Please Join Today!
view counter

December 2015 Vol. 23. No. 3 Focus on Standardized Tests

Theme articles

Arts and high test scores co-exist at FACTS Charter


Dale Mezzacappa

on Dec 7, 2015 12:33 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

FACTS students practice African drumming. Folk arts and social skills are emphasized as well as academics. 

Around noon on Wednesdays, the beating of African drums reverberates throughout all five floors of FACTS Charter School in Chinatown.

It’s ensemble time, a staple of the curriculum at FACTS, which stands for Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures. There are six types to choose from, including martial arts, Indonesian dance, and Chinese opera.

Third through 8th graders can participate in an ensemble once a week, which is just one of the folk-arts experiences available at the 10-year-old school.

While about 20 students under the tutelage of artists Edward Smallwood and Ama Schley learned the rhythms of the sang ba, kinkany, and dun dun – with upturned recycling buckets standing in for drums – another group was playing the Vietnamese zither with linguist and musician Ngô Thanh Nhàn.

As 5th grader Fionna expertly strummed the harp-like dàn tranh with elegant fingernail picks, she revealed that she can play nine musical instruments, eight of which she learned at FACTS.

This is not test-prep. It is the opposite. Yet FACTS students, most of whom come from low-income families, have PSSA proficiency rates in reading and math that are among the city’s highest.

“We truly believe that the social curriculum is just as important as the academic curriculum,” said Pheng Lim, the principal. “We believe in educating the whole child.”

One of the most important elements of that is to honor the students’ backgrounds and languages, part of a culture of respect that permeates the school.

That is the route to high scores, Lim believes – not rigid test prep or pep rallies that cause anxiety and pressure at many schools.

Yes, there is some effort “to familiarize students with what the test is like,” said Lim. But she also gives students a letter reiterating that the test “does not tell us how good a person you are ... how hard you work to learn new things [or] how smart you are.”

In 2014, FACTS received the highest K-8 score in Philadelphia, 88.4 out of 100, on the state’s school rating scale. That year, 84 percent of its students scored proficient or advanced in math, and 75 percent in reading.

In 2015 the PSSA was overhauled; statewide, scores plummeted. FACTS’ proficiency rates declined, especially in math, but were still good enough to place it among the top schools in the city.

“I expected the scores to go down a lot more,” said Lim, called Principal Pheng (pronounced Pang) at school. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

Asians comprise two-thirds of FACTS’ nearly 500 students. The families, many with refugee experience, are from countries including China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and India. Twenty percent are African American, and the rest Latino, White, and mixed race.

Some say FACTS’ scores are high because most students are Asian, who generally do better on standardized tests than other groups, including Whites.

But an analysis of the 2014 PSSA, the last one that was broken down by race and demographic category, shows that FACTS’ Asian students outperform Asian students districtwide by an average of 15 percentage points in each grade.

The data also show that other subgroups, such as African Americans and students learning English, score significantly higher across subjects than the city average for those groups in most grades.

In addition to the folk arts experiences, the FACTS curriculum emphasizes values like stewardship. In social studies and science, often given short shrift in elementary schools, students do projects to study how issues “like hunger, food, and water affect people, and what can you do to make a difference,” said Lim. Literacy lessons include a lot of writing, and math concentrates on learning concepts in depth.

“That’s why we get the good results we get here,” said Ricque Porter, a teacher for seven years and now an administrator. “Students get a good foundation in academics and the skills they need, but we also focus on the whole child.”

And, she added, “We make sure they have a sense of community here.”

About the Author

Contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa can be reached at or on Twitter @dalemezz.

Comments (54)

Submitted by Anne Tenaglia (not verified) on December 5, 2015 9:58 am

I had the good fortune of meeting some of FACTS students at their school when Dr. Jesse Turner made his wak to Washington DC through Philadelphia. They asked great questions and I was very impressed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 18, 2016 8:08 am

There are a lot of present thoughts that you can consider on the off chance that you need to give a Christmas present to your nerdy mate.  funny google

Submitted by P2Cgames (not verified) on July 26, 2016 1:48 pm

Thanks for this awesome post. this a remember of my just childhood. Playing P2cgames , going everywhere, <a herf="">gaming</a> in home. But dont ask about test. It is very painful. haahahah

Submitted by janetedith (not verified) on July 27, 2016 7:37 am
Since you are not downloading anything, there is no danger of any harming projects being downloaded on your yandere simulator
Submitted by janetedith (not verified) on July 27, 2016 7:58 am
On the off chance that you need to play web amusements then there are a couple programming that you need to introduce in your PC.square quick
Submitted by janetedith (not verified) on July 27, 2016 7:32 am

