The Lower Merion School District Paradox

Lower Merion School District (LMSD) is known to be one of the best school districts in Pennsylvania, despite the recent laptop-webcam scandal.  I have toured two of the public elementary schools already and they seem to be amazing.  It would seem like a no-brainer that I would want to move my family there for the schools if the decision was purely based on school quality.  Of course, there are issues that are important to me beyond school quality (see the choice criteria tag plus personal issues like commute times and financial), but let me put them aside for the purposes of this post.  Are there other reasons that LMSD is not the best choice?

Drawing the school districting lines for the Lower Merion School district last year was a contentious issue, involving loud town hall meetings, angry allegations of racism, lawsuits, and now a federal investigation.  Should that controversy also be a factor?  Read the rest of this entry »

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Philly Teachers Need Anger Management?

I started this blog just before the new contract was signed with the Philadelphia teacher’s union.  At the time, I was supportive of the contract and the innovative/proactive changes to the traditional structure of the contract.  It also seemed like public and media reaction was generally positive.

Now that the new contract is off of the front pages, however, there is a vocal group of teachers who seem to be quite unhappy with the new contract.  Reading several Philly teacher blogs and news articles out there, it is clear that teachers are experiencing a  wide range of emotions–fear in some cases, distress or jitteryness.  Yesterday, this blog received an anonymous submission Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking About School Choice Long Term

Yesterday, Kristen Graham of the Philadelphia Inquirer posted a story entitled “Study finds high school choice ‘an illusion’.”

There is a pretty vibrant (and in some cases heated and profane) debate about this article happening in the Philadelphia Speaks Forum.  I am evaluating elementary school options for my kids, and I wrote about my own anxiety around sticking with the School District of Philadelphia with regards to the uncertainty of what comes after elementary school.  Here is the two sentence summary of that post:  If my family moves to the suburbs, we have a prescribed school path that we know will provide excellent schools for my kids.  If my family selects an elementary school in Philadelphia, we will just have to go through the process again for high school, possibly even for middle school, with no certainty of being satisfied with the options.

Ultimately this article doesn’t change my thought process much.  I am definitely in favor of school improvement, who isn’t?  I am disturbed by the inequality inherent in the Philadelphia school system, but right now I am most occupied by the priorities of my family.  I am concerned that my children won’t be able to get into their preferred school choice.

Graham reports that overall, about 70 percent of district eighth graders apply for admission to a school other than their local high school, but only 45 percent of them end up attending the special schools.  I am neither an expert or activist one way or another on school choice.  But it strikes me that if 45 percent Read the rest of this entry »

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 »