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 »

Reactions to the New Philadelphia Teachers Contract

I posted before that I feel positive about the contract from what I had heard at that point but that I was interested to hear what the experts had to say.  Here are some more reactions from local media sources.

The reactions seem to be generally positive across the board for the contract itself, though some teachers were (rightfully, in my opinion) unhappy at the way that the contract was presented to them.  I am hopeful that this contract is steering the School District of Philadelphia in the right direction for the long term.  As I read more and more about the contract, I feel more comfortable with the idea of enrolling my kids in the Philadelphia public school in the coming years.

New Philly Teacher Contract Has Performance Incentives

The new teachers contract includes additional pay and pretty draconian measures for schools that aren’t up to snuff.  The Inquirer reports:

In schools targeted for the “Renaissance Program,” the entire staff can be forced to transfer out and only up to 50 percent rehired at the school by its new management. Teachers working in those schools, which are to be identified in the coming months, also will earn more Read the rest of this entry »