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Commentary: District-run schools need help to access Partnership funds

By Guest blogger on Sep 14, 2012 02:27 PM

This guest commentary comes from Christine Carlson. She is a public school parent, a member of the Philadelphia School Partnership advisory committee on Great Philly Schools, and a founder of the Greater Center City Neighborhood Schools Coalition.The Notebook invites guest blog posts on current topics in Philadelphia education from its readers. Contact us at to make a submission.


Last month, the Philadelphia School Partnership announced that it had received significant new funding, propelling it closer to its goal of raising $100 million so that it can award grants to increase the number of “high-performing seats” in Philadelphia schools. 

PSP’s stated mission is to contribute to the expansion of all high-performing schools, whether private, charter, or District-run. So far, however, the only schools that have been awarded PSP grants have been private and charter schools. 

District settles lawsuit on search of student

By Guest blogger on Jul 24, 2012 01:50 PM

This guest blog post comes from Harold Jordan, Notebook board chair and staff member at ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Last week, the School District of Philadelphia settled a lawsuit filed by the parent of a young woman, a student at Harding Middle School, who said she had been subjected to an unlawful and invasive search by school police. I wrote about the case and about the results of state-funded audit of school security that was critical of police behavior at several high schools. In the case at Harding, the student said that a male officer had placed his hands in her shirt without justification. The District agreed to pay the student $35,000 in exchange for ending the suit. It did not admit guilt.

Although we may never know the full details of what happened that day, it is my hope that the lawsuit will force District staff to pay attention to how searches are conducted and to be careful that interactions between police and students are lawful and appropriate. In addition, students need to have a mechanism for complaining about instances in which they feel wronged and have confidence that those complaints will be properly investigated and acted upon.

Note: Following is Jordan's original guest blog post about the case, written in March.

Commentary: The '20% less' solution is the problem, not the answer

By Guest blogger on Jul 3, 2012 04:42 PM

This guest blog post comes from Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is being told that District budget deficits can only be avoided through deep program cuts, massive school closures, and contract concessions. City Council was asked to increase funding to avoid even further damage. But little attention is being focused on the true cause of the District’s deficits – the state’s insistence that Philadelphia students ought to be educated for 20 percent less than what is being spent on students in the rest of our region.

Students contribute to book on healthy living

By Guest blogger on Jun 20, 2012 05:00 PM

This guest blog post comes from Talia Fisher of Healthy NewsWorks (no connection to WHYY's NewsWorks).

Local students recently published their own book through Healthy NewsWorks, a nonprofit organization that engages elementary and middle school students in creating authentic journalism to promote health and literacy.

Healthy NewsWorks, which was founded by former Inquirer health and medical writer Marian Uhlman and Upper Darby teacher Susan Spencer, works with students in 13 area schools, including four in Philadelphia. Each school publishes a newsletter focusing on making healthy lifestyle choices.

Commentary: Plan must consider students' basic needs

By Guest blogger on Jun 18, 2012 03:01 PM

This guest blog post responding to the District's transformation plan comes from Cathy Weiss, executive director of the Stoneleigh Foundation, and Paul DiLorenzo, member of the Stoneleigh Foundation’s board of directors.

In the midst of the drama that surrounds the School District of Philadelphia, perhaps it might be worth considering another perspective.

What if we agreed that the challenge is not just about education, organizational structure, and finance?

What if we focused on the growing number of children who come to the educational environment already at a disadvantage? It’s not just that they are poor. They suffer from inconsistent health care and early learning deficits; some of them are deprived of food and, increasingly, of hope. We have found no research that shows that children facing these odds will succeed, unless something is done.

Support community news this Tuesday!

By Guest blogger on Jun 11, 2012 05:22 PM

This guest blog post comes from Shanee Garner, co-chair of the June 12 event committee.

Tomorrow, some of Philadelphia’s most thoughtful and concerned citizens will gather to celebrate another year of excellent reporting from the Notebook. True Notebook readers understand that the Notebook’s impact is so much bigger than education news -- it’s community news.

When the Notebook reported that the School District of Philadelphia’s graduation rate finally exceeded the 60 percent mark, it transcended school news. It opened a conversation.

Let's talk about what really makes for a successful school

By Guest blogger on Jun 8, 2012 02:25 PM

This guest blog post comes from Lori Shorr, Mayor Nutter's chief education officer and executive adviser to the School District.

From the time I was Home and School co-president at Jenks Elementary to now, in my current position, it has been clear to me that there are key priorities that really matter at schools: 

  • Each child should feel safe and cared for by the adults in the building;

  • All the adults in the building, both District employees and community members, should feel that they are a team working toward the same goal;

  • Each student should get what he or she needs to be successful; and

  • Enough resources should exist so that no decision is based solely on what can be afforded at that time. 

A national view of the Notebook highlights need to support our work

By Guest blogger on Jun 7, 2012 01:12 PM

This guest blog post comes from Notebook board member and June 12 event committee member Nina Moreno.

