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District to stop mandating use of scripted curricula

By Benjamin Herold on Feb 13, 2012 04:00 PM
Photo: Benjamin Herold

New Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon presented to the School Reform Commission Monday night.

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

UPDATED 12:30 a.m.

Centrally mandated scripted curricula will soon be a thing of the past, New Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon told the School Reform Commission Monday.

“We believe the curriculum should say to teachers, ‘Here’s the what’ and give them the flexibility as to the ‘How,’” said Nixon.

“From the District level, will we say, ‘You have to use this scripted curriculum?’ No.”

Such a change will mark a significant shift in the District’s approach to classroom education. Currently, dozens of low-performing Empowerment Schools are required to follow strict curricular mandates, including use of scripted remedial programs like Corrective Reading and Corrective Math that are anathema to many teachers.

But starting as soon as next year, principals will be given significantly more authority to select their own program materials, and teachers will be given greater flexibility in the classroom, said Nixon.

“We believe that providing schools with more autonomy will give them the opportunity to be more creative in engaging their students,” she said. “If everything isn’t scripted, it allows teachers to bring [their] creativity into the classroom.”

After the meeting, teachers’ union president Jerry Jordan hailed the “great news.”

“Teachers absolutely hated the scripted program,” said Jordan. “This is great for teachers, great for kids, and it will save the District a lot of money.”

The shift could also signal a deeper change in how the District organizes and supports schools.

After the meeting, Nixon was noncommittal as to whether Empowerment Schools would even continue to exist.

“We’re still in the process of reorganizing,” she said. “We haven’t finalized the structure of the schools yet.” 

Nixon said the District is looking at “clustering principals in a way where they can support each other around professional learning teams.” A reorganization effort will take place from April to August of this year, after principals and teachers have had the opportunity to give input on the new direction.

“We’re trying to shift the culture of the District,” said Nixon.

The news comes out of the SRC’s  "Strategy, Policy and Planning" meeting Monday night. Commissioner Wendell Pritchett, who chairs the SRC’s Postsecondary Success Committee, moderated a two-hour session that featured three presentations from District staff and extensive back-and-forth between the commissioners, District staff, and an audience of roughly 100 people.

During a presentation on “Guiding Principles of Curriculum and Instruction,” Nixon and Deputy Chief of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development Darienne Driver focused on the District’s efforts to align its curricula with the forthcoming Common Core standards, a national initiative that Pennsylvania has signed onto.

There will be “changes in expectations of what our students are able to do,” said Driver. She highlighted new emphases on writing and on students’ ability to read informational texts as examples of what will soon change.

District staff also presented on “Accelerated Learning/College Access” and “Career and Technical Education.”

Deputy for Accountability and Educational Technology Fran Newburg talked about the variety of college readiness partnerships the District has in place. She highlighted the work of “Project Mastery,” a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded effort to “increase the variety and quality of credit accumulation opportunities for students” that tries to get Districts to emphasize real world experiences and learning.

“This is really a game changer for us,” said Newburg.

New Deputy for Career and Technical Education David Kipphut called for an expansion of the number of students participating in CTE programs from 6,000 to 10,000 over the next five years.

CTE, he said, brings “meaning, understanding, appreciation, and relevancy to all subjects students study in our schools.”

But the biggest news – and most lively conversation – focused on the District’s academic curriculum.

During the discussion, retired teacher (and longtime Notebook board member) Ron Whitehorne described widespread teacher frustration with “micromanaged, mandated instruction that is driven by preparation for the test.”

In his former classroom, said Whitehorne, he had “a five-foot iguana, a pond, [and] a classroom library that I purchased out of my own hard-earned dollars.”

“Today, it’s hard to do that because of the reign of test-driven instruction,” he said.

“We’ve heard those comments a lot, and we sympathize with them,” responded Pritchett.

After the meeting, Nixon said that scripted programs like Corrective Reading and Math will still have a place in the District. They just won’t be required.

“It’s an intervention that works for some kids,” said Nixon. “But we’re not going to use a one-size-fit-all model for any school.”

