Donate today!
view counter

'Not a minute to waste' - even in first grade

By Benjamin Herold on Nov 2, 2010 05:17 PM
Photo: Benjamin Herold

First grade teacher Kallie Turner with her class of Mastery Smedley students.

It’s not yet 8:30 am, it’s the Friday before Halloween, and the audience before him is made up of five- and six–year-olds.

But Mastery Charter-Smedley Elementary Principal Brian McLaughlin is not one to go off message, especially just two months into Mastery’s effort to turn around the long-struggling neighborhood elementary school in Frankford.

“We don’t have a minute to waste,” McLaughlin tells the children during their weekly community meeting. “The clock is ticking.”

For McLaughlin, his first two months at Smedley have been primarily about trying to infuse the entire building, from staff to students, with a “palpable sense of urgency.” If it’s a bit unsettling to outsiders to see that message being delivered to a roomful of kindergartners and 1st graders – well, McLaughlin suggests, maybe those outsiders should take another look at how Smedley students perform academically.

“We have students who are incredibly behind,” he explains. “I don’t think we can apologize for making sure that kids have the skills that they absolutely need.” 

In 2009-10, Smedley’s last as a District-run school, less than a quarter of students were proficient in reading, and less than a third were proficient in math on state tests.

When Mastery took over running Smedley in August, they administered intake tests to assess the skills of incoming students. Of the school’s 104 1st graders, said McLaughlin, “somewhere over 75 of the kids were pre-primer, which means many of them didn’t know the alphabet. There were a couple of kids who were on grade level for reading – literally two or three.”  

Mastery’s response to the data?

“Sometimes fun is going to be cut to make sure students are ready for the [next] grade,” explains McLaughlin. “[The achievement] gap already exists, even before kindergarten. As a school, when you’re balancing those two things, being a reader wins all the time in my book.” 

Despite the harsh message, McLaughlin is by no means a drill sergeant, and students and staff seem to have largely bought in to his efforts to radically overhaul even the smallest parts of Smedley’s culture.

Gone is the chaos that parents and students say previously went unchecked in the hallways and stairs; now, one stairwell has been designated the “up” stairwell, one the “down,” and the distinction is rigidly enforced. 

Teachers and staff are vigilant about making sure students’ shirts are tucked in at all times. From all corners, there are constant reminders that students should be in the “S.T.A.R.” position: sitting tall in their seats, tracking the speaker with their eyes, actively listening, and resting their hands in their laps or on their desks.

Mastery Smedley’s new culture is not just rules and regulations, however. McLaughlin and his staff have made a major push to teach students how to participate and celebrate without causing disruptions or distractions.

During that same community meeting last Friday morning, 150 children eagerly followed the 27-year-old, first-year principal through a series of lively call-and-response songs and chants. As teachers from each classroom recognized the students who best embodied Mastery’s “core values” during the past week, other students congratulated the winners with choreographed cheers.

Students sing the Mastery Charter college song.
Students receive awards for good behavior and conduct.

Smedley’s entirely new staff also seems to have largely conformed to the Mastery way. In their classrooms, many teachers employ the same techniques that McLaughlin modeled during the assembly. Staff have also adopted a common system of schoolwide discipline, the basics of Mastery’s “data-driven” approach to instruction at all grades, and a common language for talking about it all.

And it has all happened since August.

According to Mastery CEO Scott Gordon, the dramatic change in the climate at Smedley is consistent with Mastery’s plan for quickly turning around failing public schools.

“We put a lot of focus on ‘one culture,’” explained Gordon. “I don’t know that our culture is better than anyone else’s culture, but I do know that schools that have one culture, [where] all the adults are operating from [the same] playbook, clearly are more successful than [schools where] all the adults aren’t on the same page.”

First grade teacher Kallie Turner, who is in just her second year teaching, said that emphasis has made a world of difference, especially in terms of classroom management.

“Last year, I taught in a public school in Louisville,” explained Turner. “I felt that I wasn’t getting the help I needed to make my classroom successful. This year, there is a more universal strategy that is being used, so students know exactly how their behavior should be throughout the day. We only have a certain amount of time to learn as much as we can, so we have to stay super-focused.”

