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In a highly segregated system, many racial gaps
New District data reveal persistent inequities in resources and achievement
VOLUME 12, NO. 4
By Michael Churchill and Paul Socolar
The School District, in connection with the
city’s long-running desegregation case, has
released new data on the conditions of the city’s
racially segregated schools. For this and other
reasons, the time is ripe to look at race and education in Philadelphia.
A school year has passed since the School
Reform Commission adopted its “Declaration
of Education,” which committed the District
to achieving “equity in facilities, programs and
resources” in all its schools. The No Child Left
Behind Act is producing volumes of statistics
Well over a third of
students attend the 109
schools that are 90 percent
or more of one race.
comparing the achievement levels of racial and
ethnic groups. And CEO Paul Vallas is implementing an array of new programs, which he
argues will “lift all boats.”
How much have things changed? One point
of comparison is the School District’s data from
1992, which Pennsylvania Commonwealth
Court Judge Doris Smith-Ribner cited in her
landmark decision calling for action to address
glaring racial gaps she found in the District.
A review of current data suggests that after
12 years, many of those gaps remain. Here
(and in charts on pages 14-15) are some key
A highly segregated system
Philadelphia’s schools are highly segregated, and the current degree of racial segregation
Privatization - Year 4
Edison in line for
two more schools
by Paul Socolar
Three full years into the School District’s
experiment with privatization of school management, the Vallas administration this spring
showed it is willing to put new schools under
outside management as well as to introduce
new management models.
Looking to benefit from this round of
changes is Edison Schools Inc., which is poised
to add two elementary schools to its cohort –
Hartranft and Huey. But that proposal faced
some tough questions from School Reform
Commission members in May.
The District made a major shift in its own
approach to interventions in low-performing
schools, closing down its Office of Restructured Schools while launching a new “Creative
Action and Results” (CAR) region to work
with 11 schools with severe achievement,
attendance, and school climate problems. All
11 have failed to meet state targets for “adequate yearly progress” six years in a row.
See “Edison” on p. 9
Segregation & Equity
School District enrollment numbers point to the fact that for many students it is rare to find a diverse classroom in Philadelphia.
is greater than it was in 1992.
At that time the School District was about
22 percent white, 62 percent African American, 10 percent Latino, and 5 percent Asian.
In 2004, Philadelphia had 187,000 students
in public schools. Overall, African Americans
made up 65 percent of the District’s students,
Latinos and Whites were each nearly 15 percent, and Asians just over 5 percent. But these
overall percentages tell only part of the story.
Well over a third of Philadelphia students
attend the 109 schools that are 90 percent or
more of one race. All but two of those schools
are predominantly African American. Only a
handful of schools are racially balanced with
significant numbers of Whites, African Americans, and Latinos.
A total of 142 schools are 70 percent or
more African American, 12 schools are more
than 70 percent Latino, and six are more than
70 percent White.
In 1992, just over half the District’s students
attended the 134 schools that were less than 10
percent White. Today, 62 percent of students
attend the 166 schools that are less than 10 percent White.
These numbers testify to how it is hard for
many students to find diverse classrooms or
meaningful interracial experiences at school.
n Vallas promete docenas de escuelas ‘aceleradas’ para estudiantes de
Kinder a octavo grado.
“Academias de Alto Desempeño” estilo magnet este otoño; tres selectivos “Centros de
Alto Desempeño” están en planes para el
otoño de 2006; y se está trabajando en nuevos
programas de enriquecimiento para todos los
estudiantes de Kinder a octavo grado. Estos
programas de enriquecimiento estarán
disponibles este verano y durante el semestre de otoño después de las horas de escuela
y los sábados.
“Tenemos planes de acelerar el desarrollo de nuestros estudiantes más jóvenes”,
explicó el CEO Paul Vallas. “Y nuestra meta
es que para el 2008 tengamos al menos 15%
Racial gaps in achievement persist
It is difficult to track changes in achievement over time because standardized testing
practices have changed. Nevertheless, it is possible to make some comparisons of achievement gaps between races.
In 1992 in grades 1-8, the gap on the citywide reading tests between the percentage of
Whites above the national median and the percentage of African Americans above the median was 22 points. Today, African Americans as
well as Whites are scoring higher on the current
tests (the TerraNova). But the gap between their
achievement levels has increased to 27 points.
Similarly, the gap between White and
African American students’ math scores was
29 points in 1992 and is 31 points today.
Looking at the District’s most segregated
Photo: Harvey Finkle
schools, Judge Smith-Ribner reported that
between 1988 and 1991, 32 percent of students
in schools with a White population below 10
percent scored better than the national median.
On a new test in 1992, only 17 percent did. The
analysis conducted by the Public Interest Law
Center showed that on the 2004 TerraNova, 27
percent of the students in the predominantly nonwhite schools scored above the national median – better than 1992, but poorer than 1988-91.
While achievement has risen across the
See “In a highly segregated” on p. 13
Explaining our language
In analyzing school segregation and its effects,
the Notebook uses as a dividing line whether
schools have a population that is more than
10 percent White or less than 10 percent White.The latter group – schools that
are therefore 90 percent or more students of
color (African American, Latino,Asian) – are
called “predominantly nonwhite” schools
in this edition.This same dividing line was used
by the Court in Philadelphia’s desegregation case.
Escuelas magnet para algunos, enriquecimiento para todos
por Sheila Simmons
Con promesas de “oportunidades académicas de alto desempeño” para los estudiantes
de las escuelas elementales públicas de todas
las regiones de la ciudad, el Distrito Escolar
de Filadelfia ha revelado esta primavera sus
planes de crear un sistema de tres niveles con
“opciones aceleradas” para los estudiantes de
Kinder a octavo grado.
