NO DISRESPECT to Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, to whom we are grateful for his support of increased spending for Philadelphia schools, but his op-ed (
"From Harrisburg, a stern message on school reform," April 5
) fails to give full credit to a primary source for the wonderful academic progress our school children have exhibited.
What Philadelphia received from Harrisburg was two-fold: an order to hire educational management organizations to run some of our lowest-performing schools and approximately $25 million extra a year in per-pupil spending, over and above what other district schools receive.
Well, how do you distinguish whether the achievement gains were due to the EMOs, the additional infusion of money, or other districtwide reforms such as the core curriculum? Why, you commission experts to research the different models.
When a pair of respected research firms (Rand and Research for Action) were commissioned to do just that, their report revealed that while K-8 schools showed improvement, the EMO-managed schools showed no more or less improvement than other district schools. In fact, it was a set of schools managed by our very own Philadelphia School District that received both an extra infusion of funds along with special interventions that showed the most evidence of student achievement gains.
The money mattered - it made a big difference. Given that the city is now facing a $182 million shortfall, it would seem like common sense to place our bets on the side that showed the most promise. Any other alternative smacks in the face of scientifically proven results.
We are delighted that the legislature has helped us move forward by providing the money to try different strategies. Now that we see the results, we hope the legislature will once again help us help our children and the state by supporting funding for educational improvement that shows the most results.