Sixteen months ago, I moved to Philadelphia after a five-year work stint at the Children’s Defense Fund. I was familiar with Philadelphia’s school-to-prison pipeline because I had spent countless hours researching, writing, and presenting on America’s cradle-to-prison pipeline during my time at CDF.

While a lack of government transparency around the school-to-prison pipeline has been commonplace, robust movements advocating for the exact opposite have been less prevalent. Since 1994, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook has been envisioning a one-track education system for all children, believing that public education can fulfill its promise of promoting democracy and social justice, and promoting public involvement in Philadelphia’s public schools and educational change in the city at large.

Join me and the Notebook on June 12th

By Guest blogger on Jun 5, 2012 04:14 PM

This guest blog post comes from Margaret Ernst, who is a member of our June 12 event planning committee.

I am an AmeriCorps VISTA member at the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service, a 2011 graduate of Bryn Mawr College, a former Notebook intern, a mentor at Mighty Writers, and, like Karel Kilimnik, a daily addict of the Notebook blog.

Join me, a reluctant fundraiser, at a party to support the Notebook!

By Guest blogger on May 31, 2012 03:00 PM

This guest blog comes from Karel Kilimnik, co-chair of the Notebook's Turning the Page for Change event coming up on June 12.

Like a lot of people, I really dislike asking people and organizations for money. Actually, I should say that I hate asking for money. But my commitment to supporting the Notebook overcomes all of this.

I am a retired teacher and an education activist involved in the current struggle to save public education. I faithfully attend rallies, marches and town hall meetings, and just as faithfully gobble up all the news the Notebook gathers. The analysis helps me understand what is going on. The viewpoints expand my thinking even more.

Green Party's suggestions for the Philadelphia schools

By Guest blogger on May 22, 2012 02:13 PM

This guest blog post  comes from the Green Party of Philadelphia, which recently outlined a proposal for the Philadelphia public schools.

The Green Party of Philadelphia recognizes that Philadelphia’s public schools are facing a crisis. Philadelphia has the eighth-largest school district in the nation by enrollment, with 154,482 students in 257 schools. This number includes privately managed and alternative education schools. There are 40,483 students enrolled in 74 charter schools. Additionally, Philadelphia is the only county in Pennsylvania that does not have an elected school board.

A great challenge is now facing the people of Philadelphia: to educate ourselves to build a just, sustainable, humane, and democratic future, and to become responsible and effective citizens of the local and global communities we share. The Green Party believes every child deserves a public education that fosters critical and holistic thought, and provides the breadth and depth of learning necessary to become an active citizen and a constructive member of society.

Using the Notebook in the classroom

By Guest blogger on Apr 9, 2012 05:08 PM

As part of our series on teachers and their lessons, this guest blog post is from Andrew Biros, who recently used the Notebook as the foundation for an extensive unit on social justice at University City High School.

As my students were preparing for a meeting with Mayor Michael Nutter, the Notebook published its edition on dropouts, which fit perfectly with the planned discussion with the mayor about community violence, dropouts, and economic mobility. Using the article "No diploma, no job" as a curricular resource, students drafted fact-based questions for Mayor Nutter concerning the issues they care most about.

Marci Resnick Teacher Fund: Grant application deadline April 16

By Guest blogger on Apr 5, 2012 05:15 PM

LogoThis guest blog post comes from Dina Portnoy.

Marci Resnick was an elementary school teacher in Philadelphia public schools for more than 20 years before becoming the second director of the Philadelphia Writing Project and later an associate director of the National Writing Project. In 2007, Marci died, much too young, and the Marci Resnick Teacher Fund was established in her memory to honor and support the work of elementary school teachers. The fund awards $500 grants for classroom or school projects that reflect her interest in and devotion to improving learning for young people in elementary school.

What federal civil rights data says about Philadelphia

By Guest blogger on Apr 3, 2012 05:42 PM

This guest blog post comes from Harold Jordan, Notebook board chair and staff member at ACLU of Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) recently released comprehensive data about the educational opportunity offered to the nation’s public school students. Known as the Civil Rights Data Collection, this dataset draws from a national survey of 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of the nation’s public school students during the 2009-2010 school year. The data include a profile of the School District of Philadelphia, which paints a disturbing picture, especially in the areas of discipline and the equitable assignment of experienced teachers.

Occupy professional development with Edcamp

By Guest blogger on Mar 20, 2012 01:26 PM

This guest blog post comes from Kristen Swanson, an edcamp organizer. The next Edcamp Philly will take place May 19.

We’ve all been there: A mind-numbing, passive professional development session that aims to “fill up” your mind with knowledge and expertise. Quite often, these types of experiences leave you drowsy and uninspired.

Well, there’s a new form of professional development sweeping the nation that aims to change all that. Edcamps are unconferences for educators where learners share their experiences and their professional expertise in a collaborative, interactive learning environment.

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