Cincuenta escuelas se convertirán en
School data
on racial
and inequality
de los estudiantes del Distrito matriculados
en programas de alto desempeño”.
Vallas predijo que el programa tendrá “un
efecto transformador en el Distrito”, y añadió
que “cuando se siembran programas de excelencia en las escuelas, siempre habrá estudiantes que lograrán un nivel de desempeño
mucho más alto que el de competencia”.
Nacionalmente los programas magnet a
menudo son criticados por sacar a los estudiantes más sobresalientes de las escuelas en
la comunidad, dejándolas con una concentración aún mayor de estudiantes en desven“Escuelas” continúa en la p. 10
Magnet schools
Equity is essential
In Our Opinion
The articles and charts in this edition of the
Notebook begin to paint a picture of the issues
facing students in Philadelphia’s most racially
segregated schools.
That picture is a deeply troubling one, especially for the 115,000 Philadelphia public school
students in schools that are 90 percent or more
students of color. The words of Commonwealth
Court Judge Doris Smith-Ribner’s 1994 court
ruling still ring true: that the right to an education “has not been made available on equal
terms to all of the students in Philadelphia’s
public schools.”
Within Philadelphia, we still have a twotiered school system. It is still revealing to
compare schools that have a population more
than 10 percent White versus those that are
less than 10 percent White. On measure after
measure, the students in schools with the
fewest White students are at a significant disadvantage.
It is true that the District has been seeing
rising test scores and an influx of new
resources – books, curriculum materials, afterschool and summer programs, programs in
high schools, and even new buildings. These
are laudable gains, but so far they have not
translated into a narrowing of key opportunity gaps for students in predominantly nonwhite
Here are some of the types of gaps you will
read about in these pages:
• In 2003-04, the schools with more than 90
percent students of color averaged twice as
many teachers who are not fully certified compared to the schools with more White students.
• In 14 predominantly nonwhite schools last
year, not a single student was identified as mentally gifted, while at some schools with more
Whites, the gifted population is 10 percent or
more of the student body.
• Fewer high schools that are predominantly nonwhite offer high-level third- and fourthyear foreign language classes than do high
schools with more White students.
It is no surprise that outcomes for students
reflect these and other opportunity gaps. For
the past three years on the statewide PSSA
exam, the percentage of African American and
Latino students scoring proficient or better has
consistently lagged 25 to 30 points below the
percentage of Whites.
Students able to qualify for selective admission magnet schools continue to be disproportionately White. The growing population in the
District’s disciplinary schools is disproportionately African American.
While the leadership has set equity goals,
CEO Paul Vallas’s approach to Philadelphia’s
school crisis is to infuse new resources into the
system citywide, based on the premise that nearly all Philadelphia schools are needy and have
high poverty rates.
The gap between city and suburban schools
Philadelphia Public School
is deep and widening, and inadequate funding
is a fundamental obstacle to making needed
changes in Philadelphia. But at the same time,
the kinds of persistent racial inequality seen
within the District are unacceptable.
Issues of race and racism in Philadelphia
schools must be addressed. Targeted investments are needed in the predominantly nonwhite schools.
To level the playing field, the critical priority should be providing superior teachers – and
principals – at predominantly nonwhite schools.
Teacher quality is probably the single most
important factor in improving students’ academic performance.
Recent increases in teacher certification and
retention rates are encouraging but are no guarantee that inadequately staffed schools will get
the quality teachers they need. The modest
financial incentives now offered are insufficient
to channel qualified, experienced teachers to
those schools in the numbers necessary. Bold
steps are needed that both increase these financial incentives and improve working conditions
by reducing class size, increasing access to mentors, and upgrading facilities for teachers in
hard-to-staff schools.
Schools with inexperienced staff are getting shortchanged. Investing in staffing at predominantly nonwhite schools is a fundamental
issue of fairness.
Beyond investing in teacher quality, closing
the gaps will require prioritizing smaller class
size, smaller schools, stronger early childhood
programs, teacher training, and curriculum
enrichment in predominantly nonwhite schools.
But while the focus should be on working
to level the playing field for racially segregated schools, confronting race problems also
means paying attention to the race relations in
all our schools.
Philadelphia is a city with great diversity.
Many of our schools are integrated institutions
and should be grappling with racial biases and
ensuring that integration is grounded on equity.
There are opportunities to foster more integration – through the location of new facilities, adjustments to attendance boundaries, or
voluntary busing – and thereby help schools
prepare students to live in a multicultural society.
Race relations are important even at schools
that are essentially 100 percent African American: there are staff who need help in developing a level of cultural competency to support
their students. Many new teachers arrive ill prepared to relate to the students they need to
engage, educate, and empower.
At every school and across the city, it is
essential to make time and create space for discussion, planning, and action to eradicate the
racial inequality that pervades this school system.
An independent quarterly newspaper – a voice
for parents, students, classroom teachers, and
others who are working for quality and equality
in Philadelphia public schools.
