Student Achievement and Support Committee: November 8, 2018

by Lynda Rubin

The Student Achievement and Support Committee was called to order by Co-chair Angela McIver.  Also present were Co-chair Chris McGinley and Committee members Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix-Lopez, and Maria McColgan. Non-voting Student Board Representatives Julia Frank and Alfredo Praticò sat in.  Members of the public who had not signed up to speak were invited to do so at the beginning of the meeting. The Committee voted to adopt Minutes for the last two meetings, September 13, 2018 and October 11, 2018. (Approved minutes are posted on the District website.) Dr. McIver announced that the next meeting of this Committee will be held December 6, 2018 at 5 PM, one week earlier than previously posted.

Focus Topic: Proposed District-wide Comprehensive Plan  

Chief Schools Officer Shawn Bird presented the District’s Comprehensive Plan, a 3-year plan that will be in effect from 2019 until 2022.  The Plan is posted for public review and feedback. You can access the Plan and the feedback forms here: https://www.philasd.org/teachingandlearning/2018/11/06/districts-comprehensive-plan/

Dr. McGinley asked whether district staff was notified of the Plan.  Dr. Bird responded that the district sent letters to all district staff for their review and response; they have 16 responses so far.  Dr. Bird said that the letters went out late so additional time will be given for staff to respond. McIver asked where the feedback is housed.  Bird replied that it is housed on a Google document that is not visible to the public. He said he would send a link to the document to the Board members.

Three district teachers narrated a power-point on “The Curriculum Engine and the Instructional Core” and discussed how to use it to plan instruction.  Teachers can access standards, resources and curriculum maps using the Curriculum Engine.

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Eyes on the Board of Education: September 20, 2018

SB 7-9-18

by Karel Kilimnik

Last Spring, at the urging of Superintendent Hite, the SRC approved a 2018-19 School Calendar in which school started a week before Labor Day. Dr. Hite gave little rationale for this, but he did say that June is just as hot a month as August. The first week of school brought days of early dismissals because of extreme heat and the lack of air conditioning in most district buildings. Dr. Hite, in response to public criticism, has created a “calendar committee” to gather data on this issue, which would have been a better idea last Spring. One lasting legacy of the SRC and the Hite administration is the lack of stakeholder dialogue on crucial decisions. Fortunately, the New Board of Education has changed its approach in order to allow discourse on a range of policies and practices. The BOE has established three new committees: Finance and Facilities, Student Achievement and Support, and District Partnerships and Community Engagement; the Policy Committee was established last year and will continue to meet under the Board. (See our reports on the first two committee meetings.) This structure allows for more dialogue about proposed policies and for raising concerns so that the community will have more than the three minutes allotted to BOE Action speakers.

Ongoing Outsourcing

We often feel like the proverbial broken record as we continue to track money spent on outsourcing staff and services instead of rebuilding the internal District structure. There is an untold wealth of professional wisdom among those with years of experience in our classrooms and offices. Teachers, principals, counselors, nurses, and other staff have devoted their lives to working with students. They have created curriculum, projects, and other educational materials based on their knowledge and understanding of the students in their classrooms and schools. This administration needs to acknowledge and support these efforts across the district, not just in selected schools. For example, instead of sending more money into the coffers of vendors such as In-Class Today,Inc (Action Item A-15), the District could reinstate the School-Home Liaison staff. The District employed Nutrition Educators (B-2) until outsourcing their jobs to Catapult Learning,LLC last year. Every time this happens the District abdicates its responsibility for accountability to students and parents; private companies are not accountable to the public. Whenever District services are outsourced, and whenever a school is closed or charterized, the Superintendent should return a portion of his salary, as he is no longer responsible for overseeing that service or that school. We need Board members to question these expenditures as the SRC did not. Who benefits – our children or vendors?

This Year’s Model

Every year Superintendent Hite announces some new model of transforming schools that will “turn around” underperforming neighborhood schools. Over the past two years, he has targeted 17 schools as part of his “System of Great Schools” (or “Priority”) program. This has created tremendous uncertainty and instability as teachers and principals worry about whether they will have to re-apply for their positions simply to stay in their school, while parents fight to keep teachers and administrators who have dedicated themselves to those schools. In keeping with the Hite administration practice of rebranding positions and programs, an indication of how the corporate mentality has infected the district, this initiative is now referred to as “Focus Schools”. Unlike in previous years, there has been no resolution or action item approving contracts to consultants for this program. APPS has learned that Cambridge Education, who was paid $300,000 for obviously inadequate reports, will not return for another serving of District money.
However, Temple University will again be facilitating community engagement. The District has entered into a contract with Temple, but since for some reason it was not approved by the SRC or the BOE, the public has not been informed of the details or the amount. We have found it very difficult to find current information on the District website, so we are posting a link to the page. The three Priority schools this year are:
Avery D. Harrington Elementary School (K-8), 5300 Baltimore Avenue
Robert E. Lamberton Elementary School (6-8), 7501 Woodbine Avenue
Alain Locke Elementary School (K-8), 4550 Haverford Avenue

Last month we applauded the posting of Capital Programs Contract Modification summaries in the Action Item Summary. As of the date of this edition of Eyes, those Summaries have yet to appear. We also urged the BOE to list vendor contracts that enables the public to view the negotiated terms.

