Please Join Today!
view counter

New report finds gains at Renaissance schools -- but not across the board

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 2, 2014 11:29 PM

Schools turned over to charter operators -- and to a lesser extent, District-run Promise Academies -- have shown improvements in academics and climate under the three-year-old Renaissance schools turnaround initiative, a new report has found, although big first- and second-year gains have started to slow down or reverse. 

According to the study, conducted by the District's Office of Research and Evaluation, most Renaissance charters continue to have higher proficiency rates than those schools did pre-turnaround, despite the leveling-off of earlier gains.

The reported improvements occurred during a time when overall proficiency rates for District-run schools were declining after years of increases; the downslide began after strict test protocols were put in place in District schools in the wake of a statewide cheating scandal.

As a group, the seven schools in the first cohort -- those converted starting in 2010 -- posted the most dramatic gains. The academic results for the most recent cohort studied -- the four schools converted to Renaissance charters in 2012 -- were decidedly mixed.

The report indicates that the Promise Academies model showed some modest success at the start, but has been plagued by "an unprecedented budget shortfall" and "lack of clarity about what distinguished Promise Academies from other schools."

Since the Renaissance initiative began in 2010, 17 elementary and middle schools and three high schools have been turned over to charter operators. In addition, eight elementary and middle schools and seven high schools were named as Promise Academies for intensive "in-house" turnaround. But three of the Promise Academies, all of them high schools, have since been shut down.

Three of the Renaissance turnarounds and six of the Promise Academies just started this year and were not included in the evaluation. There were nine Promise Academies and 17 Renaissance schools operating in 2012-13 and covered in the study  -- either in their first, second, or third year of turnaround.

The report found uneven performance among the seven Renaissance providers.

Mastery -- the largest provider, with six of the schools in the study -- showed across-the-board double-digit gains in all its schools in both math and reading, although those gains for the most part had begun to stall or reverse in the third year. Universal, which runs five schools, showed reading gains in four of the five but math declines in three. ASPIRA, with two schools, showed gains in both, although one school's results began to slide in the third year. 

Young Scholars' school, Frederick Douglass, showed big math gains in the first two years and smaller reading gains. But last spring in year three, the math gains reversed precipitously and the reading gains flattened. Mosaica's Birney Elementary, which started as a Renaissance school in 2011, in the second cohort, has shown steady gains in its first two years. 

String Theory and American Paradigm had completed one full year running one school each. Math and reading proficiency rates at String Theory's Performing Arts Charter at Edmunds were mostly flat. At Memphis Street Academy, formerly John Paul Jones Middle School, math proficiency declined substantially while reading scores were flat.

Of the three high schools turned over to charter operators in 2011, both Gratz, run by Mastery, and Olney, run by ASPIRA, showed gains in math and reading in the year after the turnaround (2013 PSSA scores were not available for the high schools).

Audenried, run by Universal, however, showed declines in both subjects. Audenried had started out with the highest proficiency rates of the three Renaissance high schools but slipped to the lowest.

Noting that the concept of turnaround relies on "dramatic" and sustained gains, the report's authors expressed concerns about whether Universal and Young Scholars, based on the first three years' performance, could maintain an upward trajectory at their schools. "Changes ... were positive in the first two years, but those increases have not been sustained," the report said. "As such, these schools may fall short of what is needed to achieve dramatic results within 5-6 years." 

It also describes the schools run by String Theory and American Paradigm in their first year of turnaround as "floundering." 

The report said that all Mastery schools remain on an "upward trajectory" -- despite third-year declines or flattening out at most of its schools.

Alfredo Calderon, executive director of ASPIRA, said that he had not yet read the report, but was not surprised that the early gains are leveling off.

"We expected that," he said. "Just by making the change we make immediately -- safety first -- kids feel, 'I can come to school.' They feel [they] can learn, they don't have to worry they'll get beat up, we're bringing in teachers who want to teach -- automatically the scores go up," he said. "There's a full change of culture, discipline, educational philosophy."