Editorial Board:
Michael Churchill, Yulanda Essoka,
Cristina Gutiérrez, Ajuah Helton,
Benjamin Herold, Aylese Kanze,
Clarisse Mesa, Ros Purnell, Len Rieser,
Deborah Russell-Brown, Sheila Simmons,
Toni Bynum Simpkins, Paul Socolar,
Eva Travers, Debra Weiner, Ron Whitehorne
Editor: Paul Socolar
Staff writer: Sheila Simmons
Design: Joseph Kemp
Cartoonist: Eric Joselyn
Editorial assistance: Eileen Abrams,
Joseph Blanc, Sandy Socolar
Distribution: Beandrea Davis, Lonnia Curtis
Intern: Tim McDermott
Web volunteer: Barb Smith
“Turning the page for
Leadership Board:
Ajuah Helton, Myrtle L. Naylor, Ros Purnell,
Len Rieser, Deborah Toney-Moore,
Sharon Tucker, Ron Whitehorne
Special thanks to…
Our subscribers, advertisers, and volunteers who
distribute the Notebook. Funding in part from
Bread and Roses Community Fund, CampbellOxholm Foundation, Dolfinger-McMahon
Foundation, Douty Foundation, Samuel S. Fels
Fund, Allen Hilles Fund, Philadelphia Foundation,
William Penn Foundation, Self-Education
Foundation, Washington Mutual, and the
Henrietta Tower Wurts Memorial.
Table of contents
Focus on Segregation & Equity
In a highly segregated system, many racial gaps
Philadelphia’s most segregated schools
In many areas, racial differences persist in School District
Segregation in Philadelphia schools: the past 50 years
Teacher quality inequitable in Philadelphia’s schools
Center City residents to get first dibs on some transfers
Is the pressure for educational equity still on?
Magnets for some, enrichment for all
Integrated schools, but segregated classrooms
Glimpses at success: great strides in some racially isolated schools
Community voices: some see room for improvement on equity
Opinion:Where have all the White kids gone?
About this edition
Other News & Features
Edison in line for two more schools
Remembering Miriam Hershberger
Selling the ‘Vallas model’: all a big mistake?
Notebook editorial
Letters to the editors
Eye on Special Ed
School snapshot
1, 10-11
Who ya gonna call?
News in brief
Activism around the city
On the web at www.thenotebook.or g
About the Notebook
The mission of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook is to promote informed
public involvement in the Philadelphia public schools and to contribute to the
development of a strong, collaborative movement for positive educational
change in city schools and for schools that serve all children well.The Notebook
celebrated its tenth anniversary as a newspaper in 2004.
Philadelphia Public School Notebook is a project of the New Beginnings Nonprofit
Incubator of Resources for Human Development.
Send inquiries to Philadelphia Public School Notebook, 3721 Midvale
Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19129.
Phone: 215-951-0330, ext. 107 • Fax: 215-951-0342
Email: [email protected] • Web: www.thenotebook.org
The new IDEA: special ed
law has a few key changes
by Len Rieser
It’s known as the Individuals With Disabilities Education
Improvement Act of 2004. But is “the new IDEA” really an
Actually, the biggest news about the new federal special education law may be that so much of it stayed the same.
Students with disabilities will still be entitled to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive setting. Individual-
ized education plans (IEPs), reviewed annually, will still be required for each student.
Families will have the right to hearings and
Here are some key areas where the law has
Less paperwork, but potentially stronger programs. In response to “paperwork” concerns, Congress eliminated the requirement that the IEP include
short-term objectives, except for the small number of
students who – because of complex disabilities – are taught to
“alternate standards.” But in doing this, Congress also indicated that the goals of most students with disabilities should
be in line with the standards that non-disabled students are
expected to reach.
Thus, families who want their child to take part in the regular
curriculum will find support for their position in the new law.
Also, because special education services must now be “based on
peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable,” families may
have new leverage in demanding quality programs.
Transition plans: new deadline, new assessment requirement. Congress eliminated the often-ignored requirement that a
plan for the student’s transition to adult life be developed at age 14.
Now, a transition plan is required when the school writes the IEP
that will be in effect when the child turns 16.
But Congress also made clear that the plan must be based on
actual assessments of the child’s needs in such areas as postsecondary education, employment, and independent living skills – a
new requirement that may prove helpful.
More opportunities to resolve complaints, but more complex procedures. If a family asks for a “due process hearing,” the
school must first hold a meeting to discuss the family’s concern (a
“resolution session”). Some disputes will likely be resolved this
way. Mediation services will also be available, and agreements
reached in “resolution sessions” and mediation meetings will be
enforceable in court.
At the same time, the procedures for requesting hearings have
become more complex, and an extra 30 days has been built into
the timelines to give the school an opportunity to resolve the
Protections against disability-based discrimination in school
discipline, but some relaxation of the rules. The new law keeps
many protections, including the “manifestation determination” (a
decision on whether the student’s behavior was related to the disability), and limitations on when a child may be transferred to
another school for disciplinary reasons. But Congress also changed
the wording of many of these requirements in ways that may make
it easier to move students to alternative schools. We will not know
the exact meaning of some of the changes until the government
issues new regulations – and perhaps not even then, since the
courts may have to weigh in on some points.
Stronger teacher preparation. All special education teachers must now have full special education certification; an emergency or temporary certificate isn’t enough. Special education
teachers must also have a strong background in their subject
matter. For example, most special education teachers of “core”
subjects – such as English or math – at the middle- or highschool level will now need to be certified in at least one of those
subjects, and “highly qualified” in any other subjects that they
teach. Teachers who teach only students with complex disabilities must meet different requirements, but must still demonstrate academic competence.
Stronger focus on disadvantaged groups. The new law contains provisions to support children who are homeless, in foster
homes, or otherwise highly mobile. The law also requires more
data on the overidentification of children of color, as well as on
suspension and expulsion rates for children with disabilities (broken down by racial and ethnic group).
There’s lots more information on the Internet. Useful sites
include www.ncset.org/idea.asp and www.ed.gov (the U. S. Department of Education; go to the “Office of Special Education and
Rehabilitative Services”). The U. S. Department of Education is
also holding public meetings in New York (June 24) and Washington, D.C. (July 12) to gather input on proposed new federal
special education regulations.