A 20-minute writing lesson in Turner’s classroom demonstrates just how quickly and deeply the Mastery culture has permeated Smedley’s classrooms.

Before instructing the 21 students present in her class to move from their seats to the carpet in the front of the room, Turner tells the children she will be timing them.

Thirty-two seconds later, the children are settled in on the carpet, giving each other a silent cheer for moving so quickly.

As Turner starts her lesson on adjectives, several children start to fidget and fuss. Turner first highlights the students who are staying focused. When the fidgeting continues, she sends one of the offending parties to go adjust his status on the classroom’s “choice chart”  – a behavioral management tool that McLaughlin has mandated all K-2 teachers use in order to create a uniform approach to discipline for Smedley’s youngest children.

When Turner sends her children back to their seats to work on a short assignment incorporating both the writing lesson and the book that they have just read, all of the children get right to work. If students finish the assignment early, they pull out a book to read.

In Turner’s classroom, there is very little wasted time – and there is also very little laughter and play. Turner and her students are almost always “on-task” – and as a result, their individual personalities peek out only occasionally.

A handful of Smedley parents who spoke with the Notebook had mixed reactions to the dramatic changes at their children’s school.

“This year, the discipline is superb, especially in the classrooms,” says Tom Gibson, who has two sons at Mastery Smedley, one of whom is in Turner’s 1st grade classroom. “Last year, there was a lot of bullying, a lot disorganization. It’s 100 percent better.”

Despite their initial skepticism about Smedley’s conversion to a charter school, Gibson and his family are pleased with the results so far.

“We were thinking about transferring [our sons] out of there, but we decided to let them go in and see what happens,” explained Gibson. “So far, it’s to our liking.”

Kimberly Reynolds, however, said her daughter, a 3rd grader, is having a very different experience.

“Last year was much better than this year,” said Reynolds. “[Now], the work is really hard, and she ain’t ready for it. They don’t even have time to play. From the time she gets home at 4 until 7, that’s how long it takes her to do her homework.”

Unlike Gibson, who had one foot out the door before Mastery came to Smedley, the previously satisfied Reynolds says she is now on the verge of transferring her daughter out.

“She’s not going to be there too long,” explained Reynolds. “Smedley is really outrageous.”

As for McLaughlin, he argues that he and Mastery are constantly welcoming feedback about what works at Smedley. But he also emphasizes his steadfast belief in the approach that is now well underway.

“There is a model that we use,” said McLaughlin. “For me, it’s just a smart way to think. You’re getting people to think about what they want as an outcome, and not thinking about schooling as just an experiential thing.”

Benjamin Herold and the Notebook are reporting all year on Smedley and 12 other “turnaround schools” that are in their first year as charters or Promise Academies under Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s Renaissance Schools initiative. With the Obama administration having set a goal of turning around 5,000 failing schools nationally in the next five years, the Notebook is committed to tracking what happens on the ground in these schools locally.

Click Here
view counter

Comments (52)

Submitted by radical educator (not verified) on November 2, 2010 9:22 pm

We are in serious trouble when a simple fidgeting child is forced to demote himself. The achievement gap is real, and a legitimate concern, but addressing the achievement gap while brain washing, oppressing, and robbing children of their ability express themselves (even during a cheer!). Shame on us for thinking this is the answer. This would not be tolerated for white middle class children. When Scott Gordon, or these teachers begin to send their kids to this school, I will consider that this entire practice is ethical. This is NOTHING but oppression.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on November 4, 2010 8:34 pm

What is unethical is the fact that students are in first grade at Smedley and they don't know their alphabet!