Although the study relied heavily on PSSA scores, it did review other measures, including retention of students and climate indicators. 

It found that, after turnaround, both Promise Academies and Renaissance charters were more successful in keeping students enrolled for the entire school year -- so-called "within-year retention." The Renaissance charters had a greater increase. The Promise Academies improved within-year retention for 9th graders, but not for students in the elementary and middle grades.

Although the report concluded that, overall, there was not a big change in the demographic makeup of students attending Renaissance charters before and after turnaround, researchers found that there has been a statistically significant decrease in the percentage of English language learners -- from 8.6 percent to 7.2 percent -- and an increase in the percentage of special education students -- from 16.8 percent to 19.9 percent.

At both the Renaissance charters and the Promise Academies, about 80 percent of the students who attended the schools pre-turnaround continued to attend after the conversion, the data show. Some of the Renaissance schools showed increases in enrollment, which suggests that more students from the area who hadn't enrolled before decided to attend after they were converted to charters. 

Most Renaissance schools, both charters and Promise Academies, also showed improvements in school climate, with almost across-the-board declines in reported serious incidents per 100 students and in the number of student offenders. The biggest declines were at Renaissance charters; there were no serious incidents at all in 2012-13 at Smedley Elementary, run by Mastery, and Edmunds, run by String Theory. At five of Mastery's six Renaissance schools, the percentage of students who were "offenders" involved in serious incidents was 1 percent or less.

A big exception to the positive trend in serious incidents was Birney Elementary in Logan, run by Mosaica, which showed a fivefold increase in serious incidents, although Birney's academic indicators showed significant gains.

The report noted that at the Promise Academies, resources were severely cut back in 2011 after the first year of the initiative.

Most of the Promise Academies showed gains in the first year that then leveled off or declined. At three of the first four Promise Academies -- Ethel Allen, Clemente and Potter-Thomas -- proficiency rates have declined to below pre-turnaround levels. Only at Dunbar were the first-year gains sustained.

"It is possible that the Promise Academies are suffering more from poor fidelity of implementation than outright failure of the turnaround effort," it says, noting that the model has been altered each year. "It is likely that the charters have benefited from a clarity-of-purpose that has been lacking at the Promise Academy schools." 

ASPIRA's Calderon also noted that that at his schools, 40 percent of the students are English language learners (ASPIRA schools have most of the ELLs in Renaissance charters), and more than 20 percent are in special education. The students at Olney include not just Latinos, but West Africans, Asians, and Haitians, he said.

He predicted that scores will start rising again because of the approach taken by ASPIRA and some of the other charter operators, which heavily relies on constant feedback for teachers.

"We're adjusting as we're going along. Teachers look at their lesson plans, the curriculum. ... That's how we do it -- look at the data and adjust based on what the data says."  

He also pointed out that the Renaissance schools were by definition the lowest-performing in the District, so the task is monumental. "It's not easy," he said. "And it takes time." 

Click Here
view counter

Comments (49)