Len Rieser is co-director of the Education Law Center.
Photo: YUC
Mastbaum sophomore Blair Scott was one of the emcees for a public action hosted May 18 by the Youth United for Change chapter at Mastbaum, where students won commitments to change discipline practices at the school. An agreed upon platform – signed
by Principal Wendy Shapiro and District high school administrator Reuben Yarmus – commits the school to adopt peer mediators
in the Dean’s office, professional development around effective discipline, teacher evaluations on discipline-handling, a Friday
“dress down” day, and an in-school suspension program, for which the District announced it was allocating $40,000.
Letters to the editors
‘Business model’ has failed schools
To the editors:
At the turn of the twentieth century, the purpose of education was widely understood to prepare people for participation
as citizens in the United States of America. A new public high
school somewhere in this country was being opened each day.
This led to the development of the United States as the wealthiest, most powerful, most educated nation on the planet.
Somewhere along the line our mission for education changed.
Instead of developing citizens, we began to develop employees.
Instead of focusing on neighborhood schools, we developed the
factory model of education – warehousing our students into giant
buildings, taking them away from neighborhoods, focusing on
cost containment rather than on education.
The SRC recognizes that method has not worked. It now
seeks to build smaller neighborhood schools. The Commission
is correct, but the cost of failure due to following the business
model cannot be calculated.
In the meantime, the SRC is still bent on following the business model, instilling competition and privatizing our schools.
The SRC in staff professional development has insisted we
become data-driven. The data over the past three years of privatization in Philadelphia show that District-run schools have
generally improved test scores more than privately managed
schools, even though the privately managed schools all receive
extra funding.
How long will citizens allow this to continue?
Keith Newman
[email protected]
AYP Game: a great resource
To the editors:
I had the good fortune of receiving a copy of your poster
Making AYP: The Game. This publication is without a doubt
the best overview of Adequate Yearly Progress requirements
and implications for educators throughout Pennsylvania.
I believe this is a resource that needs to be provided for all
teachers within the middle school of which I am principal. This
overview will certainly help our teachers establish a clear focus
and instructional goals to ensure success for all students.
Dr. Francis X. Antonelli, Principal
Heights Terrace Elementary/Middle School, Hazleton, PA
es to the military. But we have the right to “opt out” – to refuse
to have the school release that information.
The Global Women’s Strike and Payday have launched a
grassroots campaign to inform students and parents of the right
to opt out, and to demand that money going to war and prisons go
instead to caregivers, youth and communities. Our schools,
libraries, public services and communities are suffering from lack
of resources, while billions are spent on war and occupation.
The military is stepping up its recruitment effort and putting
the squeeze on students because massive opposition to the war
and occupation in Iraq has meant that young people are not
enlisting, even during a period of economic hardship.
No one wants to see their son’s or daughter’s life wasted as
cannon fodder. Students and parents are organizing in different ways across the country against recruitment and militarization of schools, and for resources and community control:
• Students in Montclair, N.J., got 80 percent of their parents
to opt out.
• In a Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles, a demonstration
of parents and community members blocked the car of retired
General Tommy Franks when they learned that he was speaking to fifth-grade students.
• Students in many Philadelphia schools are organizing optout efforts.
We invite you to be in touch with us at 215-848-1120. A
“toolkit” on opting out can be found at www.youthandthemilitary.org. Let us know what you are doing and get involved!
Pat Albright
Global Women’s Strike
[email protected]
Editors’ note: “Making AYP: The Game,” which appeared
in the Notebook’s Winter 2004-05 edition, was a combined effort
of the Notebook and Research for Action (RFA), as part of RFA’s
Learning from Philadelphia’s School Reform Project. Copies of
a free, glossy wall poster of the game produced by RFA can be
obtained by visiting www.researchforaction.org, or writing
Research for Action, 3701 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.
Opting out of military recruitment
To the editors:
Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act requires schools that get
federal funds to give students’ home phone numbers and address-
What’s YOUR opinion?
We want to know!
Write a letter to
Philadelphia Public School Notebook at:
3721 Midvale Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19129
Fax: 215-951-0342
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.thenotebook.org/contact
Selling the ‘Vallas model’: all a big mistake?
n A consultant’s apology for
overstating his firm’s relationship to Vallas left some questions unanswered.
By Sheila Simmons and Paul Socolar
In a school district buzzing with educational
entrepreneurs test-marketing their brands of
educational products, perhaps it was only a
matter of time before one of them hit upon the
bright idea to try to “brand” and market Paul
Vallas himself, Philadelphia’s prominent and
much-heralded CEO.
But that bright idea turned into a fiasco this
spring, when the branding scheme surfaced on
the web – apparently without having first
obtained Vallas’s permission for the site,
designed to market “The Vallas model” of
school reform.
After inquiries from a Notebook reporter,
the web pages marketing Vallas’s reform
approach were disavowed by all parties and
were quickly taken down. District spokesperson Cecelia Cummings said the District had
threatened legal action if the website was not
taken down immediately. She asserted that Vallas had not authorized the use of his name or
the marketing of his reform model and had no
financial involvement.
Then the culprit apologized, saying it was
all a big “mistake.”
But what makes this marketing snafu
intriguing is that this “culprit” was not just any
two-bit salesman, but a consulting firm with
connections to Vallas and to Princeton Review,
a key District service provider.