In her previous post as associate superintendent of schools, Nixon oversaw the Empowerment Schools. Now, though, she is looking forward to the opportunity to move the District in a new direction.

“Now that I have the opportunity to effectuate change, I want to do that in ways that support teachers and principals,” said Nixon.

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Comments (85)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 4:41 pm

If the SRC mtg is tonight at 440 N. Broad, what's the point of voicing opinions about who the next Superintendent will be at Northeast High School which meets at the same time?? I've waited several weeks for this NEHS meeting and, for what?? Are they gonna send some middle-management flunkies to take the heat? Most likely, if the past gives the best indicator for the future, the flunkies will ALL be gone in less than 3 months anyway!! I feel cheated!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 3:05 am

Word on the street is the mirage of a transparent process is just that - an mirage. There are meetings with Nixon, Ed Williams, Ceil Cannon, etc. behind closed doors who are determining the next Superintendent. The process is smoke and mirrors. So, once again, the left overs of the Vallas/Ackerman regimes will determine their successors.

Submitted by Sanity & Reason (not verified) on February 14, 2012 12:50 pm

The 440 Numbskulls tried to make teaching into an automated turn key operation and turn us into robots. They are twisting around the message again and should be stating that they were Wrong with tampering with what works to begin with. They should lay-off or fire all of those numbskulls at 440 or place some of them back in the classroom and make them useful. Too many chiefs spoil the broth.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 4:12 pm

FYI, you generally do not get to give your opinion in front of a SRC or PSD higher-up at the Superintendent Search meetings. You get to give input to Penn and United Way facilitators who are going to later "synthesize" everything for SRC/PSD consumption. My facilitators at WPHS were terrible and did not shut down shouters and talker-overers but others had good experiences.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 6:13 pm

The Universal Issue should be exposed loud and long.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 7:40 pm

Getting rid of scripted curriculum mandates is great. But, saying that it's up to principals doesn't go far enough. Don't say it's up to them-- say we don't do it anymore.

It costs millions, destroys classroom morale, and is very poorly implemented every time. It makes kids hate learning,

Don't make it optional; ban it!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 7:14 pm

I agree---BUT glad to see that crap go. The Reading Mastery Series like the Corrective Series is deadening, stifling, the end of hope.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:05 pm

I totally agree. Scripted curriculum must go. It does not produce children who are innovative, problem solvers, nor creative. Rather, the curriculum produces mindless drones who only know how to bubble multiple choice answers and write ridiculous constructed responses that don't translate in any other areas of writing.

Submitted by I Teach in Philly on February 14, 2012 4:55 pm

write ridiculous constructed responses that don't translate in any other areas of writing.

Amen to that. The rubric Wayman forces us to use at the high school level actually rewards bad writing by not taking into account its quality - just whether they answered the prompt.

Bad spelling, grammar and incomprehensible sentences are not part of the rubric so week after week my kids can write badly and still get a perfect "3" on their constructed response. Why should they try to improve?

The final result is worthless data and wasted valuable instructional time.

Video here:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:47 pm

While I did not like to use the Corrective Reading series as it was mandated to be used, I did find that my students, who require an extremely structured environment, did like the program...That might be hard to believe, but they did like it and responded well to the program. They knew what to expect with the program....They would laugh, when they made a mistake with a word, and I would go, "No, this word is_______.What word? ________ Ok, let's start from the beginning, and I would go over the words all over again....I think they'd make mistakes, just so I would go through that routine all over again....Ha, Ha, Ha! But, really, I am happy that they are going to stop mandating that the program MUST be used.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2012 6:25 am

I also have students with low reading levels and a need for rigorous structure. It's just as easy to create routines like this with richer literature. Correcting a word in that way could be part of any guided reading program or vocabulary, but you could use texts that are less... in the words of my student last year "about white teachers."