Submitted by Education Grad ... on January 3, 2014 1:29 am
"Most Renaissance schools, both charters and Promise Academies, also showed improvements in school climate, with almost across-the-board declines in reported serious incidents per 100 students and in the number of student offenders. The biggest declines were at Renaissance charters; there were no serious incidents at all in 2012-13 at Smedley Elementary, run by Mastery, and Edmunds, run by String Theory. At five of Mastery's six Renaissance Schools, the percentage of students who were "offenders" involved in serious incidents was 1 percent or less." We all want to believe that schools will honestly report what happens in their schools, but this is not always the case, particularly with there being so much "accountability" (reporting of data) about school safety. Anyone who has spent time in District-run schools and charter schools knows first hand that not all incidents are reported. What is reported varies from school to school. This goes for both charter schools and District schools. Some principals are strict about what is reported. Other principals turn a blind eye to serious incidents. Some schools, namely Renaissance charter schools, have extra personnel, making it easier to prevent incidents through proactive measures, such as more intricate Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. There are more adults who can spend time with or monitor the most difficult students in Renaissance charters schools than in the District schools, including the Promise Academies. I've seen first hand how much more support some of the Renaissance schools have, based on spending time at the Mastery school. I have met/know teachers who teach for Mastery Charter Schools and they have the luxury of being able to call a dean. In 2012-2013, each Mastery Charter school had four assistant principals and at least one dean. My understanding is that this remains the case this school year as well. My understanding is that Aspira's and Young Scholars's schools also have multiple administrators at each school. Also, some of these charter management organizations use Camelot and other alternative placements to basically isolate the most difficult students, whereas this practice may not be as common at District schools. It's really an issue of what gets reported. The statistics reflect what is reported. This same phenomenon happens with crime statistics. There's a book called Damned Lies and Statistics by Joel Best which details the distortions that happen with crime statistics. Any experienced educator can tell you that there isn't a cut and dried way of determining what is a serious incident. Determining what is a serious incident often involves discretion. Or if a student does the same thing over and over again, every day--such as start a fight--then what constitutes a serious incident may depend on a number of factors, such as if another student is hurt. People are strategic about what they report. Staff persons may report incidents because the incidents happen and need to be reported, such as an assault on a staff person or assault on another student. Some incidents are considered more "serious" than others because of the particular individuals involved. Some students are "high fliers," and what they do is more visible to staff persons than what other students do. In other cases, school personnel may be meticulous in reporting incidents as a form of "cover your a--." For example, if a student is persistently bullying another student, a teacher may feel compelled to report it for the purposes of doing the right thing but also if the parent of the student being bullied has complained to the school or the District. In a case like this, if a really serious episode of bullying occurs and the child is hurt, having a paper trail of documentation shows that the teacher or other staff persons were trying to be proactive by letting the administrator/administration know about the bullying. Anyone who works in a school, especially in the SDP, can relate to what I've said. Many of us who work for the District are in survival mode. We are doing our best and going above and beyond, but the schools are so short-staffed that incidents do fall through the cracks. It's hard for even the most competent teacher to manage a class of 30+ students when 2 or more students have severe behavior problems. So many students who are difficult to handle are concentrated in District-run schools. I appreciate that the Notebook is reporting about what is happening with Renaissance Schools, but it's important to raise these issues of the nuances that go into reporting incidents because the data does not always speak for itself. People must think critically about the data and read between the lines. Much of the information is confidential so the public cannot know the whole story behind every incident that happens. A brief descriptor, such as "assault on staff" does not tell the whole story. These incidents are not just numbers. Each of these incidents has a story behind it and there is a story behind what is reported and what is NOT reported.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 3, 2014 8:02 am