The website touting Vallas belonged to
Solomon Consulting Services, Inc., or SCS, a
Chicago-based company offering services to
school districts looking to boost student
SCS is headed by Gary Solomon. Solomon
is also the lead consultant in Philadelphia for
Princeton Review, one of the District’s largest
educational services contractors, providing $6
million in services to the
District this year. And
Solomon also has a key
role in St. Louis, where he
was hired to lead the transition team of that district’s
recently appointed schools
chief, Creg Williams, a key administrator under
Vallas in both Philadelphia and Chicago.
SCS’s “senior advisor,” according to a published report, is Phil Hansen, Princeton
Review’s national director for urban schools,
former chief accountability officer for the
Chicago schools and a key advisor to Vallas –
so trusted that Vallas recently turned to him for
management support in the School District’s
accountability office, despite his work for a
major private contractor monitored by that
Both Solomon and Hansen continue to represent Princeton Review with the District.
describing the creation of the SCS site. SolTyra
said its work with SCS began “when some of
the most successful leaders in educational
A new SCS site (www.solomonconsultinginc.com) with no direct references to Vallas,
team members, or clients was posted a few
days later.
The “exclusive rights”
page was “a mistake,”
Solomon said in a May
interview, and was never
approved by Vallas. He
insisted the web design was
one of “about 25 concepts” that SolTyra
pitched, and he vetoed. He said the web design
was also supposed to be located “behind a firewall and was completely secure on [the
SolTyra] design site.”
After inquiries from a reporter, the web pages
marketing Vallas’s reform approach were
disavowed by all parties and taken down.
reform came together to form a for-profit enterprise upon the exclusive rights to Paul Vallas’
This web page about exclusive rights to the
“Vallas model” on the SolTyra site also disappeared from the web shortly after a Notebook
interview with Solomon, as did references to
a purported SolTyra marketing contract with
four Philadelphia public schools.
Tracing the birth of an idea
To date, nobody has shed light on what
See “Selling” on p. 5
Bogus claims
Before it was taken down on April 28, the
SCS website was full of stories about the successes of Paul Vallas. The site referred to both
the Chicago Public Schools and the School District of Philadelphia as “our clients” and displayed charts of rising test scores in both cities
under Vallas’s leadership, even though Solomon
subsequently admitted his firm had no contracts with those districts. The SCS site also
listed a “Team” that read like a “who’s who”
of close Vallas associates from Chicago and
Philadelphia, several of whom since have said
they never authorized Solomon’s use of their
But most surprising was the claim published
by Solomon’s Chicago-based web design firm,
SolTyra Inc., in a promotional web page
Selling the ‘Vallas model’
continued from p. 4
conversations took place among Vallas’s associates about marketing the “Vallas model.”
Nor is it clear why the concept developed into
a full-fledged Solomon Consulting Services
website that had over 20 positive articles
about Vallas, including recently published
stories from the national media.
Pressed to explain the SCS website’s highlighting of Vallas, Solomon stated, “As I understand it, Paul [Vallas] is the first to admit that
he encourages members of his team to take
credit for the reform that happens in the districts that he’s worked.”
Staff at web designer SolTyra did not respond
to requests for comment on the website.
Princeton Review, meanwhile, offered a prepared statement on the incident. “It seems that
SCS inadvertently exposed an internal proposal
to the outside world,” company officials wrote.
“As we understand it, the site was a work-inprogress, and overstated a relationship with the
School District of Philadelphia and its CEO.
We understand that there is no business relationship between the District and Vallas and
The company added, “We have nothing but
respect for Gary [Solomon] and Phil [Hansen]
and, to the best of our knowledge, nothing about
their venture should affect our relationship with
the district.”
In a follow-up interview, Vallas stressed his
discomfort with an unauthorized use of his
name, but seemed ready to put the marketing
snafu by Solomon – a five-year veteran with
Princeton Review in Chicago – behind him.
“He made an apology that I have accepted,”
Vallas said. “I am comfortable continuing a professional relationship with Gary Solomon.”
But Vallas offers little insight into origins
of the marketing of the Vallas model on the
SCS website. “We have no idea,” District
spokesperson Cummings said.
Standards for contractors
But does the incident have any implications
for Princeton Review or others doing business
with the District or wanting to take credit for
District accomplishments?
With questions being asked about the relationship between Vallas and key personnel representing Princeton Review in Philadelphia,
some District insiders reported a lack of competitive bidding on Princeton Review’s contracts.
As the privatization of educational services
has surged in Philadelphia since the state
takeover, the need to develop and monitor performance standards for contractors and to provide the public with information have been
areas of public concern.
Vallas said there is a process for contractors
who want to publish claims of success in
Philadelphia, requiring them to first contact the
District and have their claims validated.
He added, “Princeton Review has been
made to adhere to the same requirements for
contract consideration as all other vendors.”
He noted a contract bid by the company in 2003
that was denied.
“The District’s relationship with Princeton
Review is based on performance and the ability to deliver quality programs that benefit District students,” the CEO asserted. He said the
company’s extended day math programs had
brought strong academic gains.
Vallas also observed that the company’s first
contract with the District, for $160,000, predated his arrival in Philadelphia.
Princeton Review’s current $6 million in
contracts cover the summer school program,
afterschool curriculum, test preparation, and
also small schools transition services at four
schools. The securing of this latter contract
came under public criticism earlier this year
from small schools advocates in Philadelphia
because organizations such as the Big Picture
Company and KnowledgeWorks that are
known specifically for their small schools
expertise were not tapped by the District.
Alex Molnar, a professor at Arizona State
University who monitors business involvement
in education, warned of a growing need to grapple with unscrupulous marketing practices. “We
have plenty of examples of for-profit firms
bending the boundaries of ethics in public education, by importing practices from the business community, which are standard practices
in the business community,” he said.
