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Amid outrage, SRC approves buyout

By Benjamin Herold on Aug 24, 2011 10:00 PM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook,

Former Philadelphia schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman is gone, but the controversy surrounding her departure is far from over.

At a meeting on Wednesday full of vitriol, fury, and charges of racism, School Reform Commission (SRC) voted unanimously to approve a $905,000 buyout and related separation agreement.

The commissioners refused to comment, however, on what led to their decision to oust Ackerman just six months after granting her a one-year contract extension. They also declined to identify the anonymous donors who contributed $405,000 to her buyout package.


By Benjamin Herold on Aug 24, 2011 09:19 PM

New feature title: Ackerman not going quietly

New title: Amid outrage, SRC approves Ackerman buyout

Former Philadelphia schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman is gone, but the controversy surrounding her departure is far from over.

At a wild meeting on Wednesday, the School Reform Commission (SRC) voted unanimously to approve a $905,000 buyout and related separation agreement.

110 schools meet AYP targets

By Benjamin Herold on Aug 18, 2011 12:05 PM

UPDATED 7:30 p.m. with quotes from Ackerman, WHYY radio segment and the complete speech delivered by Ackerman.

Kicking off a celebration of the 110 schools that met their federally-mandated performance targets in 2011, Philadelphia schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman gave an emotional speech and received a rousing ovation from principals assembled on Thursday at Lincoln High School for the District's annual leadership convocation.

At the gathering, it was announced that that 110 of 258 schools, or 42 percent, met all of their 2011 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) performance targets under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The number is fewer than last year, but the test-score proficiency targets have been significantly increased.

Before the schools were announced, Ackerman took the stage to the song "Is It A Crime" by the singer Sade, drawing laughs from the audience. She then used the song as the theme of her address.

Legislators vow support for Ackerman

By Benjamin Herold on Aug 17, 2011 11:20 AM

UPDATED 4:00 p.m.

Several Philadelphia members of the Legislative Black Caucus and a small group of activists huddled with Superintendent Arlene Ackerman Wednesday morning, emerging strong in their support of her and with harsh words for the School Reform Commission and Mayor Nutter.

Ackerman absent from leadership conference

By Benjamin Herold on Aug 16, 2011 05:20 PM

Principals and assistant principals from across the District gathered at Lincoln University High School this morning for the annual Superintendent's Leadership Conference, but embattled District leader Arlene Ackerman was not with them.

A statement prepared by Ackerman cited "circumstances beyond my control" as preventing her from being with those in attendance. The full statement was read to participants during the conference's opening session by Associate Superintendent of Schools Penny Nixon.

District: 13 of 28 schools warrant cheating investigation

By Benjamin Herold on Aug 15, 2011 06:18 PM

An internal School District review of suspicious 2009 standardized test score results at 28 city schools has yielded no firm evidence of cheating, officials announced Monday.

SRC: We're still committed to Ackerman

By Benjamin Herold on Aug 3, 2011 12:06 PM

UPDATED: 8/3, 7:00 p.m.
PFT president Jerry Jordan has called for Ackerman's ouster. "I was asked if it was time for her to go, and I said 'yes,'" said Jordan, speaking of an interview he gave this morning on Fox 29.  In a phone interview with the Notebook, he said that "she has become a distraction" and that his members believe that the superintendent "has lost all credibility."

Among other things, he said, teachers are "fed up" with having to teach Corrective Reading and Corrective Math, remedial curricula that many say are too rigid and stifle teachers' ability to be creative and respond to student needs as they see fit.

Confession of a cheating teacher

By Benjamin Herold on Jul 28, 2011 11:06 AM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook/NewsWorks


[UPDATED: 7/29, 1:10 PM]

Reporter Benjamin Herold will be discussing this story on WHYY Radio (90.9 FM) this evening between 6:00 and 6:30.  Tune in to NewsWorks Tonight to hear more.

She said she knows she's a good teacher.

But she still helped her students cheat.

"What I did was wrong, but I don’t feel guilty about it,” said a veteran Philadelphia English teacher who shared her story with the Notebook/NewsWorks.

Two of Pa.'s largest charters part of test score probe

By Benjamin Herold on Jul 21, 2011 12:07 PM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook/NewsWorks

Two of the largest charters in Pennsylvania, Chester Community Charter School (CCCS) and the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber), are among the 89 schools across the state that are to be investigated for statistical irregularities on 2009 standardized tests.

In all, 10 Pennsylvania charters were found to have 2009 test scores warranting further inquiry, according to a recently revealed state report meant to identify "potential test results that may have been earned unfairly."

Did state officials bury 2009 cheating report?

By Benjamin Herold on Jul 12, 2011 12:53 AM

New state Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis is “concerned” that a 2009 report flagged dozens of Pennsylvania schools for possible cheating – then languished for two years.

“Why the report wasn’t brought up in 2009, I don’t know,” said Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) spokesperson Tim Eller. “There’s no indication of what was done with that report two years ago.”

One-third of District schools had pattern of suspicious erasures

By Benjamin Herold on Jul 12, 2011 12:31 AM

[Previous updates - Details on erasures; Editor's note]

UPDATE, 7/21: Since the original publication of this story, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has decided that only those schools that were flagged three or more times in a single grade in the summary report prepared by DRC will have their 2009 PSSA results investigated further. As a result, the following Philadelphia schools with flags for suspicious erasures in both reading and math in every tested grade are not under investigation, because they did not have three or more flags in a single grade:

  • Emlen and Forrest elementaries;
  • Barrett Middle;
  • Bok and Communications Technology high schools; and
  • Delaware Valley Charter High

The Notebook strives for complete accuracy and wants to clear up any confusion regarding the follow-up investigations to the 2009 forensic report.

The statewide study that looked for signs of cheating on the 2009 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exam flagged a total of 88 Philadelphia District schools and 11 Philadelphia charters for highly suspicious numbers of wrong answers that were erased and changed to the correct answer.

Notebook joins Ed Week school turnaround coverage

By Benjamin Herold on Jun 24, 2011 04:01 PM

The Notebook’s profile just keeps on growing.

This time, we are partnering with Education Week to help chronicle turnaround schools across the country.

Layoffs hearing set for Friday morning

By Benjamin Herold on Jun 22, 2011 02:00 PM

Common Pleas Court Judge Idee Fox will hear arguments about the School District's process for laying off over 1,600 teachers Friday morning in City Hall.

City, District, Mastery: Renaissance success merits more state funds

By Benjamin Herold on Jun 17, 2011 06:23 PM

Leaders from the School District, the Mayor’s office, and Mastery Charter gathered Friday to tout preliminary test score results at Mastery’s three turnaround schools – and to ramp up their argument that the state should restore funding to the District.

PA Supreme Court won't hear layoffs case

By Benjamin Herold on Jun 15, 2011 11:45 PM

The School District and the teachers' union are going back to the Court of Common Pleas. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused on Wednesday the District's request to take jurisdiction of the teachers' union's complaint about the District's procedure for laying off over 1,600 teachers, sending the case back to the courtroom of Judge Idee C. Fox.

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