If you were able to have that much success with CR, you could teach any reading program successfully. Now you have the freedom to select one that will actually make your students enjoy reading, not just your reading class.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 7:02 pm

Nixon and Driver implemented the scripted curricula for Ackerman. Driver ran the "Empowerment" schools. They need to account for what they did. Why are Driver, Nixon, Wayman, Latanya Miller, etc. still in leadership? They are the problem - not the solution. (Nixon - Will her tenure at Wagner be the next school to "undressed" for principal led cheating just like Cayuga? )

Submitted by Christina (not verified) on February 13, 2012 7:18 pm

Now there needs to be a re-imagining of what curriculum is for those of us who have PTSD from the barrage of scripts and objectives we've been tied down by. Teachers deserve leadership (principals and administrators) who have the capacity to re-imagine curriculum with us. While I am thrilled about this news, this is no time to applaud. We are in need of a tremendous shift, one that can not happen without some serious soul searching.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:45 pm

Amen! But, Nixon, Driver, Miller, Wayman, and everyone else at 440 at the moment know nothing about curriculum nor instruction. Unfortunately, since many principals are placed based on who they know (e.g. Penny's girls), they know nothing about curriculum. We need a cleaning out 440 and the regional offices so the re-imaging can being.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:57 pm

All I know is that Reading Mastery and The Corrective Series can't possibly be the answer. After about 30 seconds, all clear thinking people know it can't be. It simply doesn't teach--I'm not sure what it does but teaching is not it. I compare it to the Bataan Death March or a Marathon Dance. Just deadening.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:21 pm

This is such good news that I am almost giddy with joy! But, as one person asked, how do primary grade teachers get their Trophies Series back? We have no money, and books were 're-distributed'--we will need our books back. Well, I will be happy for now anyway, this is a truly good decision, I wonder who really is behind it?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:08 pm

I agree--Man, is that good news. I'm not a Reading Teacher but as we all know, we all got trapped into that circle of madness. There are some good stories to use from that series IN CONJUNCTION with lots of other material but just reading the same stuff over and over enough to look for a bridge. The worst part, of course, is that the kids also want to look for that bridge.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:14 pm

you're not getting them back. They ended the interventions... not imagine it.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on February 13, 2012 9:17 pm

Well, I watched the SRC meeting and what was said, and confirmed by a question asked and answered was that scripted programs need not be used. They did not say corrective reading and math, they said scripted programs--which would include Imagine It. They emphasized that principals will choose programs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 9:52 am

I watched it as well..

Big deal.

Imagine it isn't leaving because the district sunk millions of dollars into the program. Simultaneously they collected and sold back to the publisher hundreds of copies of tropies and EOL. So with a 38 million dollar budget gap still left for this FY, and another projected 216million gap for FY 12-13, where do you think they're getting money to rebuy trophies?

Yes they said principals will choose programs, but the budget allotments have been cut, and cut again.. where do you think the principals are getting the money to buy a new reading series from? and why would they want to sink their ever decreasing budget into a new textbook. Keep imagining that imagine it is leaving.... then wake up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:34 pm

I don't know Ms. Nixon but I do know Ms. Wayman and she is a combination of rude, crude and dumb--a bad combination.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:42 pm

Can someone please post a picture of Wayman and these other 'Assistant Superintendents'? Some other parents and I are curious about who the individuals are who are supervising our children's Principals, and in some cases, not supervising them. Notebook staff, can you see to it that this is done?

In addition, what's this Wayman character's background... Her and Miller? Just curious since we keep hearing about them.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 3:42 am

Miller's relatives were "higher ups" in the SDP. She taught one year - yes one year - and then was in either regional offices or downtown. She did nothing while in curriculum under Vallas, followed Thornton to Chester, didn't last, and returned for a high power position. She is known for her fashion sense but having no other sense.

Wayman was a special ed. teacher and principal at Rhodes - brought in by Victory Schools. She terrorized Rhodes and now the high schools. She admits she knows nothing about curriculum or instruction - she knows how to bully, intimidate, threaten, and make many mistakes.