“And what is happening is we have a whole
industry being created which relies almost
entirely on public funds, which is largely operating outside of effective public oversight,”
Molnar concluded.
Contact Notebook education writer Sheila
Simmons at [email protected] or editor Paul Socolar at [email protected].
Who ya gonna call?
School District of Philadelphia
State Senators
Paul Vallas (Chief Executive Officer): 215-299-7823
Vincent J. Fumo (D): 215-468-3866
Christine Tartaglione (D): 215-533-0440
School Reform Commission
Shirley M. Kitchen (D): 215-457-9033
James E. Nevels: 215-299-7916
Michael J. Stack (D): 215-281-2539
Martin Bednarek: 215-299-3597
Vincent Hughes (D): 215-471-0490
Sandra Dungee Glenn: 215-299-7799
Anthony Hardy Williams (D): 215-492-2980
James P. Gallagher: 215-299-2917
State Representatives
Daniel J. Whelan: 215-299-7660
Louise Williams Bishop (D): 215-879-6625
U.S. Congress
Thomas Blackwell (D): 215-748-7808
Senator Arlen Specter (R): 215-597-7200
Alan L. Butkovitz (D): 215-335-2521
Senator Rick Santorum (R): 215-864-6900
Mark B. Cohen (D): 215-924-0895
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D): 215-387-6404
Angel Cruz (D): 215-291-5643
Rep. Robert Brady (D): 215-389-4627
Lawrence H. Curry (D): 215-572-5210
Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D):215-742-8140
Robert C. Donatucci (D): 215-468-1515
City of Philadelphia
Dwight Evans (D): 215-549-0220
Mayor John Street (D): 215-686-2181
Harold James (D): 215-462-3308
City Council Members-At-Large
Babette Josephs (D): 215-893-1515
(elected citywide)
William F. Keller (D): 215-271-9190
David Cohen (D): 215-686-3446
George T. Kenney, Jr. (R): 215-934-5144
W. Wilson Goode, Jr. (D): 215-686-3414
Marie A. Lederer (D): 215-426-6604
Jack Kelly (R): 215-686-3452
Kathy Manderino (D): 215-482-8726
James F. Kenney (D): 215-686-3450
Michael P. McGeehan (D): 215-333-9760
Juan Ramos (D): 215-686-3420
John Myers (D): 215-849-6896
Blondell Reynolds Brown (D): 215-686-3438
Dennis M. O’Brien (R): 215-632-5150
Frank Rizzo (R): 215-686-3440
Frank L. Oliver (D): 215-684-3738
District City Council Members
John M. Perzel (R): 215-331-2600
Frank DiCicco (D): 215-686-3458
William W. Rieger (D): 215-223-1501
Anna Verna (D): 215-686-3412
James R. Roebuck (D): 215-724-2227
Jannie L. Blackwell (D): 215-686-3418
John J. Taylor (R): 215-425-0901
Michael A. Nutter (D): 215-686-3416
W. Curtis Thomas (D): 215-232-1210
Darrell L. Clarke (D): 215-686-3442
LeAnna Washington (D): 215-242-0472
Joan L. Krajewski (D): 215-686-3444
Ronald G. Waters (D): 215-748-6712
Richard Mariano (D): 215-686-3448
Jewell Williams (D): 215-229-9594
Donna Reed Miller (D): 215-686-3424
Rosita C. Youngblood (D): 215-849-6426
Marian B. Tasco (D): 215-686-3454
To find out which District City Council member, State Senator,
Brian J. O’Neill (R): 215-686-3422
and State Representative represents you, call the League of
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Women Voters at 1-800-692-7281, ext. 10.
Governor Edward Rendell (D): 717-787-2500
A participatory model
for small high schools
Educator and small schools advocate Dennis Littky called for participation in transforming the city’s persistently low-performing high schools during his
April appearance at the Philadelphia Education Fund.
Littky highlighted the celebrated Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (The
Met) he co-founded in 1996, in Providence, R.I.
The Met is a cluster of progressive small public high schools whose participatory model is
being replicated nationwide through a series of
schools overseen by Littky’s organization, the
Big Picture Company.
“Philadelphia,” Littky urged, “is as good a
place as any to start a school based on The Met
Center model. Anyone and everyone can be
Tim Jenkins, who will be the principal of a
Big Picture Company school set to open this fall
in Camden, accompanied Littky.
Littky said that normally, students describe
school as boring, and even more disturbing, society knows it.
The Met provides students with what they
feel is a more relevant life experience,
Littky said. Rather than evaluating students by tests, Met schools emphasize
development of real-life skills with
internships, portfolios, and oral presentations.
At The Met, there are no bells, no police presence, and no violence, Littky said.
Littky credited the Met’s 15 to 1 student/
advisor ratio that allows students to be in situations where they are known. Advisors stay with
the same group of students for all four years. A
staff of specialists helps students with learning
At the heavily low-income-student school in
Providence, which serves mostly students of color,
100 percent of graduates have been accepted into
colleges, with 80 percent going on to attend.
–Tim McDermott
In Brief
Activists pursue limits
on sales of handguns
In recent months, community groups and
elected officials concerned about gun-related
violence in Philadelphia and its effect on school
children have been taking aim at gun trafficking in Pennsylvania.
Community and antiviolence groups in April
participated in a motorcade and walking procession that concluded at Colosimo’s Gun Shop,
at 9th and Spring Garden streets, which data
show is the leading seller of guns recovered
from Philadelphia crime scenes.
Sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Interfaith Peace Network, the event included participants from CeaseFire PA, Mothers in Charge
and the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.