Yes, what you say is true. I read and analyzed that report very closely. It was well written, but it is fatally flawed because the data it relies upon lacks credibility. (1) It relies only on the PSSA scores to measure "academic gains." We all know that those test scores lack basic "validity and reliability" from the outset. Those scores are riddled with error because of the pervasive teaching to the test, teaching the test, coaching during the test, stretching the boundaries of appropriate test administration, and outright cheating on the test. Some have learned how to "game the system." The PSSA tests were the worst standardized tests I have ever been forced to use in my entire career as a "reading diagnostician" and administrator. (2) To reduce the concept of "school climate" to only serious incidents is quite a myopic view of the school climate issues. School Climate issues take on a much greater "depth and breath" than that. Serious incidents have never been reported accurately, and the "threat of punitive measures" including school closings and removal from one's job, exacerbates the problem. When I say, "It is time to be honest," I also mean it is time to be "Intellectually honest."
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on January 3, 2014 8:54 am
Thank you for your comment on school climate. A school may have few "serious incidents" but be chaotic. School climate is much more than how often the cops are called. Those in power like to use simple data - test scores and serious incidents. It is much more complicated to measure the learning / teaching environment. There are schools with good "stats" but the learning environment is very rote, the climate is "mild" because they either cherry pick (e.g. magnets) or they get rid of problems.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on January 3, 2014 3:37 pm
The report isn't worth the paper on which it was written, land of make believe nonsense and all thinking people, know it. The hiding of serious incidents is the most glaring example of its hypocrisy. By the way, the pols know it to be worthless too though those on the take, will scream otherwise. It's just another bunch of charter lies to be ignored and scoffed at.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on January 3, 2014 6:21 am
The "churn" created in District schools under Ackerman - and now - Hite is intentional. Neither "Promise Academies" nor "Empowerment Schools" were able to develop consistent plans / programs. Under Ackerman, every year the "Empowerment" model changed from curricula to staffing to "extras." Promise Academies have faced the same realities of constant change and upheaval. The issue of "outsourcing" problem students is well know in Aspira and Mastery. Neighborhood schools do not have this luxury. Neighborhood schools also do not have the huge support staff that run charters.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on January 3, 2014 7:26 am
is it the official position of all Philly teachers that we should continue to keep students who are persistent discipline problems in classrooms where they make it impossible for others to learn? this is no luxury to those children who have their educations interrupted on a daily basis by these misplaced students. yes, misplaced because they don't get an education either. instead of staking out the "holier than thou" position of criticizing mastery and aspira for doing the right thing, maybe you should figure out how to do this in your schools. or do you get all your info from someone who can't seem to get a teaching job. and for all those who criticize mastery for having more staff (like that's a bad thing), there's about 19,000 employees in the district-but only 8,500 teach. that's a lot of bodies that sit round drinking coffee all day. put them to work. fire that police force that does little to keep anybody safe and hire behavior specialists. get rid of nta's and get ta's. i don't think mastery has 1.2 employees for every teacher. you do. mastery is a school district too. why does theirs work so much better than yours? yours is set up to fail. and i'm sure you know it, but you refuse to change.
Submitted by tom-104 on January 3, 2014 9:33 am
The construct of giving charter management companies like Mastery all the advantages and support while at the same time starving public schools is by design. It has a political agenda which is to privatize public schools. Do you really believe teachers in public schools want to keep disruptive students in their classroom? For ten years I taught at a school which had someone on staff in charge of discipline. He spent his whole day monitoring classes and hallways. Problem students were removed from class, possibly given in house detention during which teachers assigned them classwork, and the disciplinarian in conjunction with the counselor investigated what problems the student was having both in school and out, and got to know the parents so they could collectively work on the problems the student was having. Of course, now most schools do not have counselors and if they do they are overworked dealing with high school assignments in elementary school and college placements in high school. Your statement that people sit around drinking coffee shows you have never been in a Philadelphia public school. Every tale you conjure up to vilify Philadelphia's public school is a product of your ill informed imagination. You exhibit an extreme bias against teachers. Are you angry at teachers because yours did not teach you critical thinking skills?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2014 7:57 am
Every child is entitled to free and public education… we, as a public school, can not "counsel the problems out"… the data will never be accurate until details come up regarding how many students are thrown out of charters…Every day for the past month , my school has received new students.. most coming from charters… Why don't the charter schools have to give back the money per student when they are thrown out???