Nixon protects them - they are her "girls" just like some of the principals (Johnstone sisters are two examples). Far too many Philly principals have positions because of who they know - not what they know.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 10:52 pm

I totally agree with your assessment of how principals get to run schools. I cannot believe the lack of leadership skills these folk lack. It is mind numbing how these folks are given such and important task. These folks make it up as they go along and seriously lack vision, drive and direction. All they know how to do is to perpetuate the nonsense from 440. It is very frustrating working under these inept so called professionals.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 11:24 pm

Many, many of them come from the Ackerman, Nixon, Wayman, Linda Williams mentality of bully first and never ask questions later. As long as there are
"schools" like Cheyney and Temple, this sorry sack of buffoons will continue. Most of them wouldn't know a subject-verb connection if they tripped over one in their 10 inch heals. The worst part is that they seem uninterested in learning, just pushing and shoving the whole time while thinking about lunch.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 23, 2012 7:07 pm

This is the second time that I have read on The Notebook, what appears to be an insult on Temple University. Can someone explain to me what is so wrong with Temple University and those who graduate from there? And I am being serious, I would really like to know....Thanks.

Submitted by Erika Owens (not verified) on February 15, 2012 4:58 pm

Thank you for this suggestion. Giving background and doing profiles of District administrators is a great idea. 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:12 pm

Nixon and Wayman need to go along with the scripts and those "walkthru teams".

Submitted by V for Vendetta (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:52 pm

Let's set the record straight right now - As the new Chief Academic Officer, Penny Nixon is responsible for the planning and implementation of the District's academic program, including curriculum and instruction, pupil personnel services, and special education. More specifically, as was previously published by The Notebook, Penny was promoted by the SRC to chief academic officer and asked to clarify the District's core educational mission. As such, she is the one who is accountable for making the case as to whether the District's academic program, going forward, must include non-mandated areas such as early childhood education, truancy and dropout prevention, re-engagement and alternative education for dropouts, and extracurricular activities. As we have already heard from the Acting Superintendent & Chief Recovery Officer, Thomas Knudsen, "Penny is really addressing these questions." Knudsen went on to say, "I've asked her to complete a design of the academic program and her portion of the business model by the end of February so we can get about designing the rest of the organization around her." For those of you who cannot read in between the lines, Penny is here to stay whether any of you likes it or not. I applaud her for taking the first step to ensure that teachers get to TEACH once again, like we used to be able to do, and empowering principals to make decisions that will best meet the needs of the instructional programs for their schools!

Next task: strategically realign human capital to ensure access and equitable learning opportunities for ALL our students!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 3:15 am

Just because the SRC has "chosen" Nixon does not mean she is either equipped for the job. What background does she have in curriculum and instruction? She has no track record. Her administrative experience is under Ackerman. The presentation by Nixon, Driver, Miller, Newburg (?) was vague, extremely general and nothing new. They have dismantled the curriculum office - including the AP/IB program for high schools which was led by one of the only persons at 440 who knew anything - and now we're to believe, somehow, they will hire another firm (remember Kaplan under Vallas - yes, Ed Williams, Ceil Cannon, etc.) to create a scope and sequence and planning and scheduling timeline. Will they do anything other than align English/Language Arts and math with the revised state standards (e.g. PSSA)?

Submitted by citizen (not verified) on February 14, 2012 9:26 am

Penny Nixon was principal at Wagner during the time Wagner was flagged for cheating. I attended a community meeting to express what we want in our next superintendent. We didn't mention someone with moral courage, the kind of backbone that it would have taken to buck the prevalent School District cynicism about the PSSA. Maybe we should have spoken out for moral bravery as a criterion.

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on February 13, 2012 8:58 pm

The bottom line is MONEY.

Somewhere it must be cost effective for them to stop using books that are "old". The math books are about ten yuears old if you look a the copy right date on some of them [depending where you teach.] They also have incorrect answers in the answer book.

I know, when I had to teach math DI I wrote a letter to the members of the Empowerment Team citing the page numbers and problems last year. Needless to say no one wrote back, but guess what? My principal stopped having the expressive arts teachers do math DI during expressive arts time.

Now what wiil the teachers have to do? Oh, use the teaching degree that they paid for and "think" again.

Submitted by Gamal Sherif on February 13, 2012 8:45 pm

I've actually met a few teachers that appreciate the scripted curriculum. And of course we need to have flexibility so that teachers can modify curriculum, instruction and assessment to meet students' needs and interests. So let the teachers decide.

