by Karel Kilimnik
We Did It!
On Thursday, November 2, Mayor James Kenney gave an address in City Council chambers in which he asked Council to support his decision to call for an end to the SRC. The response was overwhelming approval. Council Education Committee Chair Jannie Blackwell introduced a bill to place a referendum on the May 2018 ballot to amend the City Charter so that, for the first time, Council would have approval power over the Mayor’s choices for a 9-member school board.
APPS members have attended every School Reform Commission meeting for the last five years, including special meetings, emergency meetings and Policy Committee meetings. Some of us have attended since the first meeting of the state-imposed board in 2001. No one is happier than we are to witness the dissolution of the SRC and a return to local control. But let’s keep our eyes on the ball and examine the realities behind it.
APPS has documented the devastation wrought by the unelected, unaccountable SRC for the past five years: the rampant privatization of services and staffing; the attempted cancellation of the PFT contract; the outsourcing of Professional Development, transportation services, and Special Ed programs; the forcing out of teachers in schools deemed to be “underperforming”; the annual charter expansion while evidence of that model’s failure mounts; the permanent closure of almost thirty neighborhood schools. We have called out more than one Commissioner for conflicts of interest. The list goes on.
One year ago, several community groups and unions including APPS, POWER, NAACP, Parents United for Public Education, Reclaim Philadelphia, the WE caucus of the PFT, the 215 People’s Alliance, Media Mobilizing Project and a number of local unions formed the Our Cities, Our Schools Coalition (OCOS), calling for a return to local control. OCOS organized several rallies at City Hall and district headquarters at which City Council members and community leaders spoke. OCOS held a public forum to discuss the issue (all SRC commissioners were invited; none attended). OCOS collected thousands of signatures online calling for an end to the SRC.
Mayor Kenney campaigned two years ago on a promise to return the district to local control, but flipped after he took office. He said repeatedly that it wasn’t the right time, and claimed that the district would lose funding from Harrisburg if we gave up state control. OCOS kept up the pressure on the Mayor for a year—calling his office, challenging him at neighborhood town halls, and writing commentaries in local newspapers. Contrary to the story line in recent articles and editorials in the local media, the Mayor did not wake up one day and decide to end the SRC. Resolution SRC-3 is the culmination of strong grass-roots organizing. It is the first step on the path to creating an elected school board in Philadelphia. We applaud Mayor Kenney’s decision to accede to the will of the people. But the battle for true community control is far from over.
Local Universities Enable SRC Agenda
November’s resolutions reflect the growing influence of local universities in district business. Resolution B-5 accepts “the donation of services and resources” from Temple University for “Transforming School L.I.F.E. (Leadership, Instruction, and Family Engagement) for English Learners” resurfaces . This $2.7 million grant from the federal government appeared in the October Resolution List for approval, but had to be postponed due to the absence of Commissioner Bill Green. Commissioners McGinley and Wilkerson had to abstain as they are both employed by Temple. Will Commissioner Green be absent again (as he has been for all or most of five meetings this year) and delay the vote again? If this grant went directly to the district, this problem would not exist.
Drexel University’s role continues to expand with Resolutions A-12 Categorical/Grant Fund: $250,000 Ratification of Grant Acceptance from the Promise of Strong Partnership for Education Reform; and Resolutions B-3 and B-4 for the newest SLA addition –SLAMS. Last year, Drexel was authorized to administer a $6 million federal grant in the Mantua Empowerment Zone. This Zone seems to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone created by Geoffrey Canada in NYC. At one point, the fifth grade scores in his charter school were so low that Canada simply removed the entire fifth grade class. When outside organizations, even universities, become “partners”, they make these kinds of decisions, not district stakeholders.
Resolution A-14 continues the trend of outsourcing services formerly performed by district employees to out-of-state vendors: providing professional development, decreasing truancy, and funding staff positions. Dr Hite is a graduate of the non-accredited Broad Superintendents Academy, which advances an ideology of outsourcing, privatization, and union-busting.
