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 »

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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 »

Going Local: Activism For Education

Commenting on my recent post “Having Your Cake and Eating it Too” one reader posted a link to an article on the A Good Day Teaching Blog entitled Why Don’t Liberals Really Like Poor Children?. The crux of the linked article can be summed up in one statement.  The author states that liberal parents “believe that the children deserve a good education, they just don’t want poor children sitting next to their kids in a public school.”

I think the key point here is that there is a difference between liberal/progressive values and outright activism.  Advocating school reform is progressive.  Sending my kid to our local public school is activism.  Not only that, it is activism by proxy in that my kid is the one making the commitment to the cause, not me.  I am willing to be an activist for some causes.  I am not willing to donate my child’s education to a cause.  Speaking for myself, this is not about racism.  The biggest problem that I have with most affluent school districts is Read the rest of this entry »

Comprehensive Directory of Philadelphia Charter Schools

directory coverThe Philadelphia School District’s Charter School website is helpful, but the Directory of Philadelphia Charter Schools (PDF) published by the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition is much better. It contains a lot of great school data, including the mission of each school, demographic/test score data, contact information, and more. It also has special sections on cyber charter schools, a charter school FAQ, a checklist of things to look for when visiting a school, a charter school map, and more.

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 »

Winning the Lottery: Independence Charter School

Independence Charter was the only school which explicitly told us, “Do not hover.  Do not contact us.  It makes no difference.”  Their incoming class is filled by random lottery on the first Friday of December.  The only exception is siblings of current students, who get first preference.  Sibling preference actually fills up quite a lot of the kindergarten class – this year there were about 26 openings for the lottery out of a total 44 spots.  So, about half of the incoming class is siblings.  There were about 200 applications, giving us about a 10% chance of getting our son into Kindergarten (or about what my chances were of getting into any particular medical school back in 2003).   The business manager assured us on the phone that the lottery was random, “We actually, literally, pull the names out of a hat.  Well, nowadays it’s a big box because there are so many kids applying.  You’re welcome to come view the process.”

And that’s exactly what we did this past December.  We dragged Read the rest of this entry »

Lower Merion–Spies Like Us?

Lower Merion has long been the no-brainer school choice.  Living in the city is a priority for me, but when schools are a factor, it is hard for Philadelphia School District’s beleaguered system to compete with what some consider to be one of the best public school districts in the country.  Until now, perhaps?

Unless you have been living under a rock over the last few days, you have most likely heard about the lawsuit filed by several students of Harriton High School alleging that school administrators spied on them at home using Read the rest of this entry »