Submitted by Education Grad ... on January 3, 2014 5:32 pm
reformer, I can speak from a Special Education Teacher's perspective. I have one student in particular who makes my classroom a living hell: Refuses to do any work, verbally bullies other students, starts fights, sleeps, runs out of the building, and so on. In order to suspend the student, we must conduct a manifestation determination hearing. No matter how severe the incident, the child's parent always says that whatever happens is a manifestation of the child's disability. We cannot isolate students with IEPs for a prolonged period of time due to Least Restrictive Environment requirements. And all of those employees don't sit around drinking coffee all day. Of these other employees, many are essential personnel---principals and assistant principals, SISLs, nurses, counselors, secretaries, therapists (occupational, speech and language, physical), and school psychologists. To suggest that the police force does little to keep anybody safe is absolutely INSULTING. The School Police Officer at my school is outstanding. Our school cannot function safely without her! There are people who work in the Office of Specialized Services who provide essential assistance to me. Mastery Charter Schools is not a School District. Each one of their schools is considered a separate Local Education Agency. EGS
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 3, 2014 7:31 am
Every public school would do a much better job of meeting the needs of its students and its community if it were given adequate resources, adequate professional staff, a good principal who understands and exemplifies collaborative and collegial leadership, and empowers teachers to develop programs and initiatives to support its students. They would also be better if they actually dealt with the chronically disruptive students in a positive, proactive manner. Yes, that does include appropriate alternative placements. It also includes "due process" rights for students. At what age do we start excluding students because of their behavioral issues? The problems with the school district in the last decade all are because of the "ineffective leadership" which has been imposed upon the district. It has been worse than ineffective -- it has been destructive. The destruction of public education is indeed purposeful. Creating churn, as ELI Broad advocates publicly, is part and parcel of the corporate attack on public education. It is time to be honest folks.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on January 3, 2014 12:38 pm
"They would also be better if they actually dealt with the chronically disruptive students in a positive, proactive manner. Yes, that does include appropriate alternative placements." Rich, you are exactly right. Some of the students who are in Emotional Support or have Emotional Disturbance and are in other environments are so disruptive that they need to be in Approved Private Schools. THERE ARE SOME STUDENTS WHO DO NOT RESPOND TO EVEN THE BEST PBIS! Believe it or not, many parents would like their child to attend an APS, which comes at public expense. If the SDP had more means, they might make the choice to put students with the most severe behavior problems in APSs, with parental consent (or perhaps a court order). However, what happens is that the APS placement will come because of a lawsuit because the District is so poor that they cannot afford to use APS placements proactively. Lawsuits are a headache for teachers because we are forced to focus on one student TO THE DETRIMENT of other students. The whole due process and legalistic nature of special ed is problematic, but it is what it is. There also needs to be more accountability on parents of students with severe behavior problems. Some of these parents can sue but they do ABSOLUTELY nothing to help their child. They use the excuse that the child has a disability. Some behaviors are intentional, not due to the disability, but the parent drives the bus in special ed and they can always say that such and such incident was a "manifestation of the disability" even if it wasn't. The only leverage a school has is to contact DHS, but that's not always possible. The headaches that come from dealing with students with severe behavior problems are much worse when schools are short staffed and there is no money.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 3, 2014 10:27 am
What's not reported is the additional funding provided to Renaissance schools. Most received School Improvement Grants that were applied for when the schools were run by the district. There are also lower building costs for Renaissance charters. What happens when the extra funding runs out? Tens of millions have been given to Renaissance.
Submitted by Lisa Haver on January 3, 2014 2:42 pm
Can a study on the school district be taken seriously when it is conducted by the district itself?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 3, 2014 11:53 am
Before you all launch into your name calling and crying about resources, please address the math problem at hand. Mastery operates at about .75 employees per teacher. The district has 1.2 employees per teacher, down from 1.5 just two years ago. Who's got the most resources? (Hint: the one with the higher number - that's for Tom-10 who confuses critical thinking with criticism).
