Earlier this month, Penn held its annual lecture named after Constance Clayton, Philadelphia's first Black superintendent. The title of the lecture was "Do Black and Brown Lives Matter? Reframing Public Media Racial Narratives for Urban Schooling." Addressing that issue was Dr. James Peterson, director of Africana studies and an associate professor of English at Lehigh University.
Peterson, a leading hip-hop scholar who regularly appears as a media contributor on MSNBC and other media networks, spoke about why the Black Lives Matter movement means so much for organizing and transforming classrooms and communities. Educational institutions, he said, should be at the forefront of unpacking the issues of systemic inequities found in schools, police departments, and other areas of civic life.
Decision day looms on the horizon.
In one week, the Philadelphia School District will announce its plans to deal with its $81 million budget gap.
Without additional funding, Superintendent William Hite says he will be forced to choose between two bad options: either lay off 1,300 staffers, mostly teachers, or save money by shortening the school year.
This could happen by opening schools late or closing early.
Hundreds of parents, students and teachers came directly to the School Reform Commission on Thursday night to noisily challenge the District's plans to close 37 schools and reconfigure many more.
Carrying signs, chanting, shouting and interrupting, the overflow crowd made it difficult for the SRC to conduct business. More than 80 people signed up to speak, almost all to argue on behalf of individual schools and many to demand a one-year moratorium on any closings.
The Notebook is no stranger to discussions on improving the life outcomes of Black males in Philadelphia. Recent Notebook posts have examined:
the widely attended "Shifting the Numbers panel" on men of color and education.
Those more familiar with this field know that there are a number of organizations and individuals around the city doing great work on this topic, many of which fly under the radar and often don’t get support to sustain and bring their work to scale.
Which is why I was excited to hear about the creation of the new Open Society Fellowship for Black Male Achievement (BMA), in partnership with Echoing Green.
In a departure from its process during the first year of the Renaissance initiative, the District has already assigned each of the schools to one of four turnaround models, including two new variations on the District-managed Promise Academy model.
In the 2011 school year and going forward, the probability that a major financial shortfall will cripple the operations of the School District of Philadelphia is increasingly becoming a certainty.
Circumstances beyond the control of the District’s money managers will soon significantly reduce the operational income needed to fund essential instructional programs.
In order to balance a much-diminished budget, it is likely that services will be slashed. These cuts will be deep. It may be necessary to increase class sizes, reduce staff, and close schools in order to cope with the impact of this impending crisis.
The School District’s zero-tolerance discipline policy does not make school safer, creates a prison-like culture, costs money - and it keeps students “one minor mistake away from having their life turned upside down,” according to a new report.
Recently, Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman sat down for an interview with Inquirer columnist Annette John-Hall. Ackerman, who had been avoiding local media for months, emerged none-too-shy about her opinions. Her target? Former DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee:
"I don't think she was culturally competent for the community she was trying to help," Ackerman says, though she does support some of Rhee's reform. "And I don't think she took time to listen." Ackerman adds that Rhee's mistake was that she thought she could "tell somebody she knew what was good for them when she hadn't walked in their shoes."
Failure of “cultural competence” as applied to Rhee, who is Korean American, is thinly veiled code for perceived race/racism. While it might be easy for some to jump to Rhee’s defense or decry Ackerman for her own insensitivity, one has to wonder: What big city superintendent these days is culturally competent?
It’s not yet 8:30 am, it’s the Friday before Halloween, and the audience before him is made up of five- and six–year-olds.
But Mastery Charter-Smedley Elementary Principal Brian McLaughlin is not one to go off message, especially just two months into Mastery’s effort to turn around the long-struggling neighborhood elementary school in Frankford.
Penny Bender Sebring and her colleagues at the Consortium on Chicago School Research have been studying school reform in the Windy City since the 1980s. Last month at a symposium sponsored by the Public Interest Law Center she drew out some of the lessons of decades of exhaustive research, aided by panelists Deborah Meier and Torch Lytle.