To play web facilitated diversions, you will require varying sorts of programming bundles. As a rule, you could require a Flash player and a Java Runtime Environment or a Java Virtual Machine. This is as most internet diversions depend on either Flash or Java.showbox app

Submitted by Herp (not verified) on December 16, 2016 2:46 am

Sex Is Important Part Of Relations to review the adult orangutan Of All Ages. A Satisfying sex life can be led to feelings of guilt and rejection, causing problems hearts Relations. Varying levels of sexual desire BETWEEN DIFFERENT orangutan Yang, Dan can be Changed From Time To Time. Cara Mengatasi Impotensi Karena Diabetes

Submitted by JAC 12th Class Result 2017 (not verified) on December 21, 2016 4:20 am

    JAC 10th class results 2017 with marks will be declared online at, by Jharkhand Academic Council.


Submitted by Pedro (not verified) on January 27, 2017 3:09 pm

Truly it's a nice post for a baby's. Here this post is about a baby's how he could do something about dance, dram practice etc. But here i will share with you a one thing about Coffee Guide Blog that will be helps you to known how you could make a one glass of coffee.

Submitted by Travel Umroh (not verified) on February 13, 2017 2:50 am

Papers which are inspiring and nice. I like, thank you for posting

Submitted by Arif R (not verified) on February 17, 2017 10:11 am
Khazzanah Wisata Menyediakan Paket Umroh dan Haji
<a href="" >Paket Umroh Mei</a>
<a href="" >Paket Umroh Ramadhan</a>
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 27, 2017 5:35 pm

Women in medicine 'blogs' and online diaries. Premeds, physicians, medical students and more, all sharing their stories. Start your own, or read others!

Submitted by Cinemabox for iOS (not verified) on March 22, 2017 3:12 am

Cinemabox for iOS is one of the best application where you can get all your favorite videos on your device

Submitted by jeg davi (not verified) on March 25, 2017 5:44 am
Mah 10th Results Andhra Pradesh Board of Secondary Education will lead the 10th public exams in March/April this year. The board is in readiness to lead 10th exams soon in the near future. The board is now busy scheduling the exam timetable for the public exams. All the students must get ready to take the exams. The board will soon seek enrollment from the students who are pursuing 10th class in the schools that are affiliated to the board. :Telangana Secondary School Exam Board is sewed-up to pull 10th annual exams for the students of the state. Students who have been studying 10th standard in the schools united schools of the board can get everything set to take the exam that will be most likely held in March this year. The board is right now preparing for the exam scheduled and date sheets. As soon as it completes it, it will announce it officially to get ready for the exam via its official site. All the affiliated schools of the board and students studying in the schools need to set stage for preparation. Punjab 10th Results
Submitted by track saw reviews (not verified) on March 26, 2017 1:35 pm

Social curiculam is very important for childern. Its make them more attentive in their studies. More if you can find about track saw reviews in here. 


Submitted by (not verified) on April 3, 2017 9:06 am

It is imperative to check every payday credits organization for confirmation with the Better Business Bureau in one's neighborhood. On the off chance that the organization one has picked is not enrolled, it is a smart thought to proceed with his or her pursuit till he or she has found an enlisted organization on favorable terms. 

Submitted by check cashing (not verified) on April 12, 2017 6:44 am

A payday advance or loan is a little, here and now money related instrument that permits a borrower to cover his or her costs until the following paycheck. check cashing

Submitted by Vidmate App for Android (not verified) on April 12, 2017 7:22 am
FREE Download VidMate App 3.09 [Latest: March, 2017 Initial release: VidMate 2016]:. Vidmate is an easy to use and powerful android tool to ...


Submitted by Payday Loans (not verified) on April 15, 2017 2:33 am

In choosing the best payday credits, search for loan specialists that have set up a specialty in the field of loaning, ideally one that has been doing business for quite a long while. A decent moneylender ought to likewise state plainly the expenses, rates and terms for the payday credit you are occupied with.Payday Loans

Submitted by Payday Loans (not verified) on April 16, 2017 5:59 am

Notwithstanding what number of reserve funds and financial records each single or joined forces individual may have, no less than one financial records is regularly required for use with the product. Payday Loans

Submitted by check cashing places near me (not verified) on April 20, 2017 10:28 am

We can cash all types of checks. Need your cash checked? We can serve you what you are looking like check cashing places near me It is really easy to find us at your nearest places. Our office is opened 24/7. So, you can find us all time. United Check Cashing offering you the best services with 100% satisfaction within very short period.

