Defenders of Public Education Speak Before the BOE, January 17, 2019

SB 7-9-18

Click on the individual’s name to read the transcript of his or her testimony.

APPS and Community Members

Tonya Bah

Christine Del Rossi

Teresa Engst

Deborah Grill

Lisa Haver

David Hensel

Karel Kilimnik

Robin Lowry

Barbara McDowell Dowdall

Cheri Micheau

Diane Payne

Coleman Poses

Ilene Blitzstein Poses

Lynda Rubin

Student Achievement Committee Meeting: December 6, 2018

by Lynda Rubin

Attending: Co-chairs Dr. Chris McGinley and Dr. Angela McIver, Committee members Julia Danzy, Mallory Fix Lopez, Maria McColgan, Student Representatives Alfredo Practico and Julia…

McGinley opened the meeting. The November 8, 2018 Minutes were approved.

Every Student Succeeds Act Changes Assessment

Chief of Schools Dr. Shawn Bird gave his presentation on the first item on the agenda—modifications made to the federal ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) which has replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Pennsylvania’s plan, entitled “Future Ready PA Index” (www.FutureReadyPA.org), stipulates that schools will be judged on two years of data instead of one and will cover more than just academic proficiencies and less emphasis on just standardized tests. The new plan will track academic proficiency, on-track progress and college and career readiness indicators. Within those categories new items will include annual growth, English language proficiencies, chronic absenteeism, 3rd grade Reading and 7th grade Math proficiencies, 4- and 5-year graduation rates, and career standards benchmarks. The status of all schools in the state can be accessed on this Index.

There will no longer be the NCLB designations for progress and support needs according to Priority and Focus schools. The current categories into which schools will be placed for support are CSI– Comprehensive Support Improvement,  ATSI– Additional Targeted Supports and Improvements, and TSI– Targeted Support and Improvements. Schools in CSI and A-TSI designations will be tracked for three years. Charter Schools Office Director Christina Grant reported that this year 60 of Philadelphia District schools, including 10-12 charter and cyber schools, are in CSI and A-TSI categories. As of this meeting, the names had not been given to the district, but had been shared with the actual schools. Those schools assigned to CSI will be the bottom 5% Title I schools and high schools with graduation rates of 67% and below.A-TSI schools will track any school with a student group that meets CSI parameters in one or more subgroups. TSI will comprise, for one year, any school with a student group that meets CSI parameters for one or more subgroups and is designed as an early warning system. However, the progress of one or more subgroups (e.g. English learners, chronic absenteeism, etc.) will have more weight in determining the status of each school.

Click here to read the rest of the report

 

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