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 3, 2014 11:26 am
Could you give a link to substantiate your claims?
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on January 3, 2014 12:39 pm
You bring up a good point. The district has 1.2 employees per teacher and each and everyone of them is incompetent. I have never seen such mediocre people attempting to justify their inconsequential lives until I started to work for the district. A mind may be a terrible thing to waste but we now that the wasted ones seem to coagulate at 44 Broad Street. If we reduced the 440 head count to .001 employees per teacher every school would make AYP and have 100% graduation rate. The seat warmers at 440 are like lead weights around the throats of teachers.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on January 3, 2014 12:34 pm
Poogie, I disagree with your point about 440. The central office has been cut to the bone. The District cannot afford more cuts. For example, they have cut so many employees in Transportation that there are very few extra drivers if a driver calls out sick or to answer the phone about late school buses. I rely on the assistance and expertise of people in the Office of Specialized Services to help me do my job. Are there incompetent people at 440? Yes, but there are also many people there who are hard-working and helpful. EGS
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on January 3, 2014 1:41 pm
I am not talking about bus drivers. I am talking about the fools who cannot teach but watch Charlotte Danielson videos and then interfere with teachers teaching to teach students. There must be like a thousand useless bureaucrats at 440.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on January 3, 2014 12:49 pm
Anonymous, where is your source for these numbers about employees per teacher?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 3, 2014 2:29 pm
Consider that the district has additional services that must be provided over and above school services (IU, transportation, facilities, etc...). Also, are you counting classroom assistants and teachers who co-teach or provide additional academic supports that cannot be provided in other district or charter schools?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on January 3, 2014 4:15 pm
Anonymous, Mastery has fewer employees per teacher because they staff their schools differently than the District. Mastery contracts out many of their services. Just FYI, I spent over 100 hours at one of Mastery's school's last year. Mastery contracts out custodial services to T.U.C.S. My understanding was that they also contracted out therapy services such as speech and language. There are no noontime aides. Mastery doesn't provide transportation services. Yes, some students at individual Mastery schools receive Trans Passes, but this is something that the District coordinates with Mastery Charter Schools. Mastery schools have far fewer "working class" employees such as Noon Time Aides, Non Teaching Assistants, classroom assistants, and bus attendants working in schools. The vast majority of employees at the Mastery school at which I spent time were college educated whereas District schools have a greater mix of college educated and non college educated employees. Mastery receive millions of dollars in PRIVATE funding. They have more administrators and deans in the schools. They don't utilize kindergarten assistants. Mastery operates fewer low incidence special education programs. Smedley has Autistic Support and Clymer has Multiple Disabilities. Gratz has some low incidence programs. But otherwise, if you look at Penn Data for each Mastery school, most students have IEPs for Specific Learning Disability or Speech or Language Impairment. Some of the schools also have students who qualify as having Emotional Disturbance. Emotional Support, Life Skills Support, Multiple Disabilities, and Autistic Support classes all require classroom assistants. The District also has Hearing Support programs and employ ASL interpreters. Basically, it's not an apples to oranges comparison.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on January 3, 2014 4:20 pm
Thank you! While many posters complain that the School District should not be an employment agency, it is. This is not unique to Philadelphia. Most school districts provide significant employment for people with and without college degrees. (In rural communities school district employment is often significant.) Charters are able to get non-teaching positions filled on the "cheap" - contracted out services are cheaper than union employees. Do the anti-union posters want to increase the number of impoverished Philadelphians? It would be interesting to compare the % paid by charters for non-professional employees (e.g. cleaning staff, classroom assistants, etc.) versus management (e.g. administrators, deans, etc.) Charters pay hefty salaries / benefits to CEOs on top of administrators. (I would like a response from SRC member Ms. Simms - she once was a bus assistant. Would she now vote to privatize those positions?)
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on January 3, 2014 6:13 pm
As someone who worked at Gratz before Mastery took over & I observed a crucial difference in administration, the SDP administrators rarely arrived before 9am and hardly ever left the air conditioned office. (the only place the district spent money to centrally air condition. Mastery no longer uses the space). I am also pretty sure the Mastery principal & APs spend time in the halls. Just a guess.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on January 3, 2014 6:57 pm
