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Parents in North Philly hear pitches for and against charter conversion

By the Notebook on Apr 16, 2014 06:35 PM

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

The stump speeches have begun, and the opinions are divided.

Parents at two North Philly elementary schools are fast approaching a vote that could forever alter the academic trajectory of their children.

Here the distrinction is not Democratic or Republican, but "District-run" or "charter."

In the bright, beautiful auditorium at Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary School in Fairhill, parents heard the first round of pitches Tuesday night from both the existing school leadership and ASPIRA — a charter organization with roots in Muñoz-Marín's heavily Latino section of North Philly.

This came after the Philadelphia School District's recent announcement that it would like to add Muñoz-Marín, as well as Edward T. Steel in Nicetown, to its portfolio of "Renaissance" charter schools.

Right now, both schools are neighborhood, pre-K-8 elementary schools that the District considers among its lower performers.

As Renaissance charters, the schools would continue to be required to serve all kids from the neighborhood, but would be run by charter organizations that employ nonunion staff and enjoy more autonomy in how they compose their budgets — creating greater flexibility in how the schools spend money.

(The Steel community in Nicetown will begin hearing pitches from existing school leadership and Mastery charter next week.)

The School District targeted Muñoz-Marín for charter conversion because the school has seen the number of students scoring "proficient" on standardized tests drop precipitously in recent years. From 2009 to 2012, Muñoz-Marín's math scores are down 18 percentage points, while reading is down 16 points.

"Since we are working with the School District budget, we have limited funds," said principal Ximena Carreno at the beginning of Muñoz-Marín's presentation.

Carreno became principal in the fall, after 11 years as assistant principal. Test scores recorded during her tenure as principal are not yet public.

"Our dedication and our commitment to provide the best possible education for our students comes from our hearts," she said, flanked by a half-dozen members of her teaching faculty.

Carreno stressed that Muñoz-Marín serves higher than average populations of students who come from low-income households, who are learning English as a second or third language, and who have been disagnosed with a wide range of special-education needs.

"We need to improve, but at the same time we need to be fair," the principal said. "This population needs a lot more intervention ... and a lot more support."

Muñoz-Marín's drop in test scores tracked a trend in the District overall. As some teachers and administrators in the District were implicated in a cheating scandal, the state tightened security around the exams and scores declined overall. 

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (6)

Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on April 17, 2014 8:54 am
How can any decisions be made on Test scores when it was found that many of those test scores are invalid and unreliable across the SDP?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2014 8:57 am
Because the test score dropped through the floor AFTER the cheating crackdown.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 17, 2014 9:53 am
Exactly. None of the test scores of any school are valid and reliable and can not be used credibly in any manner. Kate Shaw, leader of Research for Action, made one of the most important points which I heard at the AERA conference -- Kate said that researchers have the "moral imperative" to ensure that our data is valid and credible. I cannot agree with her more wholeheartedly. It is a shame that her statement, made at the very same AERA session as Mark Gleason's infamous psychobabble, went unreported. Kate is exactly right. We do have a "moral imperative" to be "intellectually honest."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2014 7:54 pm
That first principal can barely speak English herself. That's probably part of the problem. No wonder she prefers the status quo. She herself wouldn't make it in a competitive environment with performance expectations and accountability.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2014 5:23 pm
The first principal that was there for many years, in which Marin did made AYP,have a strong accent but speaks English very well and Spanish (speaks two languages!!). Obviously she made it to principal even in a racist and bias environment in which we live. I am sure that if she wanted to go farther she would not have any problem doing that. I am sure that you are a bigot, hater, and unhappy person who think of yourself as superior. Get a live, stop hating people that are different than you. Say something intelligent by looking at the facts without taking it personal. Do you think you can do that? Doubt it.
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