I think it would be wonderful if the onus were placed on teachers to make the decisions about how to engage students. If we shift the locus of decision-making and expertise to the teachers, I think we'll come up with some terrific programs.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 3:47 am

Have you ever had to use an SRA script? I believe you are at SLA - so no - SLA gets to do what it wants to do. Have you ever had Wayman and Co. come through with their 7 step walk through check off? Again, I'm sure she doesn't grace the halls of SLA. The 7 step dictum is as oppressive as the SRA script.

While I agree decisions need to be made at the classroom level, that degree of autonomy can't be measured by the PSSA. Schools like SLA only take students who have proven they can master the PSSA. Those of us at neighborhood schools take ALL students - regardless of their psychological state, academic skills, etc. Most have not mastered the PSSA . This doesn't mean we need more scripted, 7 step lessons but we need to be able to meet the students where they are, move forward and not be labeled by a standardized test.

Submitted by Gamal Sherif on February 14, 2012 6:50 am

Hi Anonymous,

We're certainly in agreement.

When I taught at West Philly High in the early 1990s, the Districts' core curriculum hadn't yet been introduced (see "Core curriculum brings uniformity, new challenges" from the Notebook, 2004). Yet much of our instruction was text-driven, thereby compromising teachers' effectiveness.

I worked with Direct Instruction (DI) in the early 2000s. One problem with DI is that it is used as a blanket intervention for all students, regardless of students' interests. Yet students develop their literacy when they are exposed to a variety of texts AND they have the opportunity to create and evaluate their own writing. Why not link reading and writing to science, the arts and math, as well?

There are a variety of student-driven strategies across the city. We will serve our students best by studying those strategies and then modifying them -- or creating new ones -- to meet our students' needs and interests. Basically, students should be able to choose how they learn while being exposed to a variety of learning strategies.

When it comes to choice, as in students and their families choosing how they learn, I think the term and concept have been co-opted by those that want to privatize public education and/or destabilize teachers unions. In any case, we can't give up our stewardship of choice.

We should provide choices for students in terms of programs within a classroom, a school or across the district.

Some students may be engaged by sustainability studies, gardening, engineering, the arts, or sciences. Others may have interests in project-based learning or traditional approaches.

I have confidence in K-12 teachers to work together to develop and modify programs for students -- so that students develop critical and creative thinking as well as a love of life-long learning.

Whether it is curriculum, instruction, assessment or policy, teachers are the experts and she be given the support and flexibility to exercise that expertise.

Submitted by Monica (not verified) on February 13, 2012 9:04 pm

This is good news, but I agree, where is the money coming from for books? The other question that remains, is wouldn't it make more sense for the teachers to choose curriculum for their own classrooms? Teachers know their students better and they are able to judge what curriculum will keep them engaged. And more importantly, how is the teacher or principal going to meet children where they are? You cannot teach a child 8th grade math if they are on a 5th grade math level, or worse. The district doesn't have money to create that type of curriculum which will help teachers serve children where they currently are and bring them forward. That really is the teachers job, and I still don't think they have that as an option with this model. If I'm wrong, someone let me know, I don't mind being corrected.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 1:40 am

The issue with your plan is that if a student goes from one school to another (a very common occurrence in this district), schools having autonomy would lead to students learning completely different things coming into a classroom where they could be weeks ahead of or behind with both classes having been right on pace with their school's curriculum.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 8:58 am

I am cheering the abolition of DI and scripted curriculum. Teachers and students totally need and deserve flexibility. But I agree that there needs to be some coordination, at least within a school. Going back a while, there was a short period when "small learning communities" could pick their own math programs. There were elementary schools where there were 3 different math programs, one for 1-3rd grade, one for 4th-5th, and one for 6-8. This made things hard for everyone if there wasn't good coordination.

Submitted by Phantom Poster (not verified) on February 13, 2012 9:02 pm

Less scripting is great news. Creativity works really well with kids..

