In Philly, persistently dangerous schools are down

The number of city public schools considered “persistently dangerous” under federal guidelines plummeted this year, according to the Philadelphia School District.

In 2010, 19 district schools made the list of schools considered so unsafe that parents have the right to send their children elsewhere.  This year, were 10.

That’s a 47 percent drop.

There’s no word yet on which schools made the list and which came off it.  That information is expected early this week.

The 19 on the old list — released last September — were Douglas, Edison, Fels, FitzSimons, Frankford, Furness, Gratz, Lincoln, Olney East, Olney West, Overbrook, Roxborough, Sayre, South Philadelphia, Strawberry Mansion, and Vaux High Schools and Clemente, Shaw and Vare Middle Schools.

Though it's not yet known which schools came off the list, at least two can be figured out. Olney East and West, which combined in September, are no longer run by the district.  They are turnaround schools now operated by Aspira.

To make the list, a school must have a certain number of serious incidents, such as assaults in the most recent school year and one of the previous two years.  The ratio between reported violence and enrollments determines the designation.

But it’s also clear that not all crime in the district is reported.  

The Inquirer series “Assault on Learning” found that underreporting crime is a serious, system-wide problem, a finding that has been corroborated by a district blue ribbon task force on safety.  Officials have put new reporting procedures in place effective this school year.

A top district official said earlier this year that the district has a “credibility issue” when it comes to its crime statistics.

Assault on Learning found that more than 30,000 serious incidents had taken place in the city’s schools over five years and that on any given day, 25 students, teachers, or other staff members were beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted, or became victims of other violent crimes.

But beginning last year, the district focused attention on 46 schools that were either on the persistently dangerous list, had been on the list, or were trending that way.  The so-called “Focus 46” schools received extra scrutiny and support.