January 15, 2008
Parents United's Statement on GCA Requirements
Parents United for Public Education does not support state-mandated
Into this mix now comes high stakes testing. We assume that the 10
As parents, we are deeply concerned that the GCA system is too rigid,
Finally, we are disappointed and baffled that such an initiative could
October 4, 2007
Parents change District policy on high school selection
Parents United for Public Education succeeded in reversing a planned district policy to eliminate multiple acceptances to high schools, saying a rushed timeline and lack of information from counselors, schools, parents, and principals would prevent students from making quality, informed choices.
At least 15 parent associations and advocacy organizations joined a call to request the district to scrap a planned November 2 application deadline which would have required students to place in order of preference their top five high school choices. Students would be assigned their high school based on a match between the school and the student's list.
But parents said the timeline of the application deadline fell just five days after the district's high school fair, usually the first time that parents could find out about some of the 59 high school options before them. In addition, parents said that there was poor communication to parents and even schools about the changes. Some schools do not have their school profiles on the district website, and others had scheduled open houses and visits after the application deadline.
Parents United for Public Education, a lead organizer in the effort, said interim Chief Academic Officer Cassandra Jones was "extremely responsive" to parent concerns, but added that some parents had been laboring on the issue since last June.
"It underscores the importance of the District talking to parents," said Helen Gym, a member of Parents United for Public Education. "Even 'administrative' changes can have a drastic impact on families and children. Had parents not gotten involved, this process would have moved forward with almost no input from those most critically impacted."
Gym said that parent groups had organized within 48 hours, a "testament" to the widespread impact and concern about the policy. She said it also showed how active parents were in the District.
Parent Pamela Blanding-Godbolt said Parents United would follow up with Dr. Jones to emphasize the importance of multiple acceptances. She said it was critically important for students and families to make the final determination of which school they ultimately wanted to attend.
school selection process is a prelude to that of higher education where
receiving multiple acceptances is ideal," she said. "To rush the
process and eliminate multiple acceptances hinders our
For more information, email Parents United.
October 17, 2007
More than 70 schools in Philadelphia are in Corrective Action 2 (CA2) status, which means they failed to meet adequate yearly progress 5 years in a row (click here to search for CA2 schools in Philadelphia). Under federal No Child Left Behind guidelines, any school in CA2 status for more than one year must be restructured. NCLB generally offers three options:
As we all know, Philadelphia under the state takeover has engaged in all these efforts already with limited success.
For half a decade, Philadelphia has supported one of the largest systems of private and for-profit school operators in the nation. Four out of five independent studies of these schools (also known as Education Management Organizations or EMOs) have found that privatized schools have not academically outperformed district schools despite receiving more than $100 million in additional "management fees." At least one of the studies has raised concerns over appropriate delivery of mandated ESOL, bilingual ed, and special ed services at these schools. Only one of the five studies showed favorable results for the EMOs, but it was partially paid for by Edison Schools Inc., the largest EMO provider in the district. When EMO contracts expired in June 2007, the District decided to renew all the EMOs, with one Commissioner explaining that the District didn't have the capacity to take schools back under district control.
The District currently has 60 independent charter schools. Concerns have been raised about accountability and review of the academic progress of the charters, but in general, the biggest barrier to charters and the CA2 schools is capacity. Only a handful of charters have the financial backing, administrative capacity, and academic results to take on the CA2 schools. None of them have the capacity to take on a significant portion of the 70+ schools.
The School District founded an Office of Restructured Schools (ORS) in 2002 at the same time that it turned over district schools to private operators. ORS managed a portion of schools with similar demographics and academic struggles as schools turned over to EMOs. The District invested significant resources and professional development into those schools in order to provide a comparison group to the EMOs. A study by RAND/RFA found that not only did ORS schools outperform EMOs, but they generally outperformed regular District schools as well in terms of rate of academic progress. Inexplicably, the District dismantled ORS in 2005, but even so, those schools formerly under its purview continued to show gains even the year after.
Why do we care?
Even if you're breathing a sigh of relief that your particular school is not on the list, we want you to consider a few relevant issues:
Parents United for Public Education believes that important decisions about the management and academic and fiscal future of our schools can only happen responsibly when parents are at the table. We can't afford to wait for the District to tell one-fourth of our schools what it plans to do. Parents need to define now what we believe must happen and/or not happen. Are we going to throw the dice with failing EMOs and hope for the best, or will we take a proactive stand on what we know works – investment, resources and will?
To find out which schools in Philadelphia have been designed CA2 schools for at least 5 years, go to the website of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and search for the School District of Philadelphia.
Statement on elimination of transpasses (6/24/08)
Statement on the EMO decision (6/19/08)
Statement on vote of No Confidence (5/29/07)