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on November 5, 2010 7:57 am

What do you mean by knowing the alphabet? Is it that they do not know that song? cannot identify the letters by name? can't write them? can't put the letters in order? There is a lot to knowing the alphabet.
If you remember when you started school, first grade was different. We started school knowing more than our kids today do. I could read in kindergarten, because my mom stayed home with me and read to me a lot. We had books in the house and a trip to the library was a treat. That was just how it was. Sadly, kindergarten is now a very academic place, with very little social time. There is no play time even at that kindergarten level. That is wrong. There should be fun in all learning, but structured social playtime should be in our kindergartens and first grade classrooms.
It is very sad that it is not there anymore. How many of our current first graders know who Mother Goose was? How many know any of those nursery rhymes that are part of our oral traditions? Somethings we should not let slip away.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 26, 2015 2:29 am

Using these helpful tips, you really can lose those extra pounds you hate and get as trim as you'd love to be. It does take a little bit of time and energy investment, but your weight loss goals aren't beyond reach. Keep working at them, stay positive and you really will reach them. More details on Weight Destroyer Reviews Website.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2015 2:42 am
For the best weight loss results carry emergency food packages. Fill them with healthy snacks like mixes that include nuts, veggies, and fruits. When you do this you will always have something on hand when hunger strikes, and will be less likely to cheat and lose sight of your weight loss goals. More details on Old School New Body review site.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2015 2:31 am
There are many ideas you can come across in your hunt for solid weight loss tips and advice. Fortunately, there are many people who have traveled down this weight loss road and are willing to share their advice with you. The following are some solid tips to help you reach your goals. More details on Old School New Body review site.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2015 5:18 am

Give coconut oil a try, instead of spending a lot of money on a expensive moisturizer. Coconut oil provides you with a soothing moisture that easily goes through your skin. In addition, it also makes you look younger because it helps to eliminate lines and wrinkles. It also helps treat skin ailments like eczema, acne and psoriasis because of its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. More details on site.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 31, 2015 3:57 pm

As mentioned at the start of this article, you need to want to change your life before it's actually going to happen. Once you've made that decision and actually wish to pursue a diet, the tips you've learned here are just the icing on the cake (no delicious pun intended!). Use them to help you get in better shape. More details on site.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2015 3:01 am

When you nail polish starts to thicken up, you can add a few drops of nail polish remover to the bottle to thin it. Shake the bottle well after the addition of the nail polish remover to mix thoroughly and continue your manicure as usual. You should be able to get several more applications from the bottle. boost your bust site

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 29, 2015 6:56 am
If you are an adult going back to college, try signing up for night classes. The classes during the day time are full of young adults right out of high school. The night classes are usually filled with adults and students who are serious about their education. It will result in a much better college experience. Text the Romance Back Review
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 2, 2010 10:03 pm

and she is right, how many first graders don't fidget especially if they are bored which they probably were!!!

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on November 3, 2010 2:12 pm

I agree thta more education needs to take place, but places like this one that teach to that middle group are going to create more behavior problems than this system can crush this way. The top kids are getting bored and creating life for themselves and the bottom kids are frustrated like you cannot imagine. The dad in the article is lucky that his child is in first grade and has never seen the other side - the real side of education. We may be able to convince the little ones that this is normal, but for those kids already exposed to education - to learning and growing - to learning through action? those kids know better. That's where the troubles will begin.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 2, 2010 11:04 pm

Keeping a safe and orderly environment is extremely important if you want learning to occur, but this article gives one the sense that in creating this environment Mastery has also taken the joy out of learning. I certainly wouldn't want to be a student there and I would never consider sending my children there. It seems like Mastery still needs to explore how to balance fun and productivity. I wonder what they consider "on-task" to be? Fearing the teacher and principal?

Submitted by Teacher (K.R. Luebbert) (not verified) on November 3, 2010 7:05 am

Truly good teachers know how to maintain order and on-task behavior WITHOUT stifling childrens' personalities or taking the joy out of learning. It sounds like this teacher is not there yet. And radical educator is correct--would this amount of rigidity be tolerated by upper middle class parents in either the city or the suburbs?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 3, 2010 1:35 pm

The public education of poor children is on a steady "race to the bottom". "Learning" is redefined as a testing. "Teaching" is redefined as following a model. "Success" is defined as the combination of behavior modification and skill at taking bubble tests. Test scores are the "profit" in this system. School districts are redefined into "portfolios" of different kinds of schools. There is nothing further, nothing deeper, than what looks nice, is easily replicated, and doesn't offend the sensibilities of potential investors. Rather than meeting the needs of individual students, we meet the needs of those who are expecting a return on their investment.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on November 4, 2010 8:46 pm