Charter Chains Move to Consolidate Power

Will the new Board members continue their predecessors’ tradition of bending over backwards to ensure that well-connected charter schools find a home in the District? Some SRC Commissioners even made a point of advising applicants whose charters had been denied to reapply—which they did, when they were then approved. Public schools need the Board to set a new course. That means not simply rubber-stamping inadequate charter applications without acknowledging the impact on neighborhood schools. MaST is simply one in a string of charters with connections to enlarge their realm at the expense of every student in the District.

If in October the Board approves the application from MaST charter to consolidate its governing boards, it will become the first Multiple Charter School Organization in the city and the state.  We have seen no coverage about this in the local press, but the public needs to understand how this could affect the District in many ways, including financially.

What If…?

…instead of spending $ 384,000 (Action A-15) on outsourcing Attendance Services, the District brought back the School-Community Liaisons? Developing and maintaining relationships with students and families not only improves attendance but helps to prevent or resolve other issues as well. That money would not only work towards building better Home-School relations but also create jobs in low -income neighborhoods by hiring community residents.


Click here to read the Action Items of Note and the APPS Analysis

Commentary: Charters not really a good choice for parents and kids

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The following Commentary by APPS co-founder Lisa Haver was published by the Philadelphia Daily News on October 3, 2016. Read the comments.

School choice is one of many issues that illustrate the stark difference between the two major candidates for president. While Hillary Clinton, supported by teachers’ unions, has expressed support for charters within a robust public system, Donald Trump promises to use the power of the presidency to promote school choice policies and replace “the failed tenure system” with merit pay for teachers. Trump recently proposed a massive voucher system in which over $20 billion in federal funds would be distributed to states so that parents could choose among “public, private, charter or magnet” schools.

While the promise of “choice” – placing education in an unregulated free-market system of winners and losers – has been sold by reformers as the answer to the underfunding of public schools for over a decade, the power of those in struggling districts to make decisions about their public schools has been stripped from them as a result of “interventions” imposed by governors and legislatures across the country. An analysis by News21 found that lawmakers in at least 20 states have either eliminated locally-elected school boards or stripped them of their power. African Americans make up 43 percent, and Hispanics 20 percent, of those disenfranchised by these takeovers. Philadelphia lost control of its school district when Harrisburg imposed the appointed and unaccountable School Reform Commission on the city in 2001.

School choice has been sold as a way to give opportunities to those painted as trapped in “failing” urban public schools. But a recent brief by the National Education Policy Center has found “an unsettling degree of segregation – particularly in charter schools – by race and ethnicity, as well as by poverty, special needs and English-learner status.” And studies continue to show that charters do not, even with additional resources, outperform public schools.

The truth is that when school districts under state control decide to privatize public schools, parents end up with fewer choices – or none. As a result of the SRC’s surprise vote last January to allow Mastery Charters to take control of John Wister Elementary School as part of the districts “Renaissance” program, families in that East Germantown catchment area no longer have access to a truly public school. Wister students feed into Pickett Middle/High School, which was taken over by Mastery nine years ago. Unless given special dispensation by district officials, their children must attend a charter school, with its rigid “no-excuses” discipline policy, from kindergarten through senior year of high school. The same dilemna faces those in the Mastery Cleveland Elementary catchment area, where students feed into Mastery Gratz Middle/High School. The only other option is to move, although some parents who have done that found themselves in the same position when their new school was targeted for takeover.

This is a precarious position for families to be forced into. Charters can and have unexpectedly shut down midyear, as Walter D. Palmer Charter did two years ago. Young Scholars Charters has walked away from two North Philadelphia elementary schools, Kenderton and Douglass, in the past two years, forcing the district into a hasty decision to take back management or find another provider. Kenderton parents organized an emergency meeting, but soon realized that they had no say in that decision.

Two years ago, Superintendent William Hite allowed parents at two North Philadelphia schools to vote on whether to allow a charter company of the district’s choosing to take control of the schools. Parents at both schools voted overwhelmingly to remain public. Thus, in 2015, parents and students at three more district schools were given no vote, but simply informed that their schools were to be placed in the Renaissance program. The choice had been made for them.

Education reformers continue to argue that opening more charters at the expense of public schools means increased “choice” for parents. Is this really a choice for parents – to send your children to a charter school or pull up stakes? Parents don’t want to go school shopping any more than consumers wanted to pick an electric company. They want districts to distribute resources equitably, so that children in every neighborhood have access to safe and stable schools.

 

An Analysis of How Philadelphia School Partnership Has Implemented Its Mission

By Coleman Poses

PSP

August 26, 2015

Philadelphia School Partnership can trace its origin back to 2010, as a nonprofit organization with a mission to “create and expand great schools in Philadelphia.” To accomplish this mission, it had planned to collect and distribute 100 million dollars to successful Archdiocesan, charter, and district schools for their incubation, startup, expansion, and turnaround endeavors.

This mission coincided with the launching of the new District-Charter Collaboration Compacts, which would, according to the marketing, commit its signatories to usher in a new era of cooperation between school districts and charter schools across the country. In theory, there would be less competition for resources, and a universal enrollment would end the practice of schools luring students away from other schools. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued the grant to fund these compacts.

As of this writing, 21 districts have signed such agreements. Philadelphia’s agreement, called the Great Schools Compact (GSC), however, was unique in that it included Archdiocesan Catholic schools. The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) was charged with guiding the GSC as well as acting as its fiscal agent.

This article focuses on the activities that the PSP has undertaken.

Click here to read the full article.