mindset, the belief that intelligence is static and cannot be developed. The development of a growth mindset in leadership and staff will further the District’s progress towards Anchor Goals: Anchor Goal 1 (100% of students will graduate college and career ready) and Anchor Goal 2 (100% of 8-year-olds will read on grade level).

The proposed leadership development plan will provide school and central office leaders with opportunities to test, practice, and reaffirm growth minded practices and shift fixed-minded practices to promote collaboration, learning, and growth in the future. The successful achievement of our Anchor Goals will depend on the actions of principals and central office staff. Therefore, both principals and central office leadership will be continually supported to use strategies that will create a context in which they can learn, grow, and improve together.           [Emphasis added]

To select a vendor qualified to assist in the development and implementation of growth mindset professional development, the District issued request for proposal (RFP 537) on March 21, 2017. RFP 537 outlined in detail the required specifications for program/policy development and implementation, asking prospective vendors to respond in writing to the specifications, showing their capacity and experience in successfully developing and implementing growth mindset professional development for school leaders and central office leadership. Six vendors submitted proposals to the District’s office of Procurement.

After review of these proposals, which were rated by an evaluation committee comprised of District staff from the Office of Leadership Development and Evaluation and Office of the Superintendent, a sitting principal, a sitting assistant principal, and assistant superintendent, it was determined that 3 of the 6 vendors had submitted proposals that required more careful examination, and as a result these vendors made one-hour oral presentations to the RFP Evaluation Committee. Vendors were rated in areas of experience, expertise, resources, quality of services, pricing, and MWBE participation. The awarded vendor, Mindset Works Inc., was selected based on an overall adherence to the services outlined in the RFP.

The professional development plan will include approximately five live sessions for both school leaders and central office staff in SY17-18 (a total of 10 sessions) and approximately three live sessions for both school leaders and central office staff in SY18-19 (a total of 6 sessions).

APPS Analysis:

If this sounds scary, it’s because it is. Let’s take a closer look at Mindset Works Inc., which bills itself as a “global leader”. They sell Blended learning as “ a better approach to learning” in their Brainology program. According to the website, The Brainology® program is a research-based, award-winning blended-learning program for students in grades 4-9 that improves motivation and achievement by teaching a growth mindset.” “Growth Mindset” is the latest corporate buzz-phrase. Only five of the thirty-three staff listed have any teaching experience (including one who was a “School Reform Coach”). Mindset Works is another example of the new vocabulary created by corporate education reformers to justify their existence. Implementation of this or any other “mindset” program in K-9 schools is a dangerous step.

 Note: Philadelphia Parent Alison McDowell provides a wealth of information about Blended Learning in her blog Wrench in the Gears.


Executive
A-5
Donation: $250,000 Acceptance of Donation from Wells Fargo Foundation – Playground at Sheridan Elementary School; License Agreement with George Ely
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee: (i) to accept with appreciation the generous donation from Wells Fargo, including building a new playground structure and soft play surface, planters and seating for outdoor classroom learning, painted games and recreational activities in the schoolyard, improvements to the school library and the teacher’s lounge and painted murals around the interior and exterior of the school building, valued at approximately $250,000; (ii) to execute, deliver and perform a License and Right of Entry, and any other necessary documents with George Ely to install the playground equipment at Sheridan Elementary School; and (iii) to execute, deliver and perform such other documents necessary to further the intent of this Resolution. The installation and construction of this playground equipment must be acceptable to the Department of Facilities and Operations, the Office of Capital Programs and the Office of General Counsel.

Description: Wells Fargo plans to host its fourth signature Day of Service for the School District of Philadelphia on Saturday, June 3, 2017 from 9 am to 4 pm. The location this year will be the Sheridan Elementary School, 800 E. Ontario, Philadelphia, PA 19134, in the Harrowgate and Juniata Park section of the city. The event will engage more than 500 Wells Fargo team members, 35 City Year Corp members, and Sheridan community members, in a range of projects and activities benefiting the school.

These projects include building a new playground structure and soft play surface, planters and seating for outdoor classroom learning, painted games and recreational activities throughout the schoolyard. The school library will be upgraded to accommodate more students and programming, and the teachers lounge will receive a makeover. In addition, murals will be painted around the interior and exterior of the school building, in particular highlighting Latin American heroes and heroines selected by the school community. The schools stairwells, cafeteria and gym will receive also feature new murals.

The entire planning and implementation of the Day of Service and the projects included are being coordinated by leadership from Wells Fargo, the Sheridan Elementary School staff, City Year of Greater Philadelphia and the Districts Offices of Strategic Partnerships, Facilities and Capital Improvements.

APPS Analysis: “The school library will be upgraded to accommodate more students and programming.” Incredibly, this upgrading does not provide for a full-time certified librarian. We recognize that this project involves the physical aspects of the library, but the District seems to have forgotten what the purpose of a school library is. At its hearings on the district budget last week, several Council members expressed shock that there are fewer than ten school librarians in a district of 220 schools. Philadelphia students should not be cheated out of the opportunity to do research and check out books in a fully functioning school library.