Give it a rest people, if you all read the article is specifically states that the student was "fidgeting and fussing". If your interpretation of "fidgeting and fussing" is "stiffling childrens' personalities" or "taking the joy out of learning", then I am very concered for your students if you are so quick to blow things out of proportion.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on November 3, 2010 2:28 pm

I am a teacher and proud of the fact, but I cannot call this scripted program I am dishing out teaching. I am spoon feeding some good information and skills to the middle group of my 18. The rest either already know this and NEED time to apply it (which I cannot give them) or have no idea what I am talking about. That middle 40% are doing okay. The rest are learning in the second grade to hate school.
What a waste.

Submitted by Sage (not verified) on November 3, 2010 2:46 pm

Meg, are you a Mastery teacher or at a different school? I'm curious because I know that many district teachers are constricted by federal and state laws, but part of the argument in favor of charter schools is that they have more flexibility to be "creative." I'd be curious to know how the experiences compare.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on November 3, 2010 3:52 pm

I am not a Mastery teacher. I am at a school recently reclassified as an empowerment school, although we had not met the required criteria at the time and have made AYP again last year.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 3, 2010 2:02 pm

What do you expect from the TFA flightbynighters? The group is more concerned with grooming future administrators with a dab of real live teaching experience.Perhaps it is to deflect those CEOs that we have had with little or no teaching experience. However, it is not enough to solve the real problems that occur in school. Mastery seems good at windowdressing for the public. Let's see them tackle EXACTLY the same population that public schools must deal with and force them to keep those kids just like we have to do now.

Submitted by babs (not verified) on November 3, 2010 3:32 pm

With Smedley failing students so badly last year, some of the rigidity is probably necessary to bring kids up to grade level. but the parent who says her kid isn't ready for this no-nonsense approach to school apparently doesn't feel that Mastery can supply the individual help her daughter will need. So the weeding out process begins and by the end of the second year, all of the can't-cut-it students will be gone, test scores will soar among a self-selected bunch of kids and Ms. Reynolds daughter will be in a public school and still farther behind. One thing that's particularly disturbing to public school teachers is the fact that there is one system of discipline and everyone is on the same page. I just spoke to a teacher who was assaulted by a student twice - kicked in the chest and sent to the ER. The student also sexually assaulted another student. The principal's response? Move the child to a different classroom. If public school teachers could mete out consistent rewards and discipline (having only 20 kids/class helps) and be supported by administrators, Smedley would not have been given away to the highest bidder.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 3, 2010 7:12 pm

That teacher needs to contact Sue Snyder at the Inky. This principal is jepordizing the safety of his/her staff and the students by allowing such a student to remain. This is a clear cut example of how school policy is making principals afraid to do their duty.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 3, 2010 6:47 pm

What bothers me the most about the article is the fact that there is very little laughter. It's not just charter schools, but schools in general. Young children learn so much through play, yet there is never time to play anymore. Everything is about being on task, taking tests, doing well, etc. I understand the need for discipline, but when did play become so bad?

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on November 4, 2010 6:41 am

You are so right. The kids need to pla - to learn through play. Our kids today cannot compromise. They have no idea how to lose gracefully or win nicely, because they never get to play anymore. So many social skills are learned through games - board games and yard games and we are taking them away from our kids.

Submitted by yuck (not verified) on November 3, 2010 9:16 pm

It must be nice to be a benevolent, white, do-gooder at one of these schools. You get to fulfill your white guilt while saving the poor brown folks from themselves. There is absolutely NO community or parent input in these schools. Teachers ask for reform done with us not to us. . .but what about all of the reform done to kids without communities and parents? This lack of input would not be tolerated in the suburbs and radical is right: no one with any option would send their kids there. Why is the only way to teach poor kids to sit them down and make them compliant. . .I guess they aren't good enough to learn in a freer way (irony)

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on November 4, 2010 2:24 pm

I am not a do gooder. I am not in teaching to save anyone. I am here to teach. I honestly wish I was allowed to.