Please keep in mind that both Dr Hite and Mayor Kenney have said they intend to close two neighborhood schools per year for at least the next five years. School closing announcements are usually made around this time in the school year; perhaps the news of the SRC dissolution will push it back a month or two. Dr Hite will also be disclosing his decision on the fate of the six Priority/SGS Schools in February. New charter school applications submitted in the next month will be voted on by the SRC in February 2018. The next few months will be turbulent ones—stay tuned.
…the Hite administration took the $522, 582 earmarked here for private vendors and spent it on bring back 20 Parent Ombudsmen? Or NTAs? Parents at Priority schools meetings have said that providing these services would provide an invaluable service to the children at those schools.
Resolutions of Note
SRC-3: Recommendation of Dissolution of the School Reform Commission WHEREAS, the Secretary of Education, on December 21, 2001, declared that The School District of Philadelphia (“the School District”) was a distressed school district within the meaning of Section 691(c) of the Public School Code, for the reasons that the School District had failed to adopt or comply with a valid budget, in violation of Section 691(c)(1) of the Public School Code, and had failed or would fail to provide for an educational program in compliance with the provisions of the Public School Code, the regulations of the State Board of Education and the standards of the Secretary of Education, in violation of Section 691(c)(4) of the Public School Code; and
WHEREAS, a School Reform Commission was appointed, pursuant to Section 696(a) & (b) of the Public School Code; and
WHEREAS, the School Reform Commission has been the sole governing body of the School District during the period of distress, as prescribed in Section 696(a) of the Public School Code; and
WHEREAS, the criteria and grounds for determining when a school district of the first class is distressed are set forth in Section 691 of the Public School Code; and
WHEREAS, for the past five years:
- the salaries of any teachers or other district employees have not remained unpaid for a period of ninety (90) calendar days; all salaries have been paid on time without issue; and
- the tuition due another school district has not remained unpaid on and after January first of the year following the school year it was due and there is no dispute regarding the validity or amount of the claim; all invoiced tuition due to other school districts are paid as appropriate and justified; and
- the School District has not defaulted in payment of its bonds or interest on such bonds or in payment of rentals due any authority for a period of ninety (90) calendar days and no action has been initiated within that period of time to make payment; and
- the School District has not contracted any loan not authorized by law; and
- the School District has not accumulated and has not operated with a deficit equal to two per centum (2%) or more of the assessed valuation of the taxable real estate within the School District for two successive years; and
- the School District has adopted and has complied with a valid budget to operate the School District for a minimum instructional school year under Section 1501 of the Public School Code; and the School District has allocated or transferred revenues to ensure that funds are sufficient to provide a minimum instructional school year under Section 1501 of the Public School Code; and
- the City of the First Class has transferred revenues to the School District consistent with the current budget; and
- the School District has provided for an educational program in compliance with the provisions of the Public School Code, regulations of the State Board of Education and standards of the Secretary of Education. When the School District is notified of potential or alleged deficiencies, it provides the required corrective action and evidence of correction to the Secretary of Education. The School District’s provision of compliant programs does not address – and is subject to and without prejudice to – the claims made by petitioners in William Penn School District, et al v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, et al, alleging that the General Assembly has failed to fund a thorough and efficient system of public education under the Pennsylvania Constitution; and
THEREFORE, for the above reasons, and based upon the information and data received and reviewed by the School Reform Commission, now be it the School District is no longer distressed; the School District no longer requires governance by a School Reform Commission; the School Reform Commission, pursuant to Section 696(n) of the Public School Code, recommends to the Secretary of Education that the School Reform Commission be dissolved at the end of the current school year, June 30, 2018; and the Chair of the School Reform Commission shall deliver a certified copy of this Resolution to the Secretary of Education for review and approval of a Declaration of Dissolution of the School Reform Commission, along with the record reviewed by the School Reform Commission, including all information and data requested by the Department of Education.
APPS Analysis: APPS has been the unofficial watchdog of the SRC since 2012. Many of our members have regularly attended SRC meetings during the 16 years since its inception. We have worked in schools directly affected by their policies and witnessed the devastation of our schools and neighborhoods. We endorse this Resolution to disband and will continue to monitor any governmental body in any form that takes its place.