Submitted by FD Calculator (not verified) on May 1, 2017 11:48 am

Thanks for sharing such a valuable information.Im very thankful to you that you had given me this opportunity to write on this blog.please visit our website I assure you that it will be very useful for our website.  FD Calculator

Submitted by (not verified) on May 2, 2017 12:18 pm

Are you wanting to cash into a financial institution account, the whole quantity commonly can not be straightaway accessed; there can also be a waiting amount for the check to clear? We generally tend to square measure the company providing you the simplest services concerning.


Submitted by wedding photography Kerala (not verified) on May 15, 2017 2:58 am

Education is the most important thing in life than  everything else.Thank you for sharing this type of article.

Submitted by blog here (not verified) on June 20, 2017 5:13 am

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

Submitted by Save the marriage (not verified) on June 25, 2017 7:26 am

I feel really happy to have seen your webpage and look forward to so many more entertaining times reading here. Thanks once more for all the details. Save the marriage

Submitted by Unlock her legs (not verified) on June 25, 2017 9:44 am

I am impressed. I don't think Ive met anyone who knows as much about this subject as you do. You are truly well informed and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. Really, great blog you have got here. Unlock her legs

Submitted by dsdd (not verified) on July 3, 2017 8:51 am Thanks for sharing such a valuable informatio sd
Submitted by Source (not verified) on July 13, 2017 9:55 am
Psiphon 108 Handler is an internet tunneling application that enables you access the internet with restrictions.
Submitted by (not verified) on August 3, 2017 3:42 am
Great post full of useful tips! My site is fairly new and I am also having a hard time getting my readers to leave comments. Analytics shows they are coming to the site but I have a feeling “nobody wants to be first”.


Submitted by (not verified) on August 9, 2017 3:27 am
Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2017 10:27 am

My Recent Posts You Tv Player

***Jssc admit card
Bluedart Tracking
Bihar Tet Result 2017 Maha Tet Result 2017

Submitted by Towelroot Apk (not verified) on September 4, 2017 9:56 am

Thanks for this post!! it was great reading this article! i would like to know more!! keep posting!! This post was very informative and helpful!! Good quality content!! You can now get the best rooting app for all devices!! Towelroot Apk This is one of the most efficient and safe apk for rooting!! Also the best rated app for 2017! Check Out Towelroot Apk Download

Submitted by Clara (not verified) on September 10, 2017 7:12 am

For whatever length of time that you have given fundamental individual data like your name, address and work subtle elements, it is adequate to process your advance application and give moment endorsements.

Submitted by Mintok (not verified) on September 11, 2017 7:25 am

Nice post. Thank  you for sharing a  informative information with us. You may check-


Submitted by happy new year 2018 (not verified) on October 28, 2017 3:40 am
Submitted by (not verified) on November 10, 2017 6:07 am

very wonderful article. u wrote it very well. I m pleased to read it. good worrk keep up


Submitted by check cashing Philadelphia (not verified) on November 11, 2017 10:44 am

check cashing places close to Pine Tree State it's very easy to seek out America at your nearest places. Our workplace is opened 24/7. So, you'll realize America all time.check cashing Philadelphia

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2017 1:00 pm

Know about mobdro apk to install, A few android apps particularly need to root devices. Z4root is the one click rooting app app that can simply help you to root devices.

Submitted by Voyance audiotel sans CB (not verified) on November 24, 2017 7:36 am

Thanks for sharing. I hope it will be helpful for too many people that are searching for this topic. Voyance audiotel amour.

Submitted by Racture1988 (not verified) on December 19, 2017 7:56 am

Hey admin, I love you post and happy to visit your blog. I bookmarked your blog for further reading and also shared it on my social profile. Thanks for sharing healthy information, Have you seen my Need Darkness blog where you can get lots of interesting content. 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 30, 2017 3:05 am

[url=][b]imo download pc[/b][/url],[url=][b]imo download pc[/b][/url],[url=][b]imo download for pc[/b][/url]

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 30, 2017 3:48 am

<a href=""><b>imo download pc</b></a>,<a href=""><b>imo download pc</b></a>,<a href=""><b>imo download for pc</b></a>,<a href=""><b>imo download for pc</b></a>

Submitted by kuber matka (not verified) on January 10, 2018 11:29 am

This is really a nice and informative, containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Thanks for sharing it. satta matka satta matka satta matka satta matka

satta matka satta matka satta matka satta matka satta matka satta matka satta matka satta matka

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.

Table of Contents

Read the latest print issue

Philly Ed Feed


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