Poogie, You raise a good point. I've spent significant time in 3 different District schools and at two, the principals spent a lot of time in the halls. My current principal spends a great deal of times in the halls and in classrooms. I worked with one principal who was pretty easy to find because he/she always spent time in one particular classroom, not the office officially, but this room functioned as this principal's office. At the Mastery school at which I spent time, the Principal and Assistant Principals frequently were in the halls and popped into classrooms. From talking with teachers who teach at Mastery, it's basically the protocol that an administrator pop into each classroom every day. EGS
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on January 3, 2014 8:02 pm
EGS-----It's a lot easier to pop into classrooms and be in the halls when you are well staffed. This Austerity nonsense makes that nearly impossible. I've been both an administrator and a teacher............though not at the same I can see both sides of the issue. For the very most part, administrators all try to do a good job as, of course, do teachers. The austerity movement is all designed to choke the real schools from critical resources in order to set up those schools to fail. It's very uncomplicated. It falls under the "churn" that Eli Broad publicly promotes. Actually, it's shocking that he so brazenly promotes destruction but money talks.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 3, 2014 1:58 pm
Serious question - I hear some good (and not so good reasons) on this thread about why test scores and serious incidents are not effective measures to see if schools have improved, but I don't hear what measures would be better. Putting aside the question of whether you believe in Renaissance charters or Promise academies, if it was your job to see if these schools were working, would would you do?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on January 3, 2014 4:28 pm
The only way to really assess the quality of a school is to spend time in it. For example, I work in a school with over 90% economically disadvantaged students. Our test scores are low. But if you come and spend a day in the school, you will see that the teachers work hard, the principal works hard, the school police officer works hard, the secretary works hard. It's a decent school. But we desperately need a dean. We didn't have a counselor until November. We have a really good school-wide behavior system using PBIS, but so much falls on teachers for implementation. There is not Assistant Principal of School Culture for spearheading this. We have a number of students who present persistent behavior problems. Numerous students have parents, especially fathers, who are incarcerated. The children with the most severe behavior problems come to school angry. Some of them don't give a flying fuzz about doing any school work. Yet we must educate them, or at least try to do so.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 7, 2014 8:17 am
Thank you for your serious question. It is a very good question and I will give you a serious answer. In my view the question of "how we properly and appropriately evaluate schools" is an essential question of school governance and leadership. There are no simple answers to that question as it is a complex matter. It would certainly take me an entire book to explain all of the issues and considerations involved. I would hope that many would add their thoughts to this discussion as it is a much needed collegial discussion which should take place publicly within our entire school community. The issue of the valid assessment of reading ability and the appropriate use of standardized tests is dear to my heart as I am a well schooled reading diagnostician who led and taught in a comprehensive reading program for almost 20 years at University City H.S. It is also a major issue because standardized test scores and only standardized test scores in reading and math are being used to justify turning schools over to private entities. They are not being used to look at schools to see how we can improve them or meet the needs of students who attend "that school." The "test score game" is now being used as a 'tool of the corporate raiders" to privatize schools and eventually turn them into big businesses for profit. To answer your question. Yes, test scores should be "one of the factors" of the evaluation process. However, they must be looked at and analyzed "in the context of the school community" and analyzed with our eyes open to the reality of the local situation. Above all we need "intellectual honesty" in the analysis of test scores, their meaning, and the limitations of standardized measures. There is much misunderstanding of what standardized reading tests measure and what they do not measure. Reading tests are not exact measures of reading ability. They are, at best, approximations of reading ability. The approximations become wider as students get older. They have "some correlation" to a student's overall "cognitive development" which is based on many factors, many of which are based on a student's "life conditions" and not the performance of his school or teachers. Test scores must be fully understood and put in "proper perspective." The assessments must be "valid and reliable" assessments. At this time they are not. (See my comment