A-12 Categorical/Grant Fund: $250,000 Ratification of Grant Acceptance from the Promise of Strong Partnership for Education Reform
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the acceptance with appreciation by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent, of a grant from Drexel University in an amount not to exceed $250,000, to provide support for services, professional development and professional staff at Samuel Powel Elementary School, Science Leadership Academy Middle School, Alain Locke Elementary School, Martha Washington Elementary School, and Morton McMichael Elementary School for the implementation and evaluation of Promise of Strong Partnership for Education Reform (ProSPER United States Department of Education Promise Neighborhood grant), for the period commencing October 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.
Description: ProSPER lays out an inclusive, focused cradle-to-college-and career approach to improving educational and health outcomes for persons and families residing or attending school in the federally designated Promise Neighborhood, a continuous two-square mile area in West Philadelphia. The District run schools are: Samuel Powel Elementary School, Science Leadership Academy Middle School, Alain Locke Elementary School, Martha Washington Elementary School and Morton McMichael Elementary School. ProSPER is a broad outline for a plan that will be developed in partnership with the local community, nonprofits and the School District. Key impact areas include: Early Learning, K-12 Reform, College and Career Readiness, and Family and Community Supports.
This resolution is a ratification resolution because the federal grant distributes funds on a calendar year and therefore the schools can benefit from the resources aligned to the current academic year. For this academic year, Samuel Powel Elementary School, Science Leadership Academy Middle School, Alain Locke Elementary School, Martha Washington Elementary School, Morton McMichael Elementary School will each receive $50,000 that will target supports against the United States Department of Education Government Performance and Results Indicators for the Promise Neighborhoods grant. The District will also ensure that the supports identified align to the District’s Anchor Goals, Schools’ Action Plan and Schools’ goals. The schools will use the allocations as indicated: Samuel Powel Elementary School: literacy and mathematics professional development and climate support; Science Leadership Academy-Middle School: professional development in literacy and mathematics; Alain Locke Elementary School: a climate support position; Martha Washington Elementary School: mathematics support; and Morton McMichael Elementary School: professional development in the areas of literacy and mathematics and job embedded coaching support.
APPS Analysis: District parent Alison McDowell’s blog Wrench in the Gears presents a thorough explanation of Innovation/Empowerment Zones. We repost it below as she has done an outstanding job of defining and describing what we can expect from the federally funded Mantua Empowerment Zone. Her latest post, Co-Opted Language: Decoding Ed Reform’s New Sales Pitch, helps unpack the language of corporate education reformers:
When schools or districts reach the end of the accountability clock, we have put laws in place to suspend local control and take over management. Such districts are inevitably lower income, so who cares? Innovation Schools or Innovation Zones can then be offered as one model, to allow us maximum control of resources. Rather than continuing school closure campaigns, which ignite considerable public outrage, we’ll advance privatization by working within the system. Encouraging elected officials to establish “innovation” or “empowerment” zones will eliminate contractual protections for staff and students. This “Third Way” melds charter school approaches with public school operations, touting autonomy and flexibility but delivering no additional resources with which to do the work.
These initiatives open the door for districts to contract with outside management companies, while maintaining they are still “public.” Within these zones, significant changes can also be made to budget allocations, staffing levels, curriculum, assessment, even the length of the school day and year. Through the innovation concept we can promote competency-based, tech-centered curriculum and online “personalized” learning as a means of being “future ready” while doing more with less. We can also begin to disconnect student funding from “seat time” (time spent in a school building), which enables us to outsource instruction via credit flexibility to out-of-school partners and cyber instruction concept we can promote competency-based, tech-centered curriculum and online “personalized” learning as a means of being “future ready” while doing more with less. We can also begin to disconnect student funding from “seat time” (time spent in a school building), which enables us to outsource instruction via credit flexibility to out-of-school partners and cyber instruction.
Data Drives District Policies, Not Student Needs
A-13 Operating Budget: $30,000 Contract with The Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority Audio/Visual Services and Equipment
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes the School District of Philadelphia, through its Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform a contract with The Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority to provide audio/visual services and equipment during the Benchmarking, Analytics and Management meeting for Principals and school leaders, for an amount not to exceed $30,000, for the period commencing November 17, 2017 through June 30, 2018.