Submitted by Anon, anon, we must go anon..... (not verified) on February 13, 2012 11:17 pm

Is Penny wearing one of Arlene's old flowers?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2012 11:16 pm

Free at last, free at last, great God Almightly, free at last. This program is a destroyer of any incentive for children to read. Selecting some of their own reading materials is the key to getting kids to read.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 1:29 am

To an extent, yes. I hate CR as much as the next person, but DI is a proven, research-based idea for students who are behind. In K and 1st grade, we learn how to read by rote memorization of phonemes. some of our 7th and 8th graders have never gotten this, and allowing them to pick their own texts is not going to make a difference. Some kids, like it or not, need DI.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on February 14, 2012 7:03 am

Maybe some do - but that decision should be in the hands of the teachers who know the kids and can match them to the right program. Not all kids need this and dragging all of them through just because someone in an office says to has been a huge frustration, waste of time and scripted stupidity. Demanding that we use CR without enough people to split the kids into correct levels is a huge waste of everything - money, energy...
My "enrichment" second grade group is a group whom out scored those in the K level program - not exactly helpful or educational sound.
I will dance if this truly becomes the truth.

Submitted by Reading Specialist (not verified) on February 14, 2012 7:59 am

No one learns to read by "rote memorization of phonemes," whether in grade 1 or grade 10.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 8:23 am

The SRA Corrective Reading under Ackerman/Nixon/Driver never moves beyond decoding. The nonsense of the "readings" doesn't lead to anything beyond recall. Nixon/Driver have no background in reading - the decisions on interventions needs to be made by teachers who actually work with students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 7:58 am

I'll give you 3 DIs and 4 CRs for 1 ouch of common sense/

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 10:58 am

Make it an ounce of common sense and I'll take you up on it.

Submitted by John (not verified) on February 14, 2012 7:36 am

Is Penny wearing one of Arlene's old flowers?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 8:00 am

No, that's not a flower, it's a very nice, expensive-looking necklace. Whenever I got to 440, I'm always surprised how nice everyone is dressed but I guess with a salary of $15K/month they manage much better than I do.

Submitted by I Teach in Philly on February 14, 2012 4:14 pm

It's all about status: the height of your shoes and the size of your designer bag.

Teachers would be crippled at the end of the day if they wore the kinds of shoes you see on 440ers but they don't have to work standing all day. Wearing pointy shoes and stiletto heels while flashing a de$igner bag is another way to show who's who around the district.

I imagine there's some kind of pecking order among their group as far as clothes, but who cares? Their petty rivalries have nothing to do with teaching students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 7:59 am

New buzz words most frequently heard at last night's SRC meeting: Autonomy and soft skills. I bet we can count on hearing lots more about both. Whatever they mean.

Submitted by Social St. teacher (not verified) on February 14, 2012 8:43 am

I teach Social Studies and am lucky to be "shielded" from scripted curricula, technically. The district's PST leaves nothing to teacher to determine what to teach. In high school social studies it is impossible in these comprehensive/empowerment/promise academies to actually engage students in the curriculum, so I support moving to the Common Core IF it gets rid of the PST and scales us back to a scope and sequence. I'm ok with you telling me what to cover per quarter...but week by week and day by day? I'm sorry that gives me no time to actually go deep into a topic and have my students understand the concept of social justice or effective citizenship.

All of this will come back to bite us in the butt though if the State actually comes through with this Keystone Exam. Then the whole district is up a creek

Submitted by Mark J. (not verified) on February 14, 2012 1:20 pm

Does anybody know how soon this will take effect--Hopefully TODAY!!! Any clarification from anyone. Reading Mastery and Distar are the scripted junk we have in Low Incidence and it is scarily deadening. The kids have no chance to learn Reading or Math for real, literally robotic in its approach to education00very frightening stuff and I mean it sincerely. In any case, any time line available??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 4:11 pm

My Principal told me today to stop the scripted joke now as in immediately and to do what I think is right for the kids. Alleluia !! I do the Reading Mastery Series and Distar Math which are the step brothers of the Corrective Series--Just a mindless exercise that bores everybody involved. I tried to be enthusiastic the first couple months last year but couldn't pull it off. I spent more time waking kids up than "Teaching" the series. I can't imagine that anyone can benefit from the scripted material.