Antiviolence activists contend the city
remains a hot market for gun-selling, drawing
buyers from New York and New Jersey.
Groups like Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project (EPOP) have been trying to
amass support from the region’s clergy for legislation that would limit handgun purchases in
Pennsylvania to one per month.
Pennsylvania State Rep. John Myers (DPhila.) has introduced such legislation in Harrisburg.
Meanwhile, EPOP leader Fran McFadden
said organizers have been meeting with local
fewer barriers to education, and for English
elected officials to encourage the city to purlanguage learners, there are more opportunisue additional federal fundties for learning.
ing for the police presence
Meanwhile, the number of
around schools.
families who have contacted
She said the city had been
ELC to speak with a “real
particularly hard-hit by the
lawyer” for advice on “everyTHE CITY
inability to fill vacant posithing from residency problems
tions that must be held for about 100 local
to graduation requirements, special education
police officers on active military duty.
to charter schools, teacher-quality issues to
“Homeland security starts at home,”
Title 1 dollars,” now counts well over 100,000.
McFadden offered. “The safety of our children
“What we’ve done is fought for those popis at stake.”
ulations of kids and made a difference in ensuring that the system set up to protect those kids
Contact EPOP at 215-634-8922.
is respected, and the special services needed
by them to learn and reach higher levels are
made available,” Janet Stotland, ELC co-director, said during a recent interview.
The nonprofit legal advocacy organization,
The Education Law Center (ELC) is markin Center City, has offices in Philadelits
and Pittsburgh.
ebration. But the most telling measure of the
celebration will
center’s milestone may be the tens of thoutake
at 5:30 p.m., at
sands of lives made stronger by the legal batMontgomery,
Walker, and
tles ELC has won for vulnerable children.
The evening’s agenda includes honors for
wait two months to enroll in a new school, and
rights advocates the Landsman Famwith
groups Philadelphia Student
attend regular kindergarten, where they’ve
United for Change, and finalbeen found to thrive.
Rieser, the organization’s
Education Law Center
celebrates milestone
co-directors. For more information, go to
www.elc-pa.org or call 215-238-6970.
Parents, staff protest
child care center closings
Saying the all-day services have proven to
be a saving grace for working parents who
can’t afford quality, private child care and for
teen mothers struggling to stay in school,
dozens of clients and staff members in May
spoke out against a District plan to phase out
its 45 Comprehensive Early Learning Centers.
As some parents and staff picketed outside
the School Administration building, others
pleaded in emotional testimony to the School
Reform Commission to vote down a District
proposal to suspend a section of the school
code that prohibits closing of the centers.
“We believe Comprehensive Early Learning Centers are a winner,” said Sharon Ward,
director of child care policy for Philadelphia
Citizens for Children and Youth. Pointing to
studies documenting the effectiveness of
these services, Ward added, “The School
District operates the finest early child care
in the city.”
Vallas stated that the centers, serving 1,400
children, are costing $19,000 per child and that
centers are losing children to private providers.
The District seeks to get out of the expensive
infant and toddler business, while expanding
its school-day services to three- and four-yearolds, which would allow it to provide services
to an additional 2,000 children, Vallas said.
Vallas said its replacement program, called
Bright Futures, was modeled after the Head
Start program. It will serve 3,400 children,
employ certified staff, and contain a parenting
The 200 or so infants and toddlers now
served will be directed to private providers,
with reimbursement from the state, Vallas said.
About 200 employees will be displaced by the
What the Bright Futures program won’t do,
See “Activism” on p. 9
Edison in line for more
continued from p. 1
The CAR region will use a “case study”
approach, tailoring specific interventions for
each particular school, District officials said.
Temple University is facing a diminished
role as the District moved to place two Temple “partnership schools” (Ferguson and
Meade) in its new CAR Region. Two of the
other six Temple-led schools (Wanamaker and
Elverson) are closing this year. Elverson will
be reopening as a military high school.
In offering two more schools to Edison, the
Vallas administration gave the controversial
for-profit school manager a boost at a time
when the company was being buffeted by new
scandals and a flurry of contract terminations
nationally affecting at least 20 Edison schools.
It has been an especially rough year for Edison in Chester, where the company is pulling
out of its eight schools at the end of the school
year. One Edison principal was dismissed over
a cheating revelation and another, at Chester
High School, is being investigated for a possible sex crime.
Elsewhere, two Michigan districts with
clusters of Edison schools, Inkster and Flint,
are not renewing their contracts with the company, according to news reports. Schools in
York, Rochester, Miami, Worcester, MA, and
Springfield, IL are also reported to be ending
their contracts with Edison.
In Philadelphia, Edison has seen diminishing revenues from its contract with the District. The District’s education management
organizations, or EMOs, are paid based on the
number of students served. One Edison school
– Stoddart-Fleisher – will be closing this year,
and overall enrollment at Edison’s 20 schools
is down by 15 percent since 2002, according to
District data.
An SRC vote on the resolution for Edison
to manage Huey and Hartranft was postponed
May 18 so that commissioners could review
more information. Commissioner Sandra
Dungee Glenn said she is “skeptical about the
value-added that the EMOs have brought.”
“Are we seeing gains in their schools that
would justify the resources we’re spending?”
Glenn asked. Edison and other EMOs receive
$750 extra per student.
Explaining his recommendation to tap Edison, Chief Academic Officer Gregory Thornton noted that both schools had been under the
Office of Restructured Schools and said their
lack of progress called for ongoing support,
including “an intensive focus in the area of literacy.”
According to Thornton, Edison “had the
structures for this particular case. If it was a
straight middle school, I probably wouldn’t
have done Edison.”