Description: During the 2017-18 school year, The School District of Philadelphia (“the District”) will deliver a series of meetings entitled Benchmarking, Analytics and Management (BAM) meetings for principals and school leaders. The purpose of these meetings is to advance school improvement and increase academic outcomes for students through four key activities: 1) data review, 2) implementation review of evidence-based strategies and actions, 3) professional development, and 4) collaborative work time. Principals and school leaders receive important information during a plenary session, then participate in breakout sessions to review actionable data points for their school while receiving relevant and timely professional development.
Because each meeting is attended by 450-500 participants, including the District’s 221 principals, an additional leader from each school, all Assistant Superintendents, central office leaders, and meeting facilitators and speakers, it is not possible to hold these meetings at the School District of Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority has agreed to donate the use of the space for the meeting scheduled on December 13-14, 2017. The District is responsible for paying for all audio/visual services, utilities, telecommunications, use of equipment and ancillary services related to the event. Internet access, networking and wireless services are provided exclusively by the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority’s Audio Visual Services Department is the exclusive operator of the “house” sound and lighting systems in the meeting rooms.
APPS Analysis: Remember just a few months ago when Governor Wolf, Mayor Kenney and Dr. Hite were asking… What about student needs? The district should be providing support staff and resources to help our students deal with the range of issues they bring to school; developing relevant and developmentally-appropriate professional development; scheduling time for school staff to meet and plan together; and seeking authentic stakeholder participation in creating a School Improvement Plan that includes school staff, students, and parents. If the district can find $30,000 to bring principals and central office staff together, it should use that opportunity to address real student needs, not to create more opportunities for vendors to market their wares.
Evaluation, Research, and Accountability
A-14: Categorical/Grant Fund: $192,000 Contract with In-Class Today, Inc. – Intervention Services for Student Absenteeism 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 In Class Today, Inc. to provide intervention services leveraging direct mailing and text message communications to parents and guardians regarding student absenteeism, for an amount not to exceed $192,000 for the period commencing November 17, 2017 through November 17, 2018.
Description: The School District of Philadelphia will contract with In Class Today, Inc. (ICT) to leverage direct mail communications to empower parents and guardians with relevant, useful and comprehensive information about their own child¿s absenteeism to increase attendance and thereby improve student achievement.
Professor Todd Rogers, Directory of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Student Social Support R&D Laboratory (“S3”), first completed a pilot of the direct mail project in the School District of Philadelphia during the 2012-2013 school year. That research team then completed a district-wide implementation in the 2014-2015 school year. The intervention reduced chronic absenteeism by 11% at 1/20th the cost per incremental day of other interventions. The intervention was repeated during the 2016-2017 school year and yielded similar, positive results, with 22,284 fewer absences among at-risk students and a reduction of almost a full day of absence per target household. Students attending all regular status, public elementary, middle, and high schools in the School District will be included in the experimental universe. Only parents/guardians of students with a certain number of absences will receive communications. When cell phone number is available, text messaging pre-alerts will be used to inform parents/guardians that they will be receiving a direct mail communication.
ICT is an entity that was created for the sole purpose of scaling out the research developed in the S3 lab at the Harvard Kennedy School. ICT is a sole source provider of a unique combination of services in this emerging area. The project will be run and managed by ICT, with the attention and involvement of Todd Rogers. The intervention planned for the 2017-2018 school year is predicted to result in an even more potent improvement on previous studies.
APPS Analysis: District students and parents have an expectation that the district is protecting their privacy. This contract allows an outside agency access to Parent/Guardian Contact Information as well as student attendance. If the goal is to cut down on truancy, then creating relationships with Parents/Guardians is critical. For years the School- Community Liaisons built the bridges between home and school. These workers lived in the school neighborhood and knew many families. Their daily communication with parents drove down truancy rates. This is what our district needs— not another out-of-state data-driven research project telling us how they think the truancy issue should be solved. Dr Hite has commented on the importance of relationships; he should put money into reinstating these positions instead of spending money on yet another consulting firm.
A-15 Operating Budget: $925,500 Contract with Docusafe Record Management LLC – Records Management and Offsite Storage
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 DocuSafe Records Management, LLC, to provide off-site records storage and management services, for an amount not to exceed $925,500, for the period commencing January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2021, with two one-year options to renew through December 31, 2023, for a total amount not to exceed $1,295,000.
