The results I’ve seen from the School District of Philadelphia over the last few months have given me the belief that our public education system can become successful in its mission.
That’s right, the School District of Philadelphia is starting to get results that indicate it is truly possible for all of our students to succeed academically. The much-maligned school district, the perpetual underdog, has been winning and when it wins, our kids win and we win.
Last week, the district released its 2017-18 School Progress Report. The annual report evaluates schools on student achievement and growth, school climate, and college and career readiness. For the third consecutive year, the district increased its overall School Progress Report score. More than 200 of 319 district-run and charter schools improved their performance, and 56 schools showed improvement for two years in a row.
In November, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone Exams scores showed continued progress by district students. District improvements on the Keystone Exams outpaced those on the state level. About 2,700 third- to eighth-grade students moved from below-basic to higher performance levels on the English Language Arts portion of the PSSA. About 500 students moved from below-basic to higher performance levels on the test’s Science portion.
I am certain that Superintendent Dr. William Hite would say that the district has more work to do on student achievement, school climate and college and career readiness. But the School Progress Report results and standardized test scores demonstrate steady progress and show what can be achieved.
There is even more good news on another front. Moody’s Investor Services recently upgraded the district’s bond rating to Baa3 and said the district’s financial outlook was “stable.” The district now has an investment grade rating for the first time since 1977. That is a testament to the work of leaders across the city and state, including Mayor Kenney, City Council, Governor Wolf, state legislators and, of course, the district. Financial stability is critical to the district providing students, teachers, and staff the resources they need to be successful.
Communities and businesses seem to be responding to the progress in schools. Across the district, people are giving of their time and their money to support and celebrate students. For example, the Meredith Elementary School and Greenfield Elementary School communities turned out in force in October to help the schools and the district recognize their designation as National Blue Ribbon Schools. The schools were two of just 19 schools in Pennsylvania to receive the coveted designation.
All this positive news gives us hope that we are in the midst of a game changer. It’s time we had quality education for all of our children. This can only be achieved with strong citizen support and yes, with additional resources being invested wisely. So, if you care about the fate of education here in our city, please contact your legislator, either suburban or city, and urge them to increase the spending on education in Philadelphia and throughout our state. That will mean quality education for our kids and a significant boost in our economy.