above.) There is little understanding of even the most basic terms of reading assessment including and starting with the concept of "reading level." There is also no legitimate definition of what is meant by "below basic," "basic," "proficient," or "advanced." They are presently arbitrary classifications which are not correlational to actual stages of reading development or reading levels at all. There is lying and cheating going on all across America. I could raise anyone's test scores in two weeks by schooling them on how to guess properly. The test scores would rise, but their reading ability certainly would not have risen. Once that "initial surge" is attained, the scores always "level off." There are no miracles in the growth of reading ability. Whenever there are claims of "sudden growth," upon further investigation, they are always shown to be "invalid." Cognitive growth grows like the Oak tree grows. That will never change. What we need most of all in this discussion is "intellectual honesty." I find very little "intellectual honesty" going on at SRC meetings and in the world of high stakes testing. As someone who really does "believe in and love the profession of teaching and learning," I find that very disturbing.
Submitted by Notebook reader (not verified) on January 9, 2014 2:39 pm
Rich, I appreciated your comments today on Radio Times, underscoring the stress that this school year has brought to staff and students.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 9, 2014 3:51 pm
You are more than welcome because I know and understand the stress you are under and what it does to everyone's emotional and physical health. I know what it really means to be burnt out because of the emotions you put into your jobs every day. It is a health issue. Those who have never worked under those conditions can never understand the physical toll it takes upon you and how it even effects your family when you take it home. Only those who live in understaffed schools every day and do "heroic jobs" under untenable conditions, can possibly truly understand -- of that I am sure. As Jonothan Kozol said, "Teachers are my heroes."
Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on January 3, 2014 1:57 pm
IN school employees matter much more than those that work outside of schools. Mastery schools (and most other charters) have many more deans, disciplinarians, and other climate experts than district schools are left with. Having the resources to work with disruptive and upset students makes a huge different in school climate and achievement.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on January 3, 2014 4:10 pm
Kristen, You are exactly right. Mastery also has social workers (who are Mastery Charter Schools employees) working in the schools. They have full time nurses. Mastery lists the administrators on each school's website---FOUR assistant principals for each school. Plus, some schools have Apprentice School Leaders who are administrators in training. You cannot compare a Mastery school with a District School on many levels because of the differences in personnel.
Submitted by sdop_educator on January 3, 2014 2:21 pm
The problem with simply looking at numbers on a paper to determine gains or the lack thereof at a school is that the numbers don't nearly tell the whole story. The numbers merely scratch the surface. It would take investigative reporting, i.e. looking deeper than the numbers, to even begin to draw accurate conclusions. I'm not even going to focus on the obvious reality that, as was pointed out by other posters, PSSA data is suspect at best. The article mentions that Renaissance Charters keep 80% of a school's population. For a school of 500, that would mean 100 students are sent elsewhere. This is possible because the charters are allowed to cap their enrollment at no more than 25 students per class. They can then say to the other students, "We are full; go to the nearest neighborhood school." Please do not think for one moment that the charters did not strategically identify and go after the 80% that would stay while also allowing the 20% that would be leaving (disciplinary issues, significant special ed issues) to sort of get caught up in the morass of re-enrollment. Want proof? Check the profiles of the jettisoned students that ended up at the surrounding district-run schools.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on January 3, 2014 8:02 pm
Hey, stop with the truth. It ruins the Charter Lie agenda.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on January 4, 2014 9:18 am
We all need to open our eyes and see the truth and then deal with it.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on January 4, 2014 10:46 am
For some reason, I am being blocked. Could someone let me know why?? Thanks--JK
Submitted by Paul Socolar on January 4, 2014 2:33 pm

A few people are reporting problems with the commenting feature. We are looking into it.

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on January 4, 2014 7:31 pm
Google Chris Hedges on his take of this corporate abuse of human rights in the USA.
Submitted by Pervez (not verified) on November 26, 2017 6:07 am

Most of us definitely get pleasure from your site write-up. You can get several different tactics we could put in place for making a real beneficial by using facts devoid of considerably work in addition to savings. At this point simply click here payday loans  Appreciate it intended for pleasant task.

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