Description: The School District of Philadelphia requires the services of a commercial records storage facility for storing, retrieving, updating, storage management, and approved destruction of the School District of Philadelphia student, employee and administrative records.
The majority of the records are enclosed in standard letter/legal file boxes size. There are also some records such as old ledger books, drawings, microfilm, microfiche and checks. Some historical records are included and are required to be stored in a climate-controlled area, (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit with 45 to 55 per cent relative humidity) required for long-term perpetual storage. The School District of Philadelphia presently stores approximately 54,347 boxes occupying 65,347 cubic feet. The vendor shall accept and respond to the pickup and delivery requests from authorized School District of Philadelphia staff. The vendor will deliver requested boxes and/or files during the School District of Philadelphia, regular business hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
The proposal must include costs for pick-up, retrieval, additions of new records, destruction, inventory and management of records according to the School District of Philadelphia, Retention Schedule.
The committee was represented by Student Records, the Record Center and input from Procurement.
APPS Analysis: Over the years, several news stories have been written about the district’s mishandling of artwork confiscated from schools; books, computers, and furniture taken from shuttered schools; and broken musical instruments, including pianos, found in building basements. Perhaps there is a need for more professional handling of district materials and resources. The question not answered here is: What exactly will be stored? As an organization that carefully examines the SRC and the district, we recommend that there be a public posting of those materials that does not violate parent and student privacy rights.
Private Funders Support Selected Schools
B -3 Donation: $149,154 Ratification of Acceptance of Donation from Inquiry Schools
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the acceptance with appreciation by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent, of the donation of $149,154 from Inquiry Schools, for professional development, consulting services and related supports, for the period commencing September 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.
Description: This resolution reflects the donation and acceptance of a grant from Inquiry Schools to the School District of Philadelphia. The District is entering into the year two of the innovative, non-selective-admission Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLA-MS) in Powelton, a neighborhood in West Philadelphia. This new school will be part of a proposed K-8 school facility at the site of the former University City High School that will also house an expanded Samuel Powel Elementary School.
The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) has financially supported the planning and start-up processes for this new school. Inquiry Schools received PSP funding to provide the supports authorized by this resolution. Previously, PSP awarded grant funds to Drexel University from its Great Schools Fund for the strategic planning process of this initiative, and is continuing to provide funding for the next stage in the school start-up process.
This is a ratifying resolution because the grant funds for this current year of a multiyear grant from Philadelphia School Partnership were received by Inquiry Schools in August 2017, after the resolution submission deadline for the SRC’s August 2017 meeting. This resolution was originally written and uploaded to be voted on during September 2017’s SRC meeting. It was rejected from the system on September 27, 2017. The required edits were made after the deadline (September 29, 2017) for the October 2017 meeting. Prior to school opening on September 5, 2017, the professional development and related supports that Inquiry Schools provides needed to continue, uninterrupted to ensure the successful opening of the year two of SLA-MS.
B-4 Categorical/Grant Fund: $160,000 Ratification of Grant Acceptance from The Philadelphia School Partnership – SLA Middle School RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the acceptance with appreciation by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, of a grant of $160,000 from Philadelphia School Partners, to fund the salary and benefits for two grade teachers at Science Leadership Academy Middle School, for the period commencing September 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.
Description: The District is entering year two of the innovative, non-selective-admission Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLA-MS) in Powelton, a neighborhood in West Philadelphia. This new school will be part of a proposed K-8 school facility at the site of the former University City High School that will also house an expanded Samuel Powel Elementary School. The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) has financially supported the planning and start-up processes for this new school. These grant funds, the acceptance of which are being ratified through this resolution, will used for the salary and benefits for two grade teachers who will teach 5th and 6th grade
This is a ratifying resolution because the grant funds were received in August 2017, after the resolution submission deadline for the SRC’s August 2017 meeting. This resolution was originally written and uploaded to be voted on during September 2017’s SRC meeting. It was rejected from the system on September 27, 2017. The required edits were made after the deadline (September 29, 2017) for the October 2017 meeting. It was imperative that the teachers funded by this grant participated in summer professional development and began teaching full-time when school opened, September 5, 2017.
