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From neighborhood schools, 1 in 4 made it to college

by Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

There are some glimmers of progress. The percentage of Philadelphia high school graduates who enroll in college immediately after finishing school is on the rise, from 40 percent in 2008 to 44 percent last year.

"It's low, but I definitely think we're moving in the right direction," said Fran Newberg, the District's deputy for accountability and technology

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The Notebook * Summer 2012

Creighton: Exception to the Renaissance rule?

by Bill Hangley, Jr.

For three of this year's four Renaissance Schools, the selection process is over. The public meetings are complete, the School Reform Commission has voted, and barring any unforeseen complication, next September they'll open as neighborhood charter schools.

But at Creighton Elementary in the Lower Northeast, supporters of a unique plan for a teacher-led administration are holding out hope that their school can buck a very big trend.

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The Notebook * Summer 2012


Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill

By Alan Schwarz

He steered into the high school parking lot, clicked off the ignition and scanned the scraps of his recent weeks. Crinkled chip bags on the dashboard. Soda cups at his feet. And on the passenger seat, a rumpled SAT practice book whose owner had been told since fourth grade he was headed to the Ivy League. Pencils up in 20 minutes.

The boy exhaled. Before opening the car door, he recalled recently, he twisted open a capsule of orange powder and arranged it in a neat line on the armrest. He leaned over, closed one nostril and snorted it.

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New York Times * June 9, 2012

Obama Proposal to Raise Dropout Age Falls Flat

By Shannon McFarland for the Associated Press

President Barack Obama's call for states to raise the minimum age at which students can drop out of high school seems about as popular as a homework assignment on Friday afternoon.

Since the president urged the change in his State of the Union speech in January, only one state has raised its dropout age to 18, and that won't take effect for five years.

Even legislators in Obama's home state of Illinois wouldn't go along with his proposal, despite an endorsement from the governor. They quickly dumped the issue into the limbo of a special study commission after it became clear there wasn't enough money to support it.

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ABC News * June 16, 2012

Eight city schools named amoung best in state

By Tribune Staff Report

U.S. News and World Report released their “Best High Schools” state lists last week, ranking eight School District of Philadelphia high schools among the honorees in Pennsylvania, and awarding Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration school as the number one high school in Pennsylvania overall.

To determine the Best High Schools in Pennsylvania, schools were analyzed at the state level based on how students performed on state assessments. Masterman students proved to be 98 percent proficient in reading, and 100 percent proficient in math. U.S. News also recognized that Masterman students boast a 94 percent participation rate in Advanced Placement coursework and exams, and score an 83.8 on the college readiness index.

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Philadelphia Tribune * May 15, 2012

Third Grade A Pivotal Time In Students' Lives

By Neal Conan

In a growing number of states a single reading test determines which third-grade students advance to fourth grade. Proponents of the rule say that kids learn to read until third grade, and then read to learn. But critics argue that holding students back does more harm than good in the long run.

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NPR * May 14, 2012

Stories of interest to parents

More like this

No diploma, no job

By by Benjamin Herold on Feb 6, 2012 11:11 AM
'I Want to Be Working': As part of our comprehensive coverage of dropouts and jobs, the Notebook and WHYY's NewsWorks have created a multimedia package of materials for our readers and listeners. Listen to Monica Reyes's story in Benjamin Herold's radio report for WHYY. View a slideshow, infographics, and additional reporting. Check out the hour-long discussion of Philadelphia's dropout crisis on WHYY's Radio Times. And join us this Wednesday at Johnny Brenda's to share your perspective.

Like almost 14 million other Americans, Monica Reyes is looking for work.

"Macy's, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Friday's, Outback," said Reyes, ticking off her list of recent unsuccessful job applications.

A sluggish economy has made finding work difficult for people from all walks of life. Nationally, the unemployment rate is still above 8 percent. Four people compete for every job.

Few of them will have a tougher time finding work than Reyes.

SRC hears urgency, skepticism on Great Schools Compact

By Benjamin Herold on Mar 12, 2012 03:11 PM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

Philadelphia’s new Great Schools Compact lays out an ambitious goal: replace or transform 50,000 seats in low-performing schools with better options.

But will the Compact include a push to close low-performing charter schools and help successful District-managed schools flourish? Or will it function solely to accelerate existing efforts to close District-run schools and expand the city’s burgeoning charter sector?

Those were the biggest questions on the table during a lively discussion Monday night attended by about 100 people before the School Reform Commission’s “choice, rightsizing, and turnaround” committee.

District answers questions about school lunches

By Guest blogger on Mar 14, 2012 03:34 PM

This guest blog post comes from the Philadelphia Urban Food and Fitness Alliance. PUFFA solicited questions from students, parents/guardians, and other community residents and received responses from the Food Services Division of the School District of Philadelphia.