Submitted by Anonymous on November 6, 2010 12:24 pm

Meg, I know that you are NOT a benevolent white do-gooder who pulls out a cache of oppressive teaching strategies just to stroke your ego. Many of my co-workers are just like you, white, informed, passionate, and educated. You don't teach at Mastery or KIPP. That comment was not directed to you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 3, 2010 9:45 pm

How does a 27 year old become principal? Don't administrators have to have at least 5 years of classroom experience? Granted, far too many Philadelphia administrators spent as little time as possible in a classroom - and it shows with how they evaluate teachers - but 27 is too inexperienced to run a school. (Yes, I assume he is a product of TFA - the "two years is enough" and then run a District like Ms. Rhee.)

Submitted by Disappointed (not verified) on November 4, 2010 9:52 am

I am constantly disappointed by the unproductive comments that plague such a great newspaper. Why all the "this won't work" attitudes when the situation is so dire. While I do worry about the developmental appropriateness of the program at Mastery, I'm also worried that too many people, including brilliant educators, who could really get a lot accomplished are focusing on the deficits-assuming things won't work, that people have bad intentions or don't know what they are doing. This is really disappointing and will not get us very far.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 4, 2010 10:48 am

Does it really surprise you, though? The notebook is filled with unproductive comments and people looking to get their 2 cents in about their own agenda. No one has even commented on the obvious, which is, is the Mastery system improving climate? If so, how? Has Mastery had a chance yet to prove academic improvement? If so, when will they, and what would be the measure of "success?" Then, balancing the first question with the second, when is academic gain undone by a stifling climate? Or is it at all?

Case in point of the typical Notebook comments would be the above comment: the 27 year old principal leads to a comment on TFA which leads to a comment on Rhee. The arguments here tend to follow a conspiracy-esque tilt, as in, the 27 year old obviously is in cahoots with Rhee and Fenty and Duncan, and if I don't see how this 27 year old will lead to the undoing of the educational establishment, I am naive and ignorant. And thus I am stupid and have no idea about "how things really are."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 4, 2010 12:53 pm

"This won't work" attitude? What do we end up with if this does "work"? What does it mean if it "works"? That students whose parents wouldn't sign a contract can't attend? Is that "working"? That students who consistently struggle with behavior or performance end up being counseled out? Is that "working"? That scripted curricula and conditioning produce docile, amenable black kids - for the ones that can assimilate? Is that "working"? Proof that the rest of our schools don't need equitable funding? Or experienced teachers? Or innovative and individualized learning? Just a model? Is that what works? And government and business will team up to make this the new reality and convince everyone this is what works and raise private capital to ensure that these schools are supported with additional dollars and that they get as much positive PR as possible? Oh okay, now I get it!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 4, 2010 1:33 pm

In your sarcastic response are some key points, I think, such as, what is the definition of "working?" If we take that to mean test scores and climate, which many do-- rightly or wrongly-- then shouldn't this have a chance to see if it can achieve that? You can disagree with the criteria (tests and climate), but that is an issue of larger consequence than what Mastery is doing. It is not as if this school has dictated the criteria-- it was dictated by NCLB, and they are doing their best to achieve highly on that.

You highlight some ideas which I think may be your feelings: a "innovative and individualized learning" system with experienced teachers and equitable funding will succeed. Where is this model? Can you highlight some schools with this that succeed? I am more interested than negative here, I mean it: I can think of Hill Friedman, perhaps Wagner, that succeed here. However, those two schools have strong cultures; in the absence of culture, leadership, and experienced teachers who want to teach there, can you think of a school that has done well in this respect? Once again, I am not being negative or dismissive.

