Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Today at the SRC: Renaissance schools and more

The May voting meeting of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. As usual for the end of the school year, there's a lot on tap, from an evaluation of Renaissance Schools to policies on how the district plans to rid itself of buildings. I will be live Tweeting the meeting - check this spot for updates.

Today at the SRC: Renaissance schools and more

The May voting meeting of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.  As usual for the end of the school year, there’s a lot on tap.  I will be live Tweeting the meeting - check this spot for updates.

Here’s a preview:

1. The Accountability Review Council, a national panel formed to provide oversight of the district for the SRC, will present its annual report.
The ARC (education loves acronyms!) has two main threads.  One, the district is making progress.  No news there - it’s been well-documented that the district has had eight straight years of test score gains.  The number of schools that make AYP, or adequate yearly progress, has increased from 9 percent to 59 percent, since 2002. The ARC “remains concerned,” however, that there are was only “modest improvement” in the narrowing of the achievement gap between black and Latino students and Asian and white students. Threatened budget cuts, of course, do not figure to help the situation.
Two, the ARC commissioned the local nonprofit Research for Action to examine the Renaissance schools, Philadelphia’s attempt to turn around failing schools.  There are two kinds of Renaissance schools, charters managed by outside organizations and Promise Academies, which are district run.  Both have longer school days and years, new faculty, and other reforms.  Promise Academies have extra district resources (about $400) spent per student.
Research for Action found the Renaissance Schools’ School Advisory Councils need to become stronger, particularly at Promise Academies, where both the councils and principals aren’t quite sure what roles the councils should play, how much say they should have, etc.
Research for Action also found that the results were uneven across Renaissance Schools in terms of climate.  Attendance was better at most schools, but there were varied suspension rates at the schools.  Promise Academies’ rate of lateness among students increased from 10 to 14 percent. (Lateness at the Renaissance charters declined, from 7 percent to 6 percent.) There’s also a need for “school-wide strategies for promoting a positive climate at the Promise Academies.”
The researchers recommended the district recruit Renaissance teachers as early as possible, since last year’s hiring was hampered last year.  A hiring delay “did not allow most of the Renaissance Schools to recruit from the strongest possible pool of teachers in a timely manner,” the report found.  That should also be tough this year, as there will be teacher layoffs, though it’s not yet clear whether Promise Academy teachers will be exempt from those.
The ARC is “proceeding with caution in its review and discussion of the study, because it is largely descriptive in nature.”  Translation: wait and see.

2. There will be a report on the “YS Consent Decree,” which mandates the district maintain certain standards for ESOL programs and provide services to English language learner students and their parents.

3. The SRC will vote on a number of important policies affecting the district’s many buildings.  There’s an adaptive reuse policy, which would allow the district to offer incentives (read - discounts) to preferred buyers of old school buildings.  There’s a facilities master plan grade changes and grade organization resolution, which would allow for some grade changes (already announced) to happen in the fall.  Plus, there’s a “rightsizing” policy - essentially codifying the district’s decision to shrink by 35,000 empty seats over the next two years.  

4. There are the usual array of student expulsion votes and constracts, ranging from a $500,000 contract for “professional material testing services” with Lippincott Jacobs Consulting, Pennoni Associates Inc. and GAI Consultants to a $130,000 contract with Time Trak Systems, Inc. to provide “Advtantak Biometric Time and Attendance Reporting System.”

5. Some schools and students will get special recognition, including kids who won local science fairs. Also, Science Leadership Academy, a successful magnet high school, will be honored for its recent coup - recognition as an Apple Distinguished School. 

About this blog

Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham writes the Philly School Files blog, where she covers education in Philadelphia, both in and out of the classroom.

During the school year, you’ll frequently find her hosting live chats about the district on Philly.com.

Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter.


Kristen Graham Inquirer Staff Writer
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