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Get Ready for Kindergarten [Video]

For parents and kids starting kindergarten soon…

Redirect your PhillySchoolSearch RSS Subscription

Due to the runaway success of this blog, we moved off of wordpress.com and onto our own new domain–phillyschoolsearch.com!  All of your bookmarks should work, but if you are reading this post in an RSS reader, you need to redirect your subscription to http://feeds.feedburner.com/PhillySchoolSearch

Make Every School a Charter?

Mary Beth Hertz (a.k.a. mbteach on Twitter) over on the Philly Teacher blog recently posted a very thought provoking article–A New Model for School Reform: Could it Work?. With all the talk of Charters and Renaissance schools lately, it was great to read such a well thought out and well articulated model of school reform. Her idea in a nutshell–do away with catchments and let every student/parent rank the schools that they would like to attend, and award all spaces based on a lottery system, similar to how seats in charter schools are awarded today. This system would be superior, because, in her words,

  • Giving students and families a choice helps keep them engaged in a child’s education.
  • Choice fosters competition among schools to attract the best students, no matter what neighborhood they are in.
  • Services are more evenly distributed throughout the district since no one school is overwhelmed with high-needs students and families.

I like the sentiment and how Hertz is thinking outside the box.  I liked this idea a lot at first.  However, Read the rest of this entry »

School Success Criteria Vol 2: Teachers

In yesterday’s post, the first of a series outlining what makes a school successful, I started the article by stating that I was unhappy that teachers are disproportionately punished for bad performance in schools. Newsweek’s cover story this week is titled “Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers” tells the other side of the story–that teachers should be blamed when blame is due,

What really makes a difference, what matters more than the class size or the textbook, the teaching method or the technology, or even the curriculum, is the quality of the teacher. Much of the ability to teach is innate—an ability to inspire young minds as well as control unruly classrooms that some people instinctively possess (and some people definitely do not)….It is also true and unfortunate that often the weakest teachers are relegated to teaching the neediest students, poor minority kids in inner-city schools. For these children, teachers can be make or break. “The research shows that kids who have two, three, four strong teachers in a row will eventually excel, no matter what their background, while kids who have even two weak teachers in a row will never recover,” says Kati Haycock of the Education Trust and coauthor of the 2006 study “Teaching Inequality: How Poor and Minority Students Are Shortchanged on Teacher Quality…..disturbing is the immunity enjoyed by the thousands of teachers who let down their students in more ordinary ways. Many more teachers are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. Maybe they’d get more respect if the truly bad teachers were let go.

This article was inspired by the recent brouhaha surrounding the Rhode Island teacher firings, but it could just have much been about the Philadelphia Renaissance School program, Read the rest of this entry »

School Success Criteria Vol 1: Parents

In the news lately there has been a lot of talk of underperforming “Renaissance” schools who will forced to dismiss many of their teachers.  On the one hand, I applaud the attempt to shock our worst schools into improvement.  On the other hand, I am dismayed that the teachers are being disproportionately punished for the failures of their schools.  It occurred to me that so many factors contribute to the success of schools beyond the teachers.  I am going to try to go about hypothesizing what those factors are so that can be an angle for my research and school visits moving forward.

My first hypothesis–schools that have involved parents perform better.  Groundbreaking idea, I know.

On a recent tour of Meredith, I was struck by how many Read the rest of this entry »

Everyone gets on the waitlist: ICS #2

If you apply to Independence Charter School you will get a spot on the waitlist.   They pick every last name out of the box.  This year the waitlist was somewhere around 380 spots long.   Getting off the waitlist is another issue: 1-10 will likely get a spot, 10-20 still very promising, 20-30 is possible, after 30 is very unlikely.   I’m sure this varies from year to year.  I was told it’s largely dependent on how many people choose private school over ICS.

The funny thing about the ICS waitlist is that the school that got you on, may not be the school that gets you off.   What do I mean by that?  ICS has two tracts with regards to Spanish language instruction: immersion and enhanced.  Both have a 90/10 split in Kindergarten.  Immersion Read the rest of this entry »

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