APPS Analysis: These two resolutions represent over $300,000 in grants to SLAMS from a private entity, the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP). The grant proposed in B-4 would pay for two teachers (grade 5 & 6). Does this mean that next year the school will lose these teachers unless another grant is provided? How does this create a stable budget for a school if they are dependent on a private agency to pay for two (grade) teachers’ salaries? As the SRC continues to approve the continual private support for a newly created public school adjacent to Drexel University, remember that Drexel’s President John Fry served as a member of the PSP board and its Chair. Although SLAMS still has no permanent location, PSP has invested over $2 million in this school. The 14-acre site purchased by Drexel for $25.1 million was home to University City High School, Charles R Drew Elementary School, and the Walnut Center Early Childhood Program—all shuttered by the district in 2013.
Is Drexel seeking to create its own version of the U of P-supported Penn Alexander Elementary School? Fry was a key architect of Penn Alexander when he served as vice president of Penn from 1995 to 2002. Neither Penn nor Drexel has committed to paying their PILOTs (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) that would benefit all district schools. PILOT is a nationally recognized program that many universities use to pay taxes on profit-making business located on their campuses. A 2010 Philadelphia Inquirer article tells how non-profits are making contributions. Drexel is not on the list of contributors, although Cathedral Village, a small retirement community in the Andorra section of Philadelphia, are.
Inquiry Schools was created by SLA CEO Chris Lehman in 2006. Lehman was the Assistant Superintendent overseeing the Innovation Network until he was appointed to the newly created position of CEO of the SLA Network. Dr Mark Greenberg, an Inquiry Schools Board member, is a Drexel professor and former provost.
Re-vote on Temple Resolution
[Note: this resolution had to be postponed because of the unexplained absence of Commissioner Bill Green last month. See Ears on the SRC, October 2017]
B-5 Donation: $2,700,000 Ratification of Acceptance of Donation of Services and Resources from Temple University; Memorandum of Understanding RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the acceptance with appreciation by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent, of the donation of professional development services from Temple University to improve leadership, instruction and parent engagement of English Learners, valued at $2,700,000, for the period commencing September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2021; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the execution, delivery and performance by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent, of a Memorandum of Understanding with Temple University, in a form acceptable to the School District’s Office of General
Counsel, to implement this donation of services.
Description: This ratifying resolution is submitted due to a misunderstanding around resolution requirements. The Office of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs (OMCP) has had a longstanding relationship with Temple University and erroneously assumed that a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) was sufficient to accept their services. In the future, no further services will be executed without prior Limited Contract or School Reform Commission resolution approval.
Temple University received a five-year, $2.7 million National Professional Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The project, titled Transforming School L.I.F.E. (Leadership, Instruction, and Family Engagement) for English Learners, aims to improve the school experiences, retention and academic achievement of English Learners (ELs) enrolled in middle and secondary grades in District schools.
The Office of Multilingual Programs and Curriculum is partnering with Temple University to lead a comprehensive professional development effort that includes a School Leaders Institute, support for in- service teachers to earn a Pennsylvania Program Specialist: ESL Certificate through Temple¿s TESOL Graduate Program, and English language instruction to parents of ELs across the District. Transforming School L.I.F.E. aims not only to impact EL student achievement in selected schools in Philadelphia, but also to serve as a promising model for other large, urban school districts across the United States.
OMCP reached out to all high schools as well as elementary and middle schools serving English Learners in grades 6-8 to inform principals and leadership teams of the opportunity. 18 schools expressed interest including nine high schools and nine elementary/middle schools. After further discussions between Temple, OMCP and the leadership teams of the 18 schools, nine high schools decided to apply for the opportunity. Temple selected all nine schools to participate–five schools in the first cohort and four schools in the second cohort.
Roll-out and delivery of these services will be as follows: Year 1: September 1, 2016 to August 31, 2017 – planning year to identify the participating schools and to recruit necessary personnel for research and project coordination. Currently, the participating schools are: Frankford, Franklin Learning Center, Furness, Kensington Health Sciences, Lincoln, Northeast, and George Washington high schools.