Lastly, do you have evidence that students have been counseled out of this turnaround school? I know that it is the case at prior Mastery schools, but does anyone know that about this school yet? Were they permitted to do that? Please inform.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on November 4, 2010 2:22 pm

Meade was one of those schools. For years, the teachers here have worked together, examining their craft and using a team approach to improve everything. Scores were consistently grwoing while serious incidents were dropping fast. The parents were supportive and interested. The staff worked on Saturdays and late into some nights to improve everything. We taught in small groups produced using the data and our own observations. After several years of AYP, we were dropped onto the empowerment list and are now spoon feeding our children the scripted CR, Cr and Imagine It. There are no small group anythings and I am now teaching to the middle.
We were your example, but someone did not want to hear it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 4, 2010 3:35 pm

Thank you, Meg. Before I go on, please know 1) I have never been to your school 2) I know nothing about it and 3) you know infinitely more about it than I ever will. That being said, I still will comment, but please correct me in any assumptions or incorrect statements I make.

On the school profile,, it is amazing to see the decline in incidents and the implicit improved climate that was/ is there. So that certainly meets that part.

On the other hand, while some PSSA scores have improved dramatically at your school, most notably in math with the exception of grade 3, the reading scores seem either stagnant or slight increases, which does not quite meet the assertion that test scores increased.

Now, as I said, I have no idea about any of this, and in an ideal world someone would obviously ask about this (which I am assuming no one did because of your frustration). However, I wonder if this performance was not enough? Furthermore, to then give you corrective reading is, I agree, a horrible move-- one would think that those in charge would like at math, say "Hey, they know what they are doing there, maybe we should just encourage reading to be like math," and let you be on your own for a bit with the knowledge that 1) you know climate 2) you know math 3) you can probably improve reading. We have gotten a bit off topic, but do you know why you were put on empowerment?

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on November 4, 2010 4:51 pm

 Wanted to share with you this account I wrote of the Meade school last year   Click on the highlighted word to link.



Submitted by Meg (not verified) on November 4, 2010 4:39 pm

Thanks for this - then and now, Ron.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on November 4, 2010 4:09 pm

I am impressed that you followed up. Good for you.
Not only did the reading levels rise - even if you feel not enough... did you notice the decrease in the kids sitting in the bottom levels ? Moving those children into levels of some functioning was a priority for us, although not for anyone official.
We met AYP each year with one exception - Just one. We made it last year and are still dealing with the corrective programs.
No one would or could answer the questions you are asking that we also asked. We were reprimanded for asking the questions.
All I our work is being demolished and our children are more than a little dazed at the changes. We are trying to make them work... it is hard, though when a second grader ask you face to face if you doubt him. This little one asked just last week why he saw kids DOING things in my room last year and he has not done any of them.

Submitted by Teacher (K.R. Luebbert) (not verified) on November 4, 2010 9:20 pm

We also met AYP, but are still stuck with Correctives and Imagine It. No one will answer the question: If we made AYP with Trophies Lit and Guided Reading, why can't we continue with it??

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on November 5, 2010 7:44 am

They will not answer the questions. I do not spread conspiracy theories, but maybe there were other reasons to drop some schools on the list that we are not aware of. Maybe those theories need another look. I do not know, but I share your confusion and pain.

Submitted by Mr.D (not verified) on November 4, 2010 11:14 pm

I worked at Smedley last year and I was ready to quit after my first month there. I decided to stay because I felt I owed it to make the school a better place even just by showing I cared. Though the students played and many were disrespectful I didn't take it from any child, they began to grow on you. I want what's best for my former students play time is over at Smedley it's time to get focused and get on task. I have been there and saw first hand in the classroom what poor teaching and mismanagement can get you. Mastery will benefit your child if they were there last year they did enough playing!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 6, 2010 6:58 pm

Kudos to Ms. Turner and the rest of the teachers at Mastery! It's clear from both the classroom cheers and the choices kids are making that incredible things are happening here. I hope other schools are able to learn from this example and the notebook continues to highlight the Renaissance initiative-- showing both the progress (which is audible in the article!) and necessary adjustments the District and possible providers can make in the future.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 6, 2010 8:22 pm

Just imagine the "classroom cheers" and "choices kids" could make in public schools if they were given the same time, money and effort that Ackerman and her gang devote to the charters and their ilk.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on November 8, 2010 1:49 pm

While I certainly applaud The Notebook for its extensive reporting on Philadelphia's public schools--seriously, no one does a better job than you guys--I want to bring attention to the fact that I hope the comments that were deleted in this thread--those made by Timothy Boyle about TFA and an anonymous commenter's questions posed to him asking for clarification on his unsubstantiated comments--are hopefully not just deleted but are put to use for a better forum to discuss the often off-based accusations and declarations about the presence, intention and contribution of TFA here in Philadelphia.