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on February 14, 2012 4:26 pm


Is no one afraid of principals, especially those in the high schools, choosing curricula?

We are all confident on their abilities to implement effective methods & to choose appropriate materials?

What happens in the school where the principal does not see the value of poetry, Shakespeare or novels?

In the school where the leader is math phobic?

In the school where one department is clearly favored?

You're sure current principals can go from years of TEST TEST TEST, DATA, DATA DATA to actually teaching something?

What will be the limits on selection & purchase, and will the currently anointed publishers maintain their very profitable positions?

What is behind this sea change in direction?

Submitted by tom-104 on February 14, 2012 5:37 pm

There certainly was a change of tone at Monday night's SRC meeting. I kept thinking this would never have happened under Ackerman. The room was arranged in a large circle and the SRC members distributed themselves around the auditorium and sat with the audience. A mic was passed around for them or anyone else to speak. Several college and technical school representatives were present and spoke about how unprepared Philadelphia's high school graduates are for college and the workforce.

Except for the announcement of the change in scripted curriculum, however, most discussion was about broad generalities with no specifics. Everyone agreed there is an educational crisis and expressed good intentions about the need for a change.

Why the "sea change in direction"? I can't help but wonder that the SRC members may have been reading the Notebook and seeing that there is a full scale rebellion growing. It seemed to me they see the handwriting is on the (word) Wall and they better make a sea change.

I am not fooled though. While they may be shaking our hand with one hand, they have the budget (which was not mentioned) sledgehammer in the other hand.

Submitted by I Teach in Philly on February 14, 2012 5:06 pm

I don't see a sudden enlightenment. Did anyone notice the lack of "we realize we made a mistake" or "we're sorry for causing so much damage"?

Look at it as a money problem - all those site licenses, materials and training con$ultants for scripted curriculum are expensive and our district is out of money.

Nixon and Wayman haven't seen the light; they got told that they can't go on spending like they used to.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 6:12 pm

Wow--Please don't drink the cool aid. These folks will do exactly what Corbett tells them. I agree about the scripted crap being tossed. What a financial and educational mistake that was!In my school, there is an entire 2 rooms loaded ceiling to floor, wall to wall with that junk.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 6:37 pm

I lost respect for Penny. She has dug her six inch heal shoes so far in that anyone who gets in her way will pay the consequences. Oh and yes her peeps (Latanya Miller, Linda Wayman, and the Principal at Elwood) Know more about fashion then what they are paid to do. I am sure their salaries are high despite their skill set and knowledge base and the overwhelming deficit the District is facing. Miller doesn't even have her Principal cert. which I thought is one of the qualifications for being an Executive Director in the office of Curriculum.

As long as Penny and her girl's are running things our children's education will suffer. As it relates to the Office of Curriculum they are about ten people who still work in it and most of them are non contractual employees or interns.


Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 9:44 pm

The presentations by Nixon, Miller, and Driver lacked any substance. They were extremely vague and evasive. The whole crew - Nixon, Wayman, Driver, and Bratton don't know anything about curriculum. They should have left with Ackerman since they were her "right hand women." They need to take responsibility for the fiasco they created with "Empowerment" schools, "Promise" academies, etc. After apologizing they need to resign - and not claim unemployment.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 11:22 pm

Thank you for bringing clarity to the qualifications, or rather the lack thereof of LaTanya Miller. You are correct; a Principal certification does allow one to supervise all district-wide curriculum and instruction activities. The fact that she does not have one and is in this position is a problem! Please report this to the certification office at the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Trust and believe, they are sick of the shit that goes on in Philadelphia and this will be cause for them to begin a large-scale audit of the certifications of folks at 440 and in the AD offices!!!

P.S. - Does she even have a master's???

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2012 12:50 am

Can't forget about this one either - LaTanya's boss.........


Darienne Driver
Doctoral Student & Director of Empowerment Schools Support, School District of Philadelphia (PA)

Darienne began teaching elementary school in Detroit, where she served as a building Lead Reading Teacher. Darienne's areas of expertise include early childhood literacy, curriculum implementation, and strategic planning.