A-26 (Pending)   Declaration of Unused and Unnecessary Land located at 4th and West Westmorland Streets adjacent to the Munoz-Marin Luis School; Dedication of Land and Easements to the City of Philadelphia

[NO DESCRIPTION]

APPS Analysis: This is one of four Resolutions with no description or explanation. The SRC again violates the agreement it negotiated to settle the APPS Sunshine Act lawsuit which states that resolutions shall be made available to the public on the official website of the School District at least two weeks prior to a regular public meeting.


Operations

A-31 (Pending)
Capital Fund: Capital Awards II – Construction Contracts – Classroom Modernization – Duckery, Gideon, Meade, Pennell and Stearne (Pending)

[No Text or Description]

B-1
Donation: $350,000 Acceptance of Donation from Teach Plus, Inc. – Senior Project Manager
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept if awarded, a grant from Teach Plus, Inc. for an amount not to exceed $350,000, to pay for a three-year Senior Project Manager for teacher-leader strategic planning and implementation, for the period commencing June 1, 2017 through June 30, 2020.

Description: Schools are the unit of change in closing the gaps in student growth and achievement. Teachers in leadership roles are an important component to establishing sustainable change at the school level. Teachers within the School District of Philadelphia need opportunities to develop and refine leadership mindsets, skills and competencies while remaining in a classroom teacher role. Teacher leader opportunities should align to the District’s comprehensive leadership pathways and competencies to ensure that all SDP educators are prepared, at each stage of their career, to transition to the next level.

The Office of Teaching and Learning is engaging in strategic planning to develop role-specific teacher- leader competencies and aligned leadership opportunities. This work is in conjunction with the Leadership Pathways and Competencies Task Force, led by the Office of Leadership Development and Evaluation. There exists a variety of teacher-leader roles, both formal and informal, along with multiple external partnerships that result in leadership roles for teachers.

Increasing capacity, through a three-year investment in a Senior Project Manager, will enable the District to effectively engage in cross-functional work to streamline efforts to establish clearly defined teacher- leader roles, identify the leadership skills necessary for success in each role, and create an implementation plan for ongoing professional development of teacher-leaders. The grant from Teach Plus is made possible by the William Penn Foundation.

An investment in teacher leadership will increase capacity at the school level by creating sustainable structures to advance existing initiatives in early literacy (Anchor Goal 2) and Algebra readiness while also contributing to improved teacher retention rates (Anchor Goal 3).

APPS Analysis: The Hite administration needs to pay someone $115, 000/year to tell them what teachers do? Is that what “engage in cross-functional work to streamline efforts to establish clearly defined teacher-leader roles” means?

Writer/researcher Susan Ohanian has written about Teach Plus: “Non-educators have taken over education policy.” Board members include Katie Haycock (The Education Trust, funded by the Gates Foundation); former Treasury Secretary and president of Harvard University, and a long-time board member of the Broad Foundation, Lawrence H. Summers; and John Luczak, a principal with Education First, another recipient of Gates Foundation funding.


B-7
No Cost Contract Amendment with McGraw Hill Education – Interim Assessments and Related Services
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform an amendment of the contract originally entered into with McGraw Hill Education, pursuant to Resolution No. B-29, approved by the School Reform Commission on August 16, 2012, and amended pursuant to Resolution No. B-11, approved by the School Reform Commission on May 21, 2015, by extending the term of the contract from its amended scheduled expiration date of July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018, at no additional cost.

Description: The overall purpose of developing and implementing a supplemental Interim Assessment System is to provide data to teachers and schools that will allow them to more precisely target their instructional efforts to areas that are most in need, both at the student- and classroom-level. In addition, the Interim Assessment System will be developed to align to the scope and sequence, which has been redeveloped to align with the Pennsylvania core standards.

Specifically, McGraw Hill Education will continue with or develop the following:

Interim assessments in all PSSA assessed grade levels that support instruction in reading and math Interim assessments in Keystone assessed courses that support instruction in reading, math and science

In addition, McGraw Hill Education must provide all operational aspects of online and paper-and-pencil test administrations. McGraw Hill Education will also develop instructional materials and provide necessary professional development (a) to help schools successfully implement the program and (b) to use the assessment results to inform instructional practice and make curricular decisions. Finally, McGraw Hill Education will modify and/or expand the program when required, and provide a continuing high level of performance for the duration of the contract, including maintaining the appropriate quality control procedures to ensure the accurate processing and reporting of assessment results.

APPS Analysis: Experienced teachers know how to assess what their students are learning in a variety of ways—observation, portfolios, tests, quizzes, surveys, discussions. Assessment should not be severed from instruction and packaged as a commodity to be purchased from a private vendor. Dr. Hite pays lip service to understanding the problems of high-stakes testing, but this contract extension with McGraw-Hill would increase the number of interim assessments.