I say this not only proudly as an alum, but also as a frequent reader of The Notebook--I think the comprehensive, details-oriented approach that is used to explore so many facets of education can be similarly used to gauge or detail organizations like TFA at some point, too.

Some of these comments by others could be assuaged with just a bit of actual, factual knowledge.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 8, 2010 1:02 pm

Which comments are you referring to? In the other blog post about providers and innovation models, Timothy Boyle made a comment about pensions, and an anonymous commenter asked for clarification. Two other individuals commented, but Timothy Boyle has not yet responded to the question for substantiation.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on November 8, 2010 3:09 pm

Ah; thanks fellow-anonymous--that's totally what it was! I guess between my avid reading and the rather formulaic patterns of comments that follow, I got my articles switched up!

Just goes to show you though that maybe the Notebook should do something pointedly (and objectively) about the organization; it works its way into a ton of articles on this site, so there's clearly a public interest in them, good or bad.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 9, 2010 11:58 am

Well, that other "anonymous" is me (and same as above). I am still waiting for any evidence to support the pension/ benefit argument advanced by Timothy Boyle. I do not expect to hear any. The "evidence" typically is what the first commenter wrote re: TFA, but he/ she admitted it was anecdotal, and then he/she did not make any greater claims, which is fine with me. If you want to speak about personal experience or feeling, subjective and anecdotal experiences can support your argument; if you are going to argue about this long-term cost-cutting measure with specifically using ARL teachers due to low-retention, you better provide more substantial evidence.

In regard to your comment that the Notebook should do something pointedly and objectively about TFA-- and ARL in general, I argue (PTF, PTR)-- I think they should, but it will most likely follow a predictable trajectory (that trajectory being a negative one).

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on November 9, 2010 3:58 pm

 If you use the search feature at the top of the page you will find a long list of articles and commentary related to TFA including some discussion of the retention issue.   While many blog comments are negative I think the Notebook coverage has been pretty fair minded.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 9, 2010 5:08 pm

I apologize, Ron-- I meant the comment's trajectory. I completely agree with your assessment. I apologize again.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on November 10, 2010 1:48 pm

 No need to apologize - glad we're on the same page

Submitted by Mrs. G (not verified) on November 10, 2010 9:54 pm

In response to why we are empowerment schools, I'm not really sure what the district's agenda is in regard to that. I do know that 32 schools on the empowerment list missed their AYP goals by one target. It is interesting and disheartening that education is the only field where meeting 90 to 95 percent of your goals labels you as a failure. I'm happy for the teacher at Smedley who feels his job is better and his students are more successful, though I am not sure sheer compliance is success. I'm also not sure a 7 year old fidgeting warrants disciplinary action. At any rate, there are solutions to the problems in our education system, but I'm pretty sure they don't involve spending millions of dollars on programs that do not work. They do involve, as Geoffrey Canada has proven, everyone doing their job from policy makers to students.

Submitted by Anyone (not verified) on April 17, 2015 8:55 am

It is very true that we should concentrate in our studies even from our first grade classes. This will help us have a good base right from the start.

Having a good base is much necessary to ensure good education.

 Telestep ladders


Submitted by ElinorSchenk (not verified) on April 10, 2017 5:11 am
If you have ever drank a Organifi Drinks you know how it can be like drinking a glass of alfalfa. That simply is not the case with Fruity Greens Drink Plus™. 

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. We reserve the right to delete or remove any material deemed to be in violation of this rule, and to ban anyone who violates this rule. Please see our "Terms of Usage" for more detail concerning your obligations as a user of this service. Reader comments are limited to 500 words. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

Follow Us On

Read the latest print issue

Philly Ed Feed

Recent Comments


Public School Notebook

699 Ranstead St.
Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 839-0082
Fax: (215) 238-2300

© Copyright 2013 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Usage and Privacy Policy