Education: Ed.M., Harvard University; Bachelor in Elementary Education from Spelman College; Masters, Curriculum Development, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2012 4:13 am

How long did Driver teach? She brought in corrective reading and corrective math under Ackerman. While Driver is bright, her leadership is lacking. She does not understand curriculum nor instruction. She did whatever Ackerman wanted her to do. Now, she needs to leave with Ackerman and take LaTanya Miller, Nixon, and Bratton with her.

Submitted by Donna (not verified) on February 23, 2012 7:37 pm

Really??? You must be jealous to even bring Fashion into this. Yes LaTanya is quite fashionable- don't hate. But that has nothing to do with her work.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 8:49 pm

There has to be a hidden agenda Corrective reading materials will be replaced with nothing. Teachers will be responsible for buying workbooks and more paper. I think this is all to shift attention away from the real impending doom to come.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on February 14, 2012 10:35 pm

 C'mon people.   This was a victory.   A modest one, but a victory nevertheless.   It shows that there remains power in the written (and spoken)  word.   With a new SRC and a vaccum at 440 there was a conjuncture of circumstances that favored hearing Andrew's powerful story.   It didn't hurt that the Washington Post picked it up,making it a major embarrassment.   When the 3rd grade student spoke up at the meeting and said he wanted his reading center back, you had to know this was a winner.

I don't know Penny Nixon.   Yes, given her position in the old regime there is reason for cynicism.    But, if she embraces this change, then teachers shoud be willing to work with her and give her the benefit of the doubt.    People change.   We aren't alway privy to their motives.   And, ultimately, it doesn't matter.     

The thing that concerns me is that some of this bad stuff will now continue in the name of giving schools autonomy.   There is a good argument for giving schools more autonomy but that does not mean surrendering high standards for what constitutes good teacher and learning.  

But it is certainly a step forward  that the reign of the clip board police appears to be over. 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2012 11:53 pm

I agree--a win is a win. Plus, the kids will benefit from getting away from that mindless, deadening, robotic exercise every day. The teachers will rejoice every day too.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2012 8:53 am

Nixon, a year ago, was on the news as the mouth for SDP to bash Hope Moffett. She lied about on camera about the substitute, Hope, etc. Nixon also implemented everything under the Ackerman regime. Now, Nixon is saving her backside / high salary / power position. While she might was us to "forgive and forget," she, Driver, Wayman, and the rest have to be held accountable. They can at least publicly admit what they did was wrong. We live under this mess - and our students suffer.

Nixon is also not facing up to the cheating allegations at Wagner. She needs to take responsibility if she wants anything other than her big salary and ability to protect "her friends."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2012 12:04 am

The curriculum office is being disbanded right up under the Deputy nose. Ceil, Penny and Ed Williams are calling the shots. Darienne and her team do not make the decisions they just do as they are told. When the 440 vaccum comes through again they'll be swept away and dump in a school, another office or Out of Philly!!!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2012 4:35 am

The curriculum office - under Ceil Cannon - was a haven for K-3 personnel. They had no idea what went on in high schools. We need someone who actually taught in high school, has some expertise in high school, etc. to be at the table. Driver, Nixon, Cannon, Bratton, etc. do not have any high school experience. Driver/Ackerman/Nixon regime is who created "Empowerment" schools and gave us the corrective reading/ math boxes that will not be mice food. Cannon also was in charge when high schools were forced to follow the Kaplan PST. There is no one downtown who can begin to imagine what will be on the Keystone exam nor be able to envision any curricular materials appropriate for it. (Just look at the Civics/Economics book bought under Cannon for high school seniors - it is a middle school book.) Cannon is personally tied to Holt - we'll get a lot more Holt (versus SRA). There is no discussion about what is means to engaged teenagers - all Cannon's office produced is what is relevant for K-3.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2012 12:15 pm

Just like they walked Ackerman and Estelle out, they need to walk Penny and Darienne out because they are not fully equipped to take Philadelphia schools to the next level. If they stay the taxpayers of Philadelphia better honker down for another rocky roller coaster ride of where do we go from here duh.....

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