Years 2 & 3: September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2019, work begins with Cohort 1 schools comprised of Furness, Franklin Learning Center (FLC), Kensington Health Sciences, and Lincoln High Schools Years 4 & 5: September 1, 2019 to August 31, 2021 – continue the supports for Cohort 1 schools and begin implementation of supports for Cohort 2 schools comprised of Frankford, George Washington, and Northeast high schools. Cohort 2 will serve as a research control group for years 2-3 of the grant for research purposes.
APPS Analysis: We ask the same questions we did last month:
• Why is this money being funneled through an outside entity?
• What gives Temple the authority to choose the schools allowed to participate?
• Why does the district continue to outsource Professional Development?
B-7 Operating Budget: $21,429 Contract with reDesign, LLC – 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 reDesign LLC., for professional development services that will focus on designing a curriculum that aligns with the goals for the Middle College initiative at Parkway Center City Middle College High School, for an amount not to exceed $21,429, for the period commencing November 17, 2017 through June 30, 2018.
Description: The School District of Philadelphia is partnering with Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) to create a middle college at Parkway Center City (PCC) High School. This innovative research- based middle college model is designed to prepare students for college-level work and jumpstart their success in college by allowing them to take a blend of high school and college level courses. Students will have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma while concurrently earning an associate degree. Middle college programs are collaborations between community colleges, school districts, and parents. According to the Middle College National Consortium, the collaborations make college attainable, reduce repetition in the curriculum, yield coordinated student services and eliminate the need for remediation. All middle colleges are located on or close to college campuses, begin with students entering high school in the 9th grade, and offer a combination of high school and college classes that result in an associate degree in liberal arts or up to 61 transferable college credits.
In order to prepare Parkway Center City Middle College Scholars to enter into a blended college environment during their high school career, reDesign,LLC will provide on-site coaching and virtual support to PCCMC instructional teams to develop researched based competency based units of study that will enhance the rigor and bridge the gap between the transition from High School to College. To assist in unwinding the work with the college, reDesign, LLC, initially facilitated a summer institute curriculum design workshop and provided two (2) customized interdisciplinary units of study for the middle college initiative. To provided additional support, a total of ten (10) on site instructional coaching days on an as needed basis will be provided to the PCCMC instructional team as well as 30 hours of virtual support during the 2017-2018 school year.
APPS Analysis: According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “redesign” means “to revise in appearance, function, or content”. Will this redesign result in a well-funded, well-run system that educates everyone, not just a select few? Private companies like reDesign have embedded themselves into the district, selling professional development (PD) as just another product. Instead of drawing upon teachers’ knowledge and experience to create appropriate and useful PD, the district outsources to a variety of vendors including reDesign.
reDesign clients, listed as “partners”, include KIPP, Building 21, School District of Philadelphia (U School and the Linc), MA Charter Resource Center, Domus Charter Schools (Connecticut) , Detroit Public Charter Schools, and Sustainable Futures Public Charter School (DC).
Sydney Schaef, reDesign’s Lead Designer, worked for the district in the Office of New School Models and as a School Design Consultant for Building 21. Finding information about the Office of New School Models on the new district website is an act of futility. It simply states that the “Innovation Network is part of Superintendant Hite’s Action Plan 3.0”. The trail of information ends rapidly and few of the Quick Links work.
This contract with reDesign would have them provide “virtual support to PCCMC instructional teams to develop researched based competency- based units of study”.
What is Competency Based Education(CBE)? Again we turn to Wrench in the Gears: CBE includes “Electronic portfolios listing skills one has “mastered” or attained a “proficiency or competency” in is all that is needed.” Education is far more than the testing of skills. Education involves analyzing information, critical thinking, and reflection. Teachers impart these skills, not computers. Competency Based Education takes us down the slippery slope of doing away with teachers who work in brick and mortar buildings. CBE takes us farther and farther into the land of data collection and away from relationships integral to education.
Next SRC Action Meetings
Thursday, November 16, 4:30 PM at 440 N. Broad Street. To sign up to testify, call 215-400-4180 before 3 PM the day before.
Thursday, December 14, 4:30 PM. To sign up to testify, call 215-400-4180 before 3 PM the day before.