1.  Why can't our children have organic milk to drink?  

The total cost allotted to a school lunch is approximately $2.73, and $1.39 is allotted for food, $1.03 for labor and 39 cents the balance for infrastructure/administrative costs. Within the budget of $1.39 for food, 25 cents is available for milk. At this time, the cost of organic milk would significantly exceed the available funds for this item.

E-mentoring program aims to reduce dropout rate among Black males

By the Notebook on Feb 23, 2012 04:00 PM

by Samantha Byles

With the dropout rate among African American and Latino male students slow to improve, many people ask how one can keep these students engaged in their education.

“The best way I think is to look for things that interest them,” said Anthony Martin, the founder of What it Takes (WIT), a Philadelphia-based e-mentoring program aimed specifically at connecting at-risk Black male students with successful Black men.

West Philadelphia nonprofit opens 12th public school library

By the Notebook on Mar 7, 2012 02:22 PM

by Samantha Coggin

Last summer Heston Elementary School Principal Icilyn Wilson-Greene received a phone call from the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePac) about an opportunity to restore the school’s library.

It was a welcome call because a large and growing number of Philadelphia public elementary school students don’t have access to a school library or a certified school librarian, and Heston was struggling to keep its own library doors open.  

District on-time graduation rate surpasses 60 percent

By by Paul Socolar on Feb 3, 2012 12:31 PM

The School District's on-time graduation rate climbed 3 percentage points last year to 61 percent, the first time in memory that more than six of ten Philadelphia students have graduated on time. That figure is the percentage of students who entered 9th grade in fall 2007 and finished high school by 2011.

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  • After-school activities guide
    The Daily News published this guide from the After School Activities Partnership. You can search through dozens of activities by ZIP code.


  • Philadelphia Home and School Association
    For parents and guardians with children in the School District of Philadelphia.
  • Parents United for Public Education
    An independent citywide collective of public school parents who are focused on creating and open and transparent budget process.
    The nation’s largest grassroots community organization that brings neighbors together to work for stronger, safer, and most just communities. There are chapters in 110 cities and 40 states.
    Group of parents working together to eliminate the achievement gap. "What Will You Do With Yours"?
  • Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) - Philadelphia Chapter
    Creates, supports, and promotes efforts to empower Black parents to exercise choice in determining how their children are educated.
  • Public Citizens for Children and Youth
    Works to improve the lives of all children, including those who are homeless and abused, receiving inadequate health care, and whose parents are being taken off welfare.
  • Education Voters Pennsylvania
    An independent, bipartisan organization that is working to hold elected leaders accountable for their actions or inactions on pressing education issues. Our state Constitution says: "The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth." School funding is the beginning of a great public education system. The leadership we elect matters for realizing the long term goal of giving every child the opportunity for a successful life.
  • Good Schools Pennsylvania
    Informs citizens and public officials about the educational needs of Pennsylvania's children, the components of effective education (including accountability), and the consequences of an inadequate education.
  • Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign
    A statewide coalition of individuals and organizations representing parents, students, educators, school board members, administrators and others advocating for comprehensive, systemic reform of Pennsylvania’s public education funding system.
  • Fair Test: National Center for Fair and Open Testing
    Advances quality education and equal opportunity by promoting fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial evaluations of students, teachers and schools. Also works to end the misuse and flaws of testing practices that impede those goals.



  • Loans for Parents
    Options for funding the cost of your child’s post-secondary education.
  • Federal Student Aid
    The nation’s largest source of student aid, federal dollars in the form of grants, loans, and work-study programs are available to all eligible students pursuing post-secondary education.
  • nowU Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Program
    Offers a range of resources to help you save for your child’s college education.


  • Philadelphia Right to Education Task Force
    Examines, enlightens, and empowers special education providers who receive funding from the public school system and the families they serve.
  • Education Law Center
    Advocates for poor children, children of color, children with disabilities, English language learners, kids in foster homes and institutions, and others.
  • The Arc of Philadelphia
    Promotes and improves supports and services for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • The Right to Special Education in PA: A Guide to Parents
    Describes the legal rules that govern the special education and early intervention programs in Pennsylvania for children age three until schooling ends.
  • Philadelphia Children's Connection
    Resources for students, parents, and caretakers of children with special needs.
  • Parent Guide to Special Education for the Gifted
    Explains the rights of gifted children. Also, outlines various issues including how a child’s need for a gifted education is determined and the responsibilities of a school district in meeting their needs.
  • CanChild
    A center for childhood disability research. Focuses on issues that make a difference for children and youth with physical, developmental, and communication needs and their families.
  • Institute for Disabilities at Temple University
    Offers a variety of programs, training, workshops, and publications about disabilities.




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