Thornton said he saw Victory, Edison and
Universal as the three EMOs so far that are
making “substantive gains – gains parallel to
the District’s.” But he added, “From a
researcher’s standpoint, it’s really too soon to
say who are the winners and who are the
continued from p. 7
affected parents argued, is open at 6:30 a.m.
and stay open until 6 p.m., extended hours
that allow parents a schedule that accommodates both work and school.
Before voting on the phase-out, the School
Reform Commission sought more information on the impact of the shorter hours, as well
as on the locations of the District's current and
planned centers.
Escuelas magnet para algunos, enriquecimiento para todos
continúa de la p. 1
taja, que tienen mayor probabilidad de manifestar serias batallas académicas y de comportamiento. Durante la década de 1990, los
programas estilo magnet del Distrito estuvieron
bajo escrutinio en el caso legal sobre desegregación del Distrito Escolar, en el que la Juez
Doris Smith-Ribner encontró que había poca
representación de estudiantes afroamericanos
Las escuelas tipo
magnet ganaron
popularidad en las
décadas de 1970 y 1980
como un instrumento
de desegregación.
y latinos en ese tipo de escuelas.
Por lo tanto, algunos observadores dudan
que los beneficios de estos nuevos programas
vayan a ser compartidos equitativamente.
Vallas ve la iniciativa como una expansión
drástica a las opciones para los estudiantes que
ayudará a reducir el éxodo de las escuelas
públicas de Filadelfia. Las iniciativas de escuelas especializadas tipo magnet, que estarán en
cada una de las regiones, abarcarán una tercera parte de las escuelas de Kinder a octavo
grado del Distrito.
“Cuando la marea sube, levanta todos los
barcos”, comentó él.
“Lo que hace atractiva a una escuela para
quienes tienen medios económicos para matricular a sus hijos en otras instituciones son las
mismas cosas que van a lograr que las escuelas sean mejores para los demás estudiantes
que no tienen esas opciones”, dijo.
Las escuelas magnet y la clasificación
Las escuelas tipo magnet ganaron popularidad en las décadas de 1970 y 1980 como
un instrumento de desegregación que podía
atraer “como un imán” a estudiantes de otros
vecindarios por concentrarse en temas únicos
o especializaciones académicas específicas.
Sin embargo, por los criterios de
admisión o el simple hecho de que solamente
atraen a algunos estudiantes, las escuelas
magnet representan un tipo de “clasificación”
de estudiantes – es decir, clasificar a los estudiantes en diferentes rutas académicas en
base a la habilidad o motivación percibida.
“Muchos estudios demuestran que este tipo
de clasificación afecta negativamente a todos,
excepto a los estudiantes de mayor desem-
peño”, señaló la ex-funcionaria de igualdad
del Distrito Escolar Katherine Conner, “porque
la experiencia de aquellos que no están en ese
nivel de excelencia es que las expectativas de
los maestros son mucho más bajas. Como los
maestros esperan menos de ellos, el contenido
académico es de mucho menos desafío, y por
lo tanto no les dan suficiente tiempo para hacer
el trabajo. Además, las evaluaciones de los
maestros no son suficientemente específicas”.
Aunque reconoce que su organización, la
Unión de Estudiantes de Filadelfia, no tiene
una postura oficial sobre las escuelas magnet,
el director ejecutivo Eric Braxton comentó que
“Hace mucho tiempo que estamos preocupados
porque el enfoque sobre las escuelas magnet
no hace nada para mejorar la calidad de educación para todos los estudiantes”.
Actualmente, la mayoría de las 30 escuelas magnet o escuelas con criterios selectivos
de admisión en el Distrito son escuelas superiores.
Los estudios de investigación sobre las
escuelas superiores magnet que hizo la profesora Ruth Curran Neild de la Universidad
de Pensilvania encontraron que, aunque las
escuelas superiores magnet de Filadelfia tenían
diversidad racial, el movimiento de estudiantes
sí resultó en un mayor grado de aislamiento
racial y segregación económica en la mayoría
de las escuelas superiores de la comunidad.
En Filadelfia, el impacto de la clasificación
se intensifica cuando los estudiantes salen de
la escuela elemental, y muchos estudiantes
buscan entrar en escuelas intermedias magnet
tales como la Masterman. Al expandir drásticamente su programa de escuelas elementales
magnet, la iniciativa del Distrito crea la posibilidad de que haya más clasificación en etapas
cada vez más tempranas de la vida de los estudiantes.
Criterios de admisión
Los funcionarios del Distrito dicen que los
criterios selectivos de admisión solamente se
institucionarán en los tres nuevos “Centros de
Alto Desempeño” para los grados Kinder a
octavo, que se enfocarán en matemáticas y
ciencia, artes plásticas y de representación, y
en aeronáutica y ciencias aeroespaciales.
Estas tres escuelas darán servicio a los estudiantes de los vecindarios aledaños, quienes serán
seleccionados “en base a múltiples criterios, que
incluyen el desempeño académico, la creatividad, y el interés, talento y compromiso que hayan
demostrado”, y también ofrecerán matrícula a
“estudiantes de toda la ciudad mientras haya
cabida”, de acuerdo a la descripción del programa que ofrece el Distrito.
Vallas dijo que las políticas de admisión
Foto: Harvey Finkle
'Tenemos planes de acelerar el desarrollo de nuestros estudiantes más jóvenes', explicó el CEO Paul Vallas.
que actualmente están en vigencia en cada una
de las 50 escuelas Academia – ya sea por vivir
en la comunidad, por lotería o por criterios
selectivos de admisión – no van a cambiar por
el momento.
Las 50 “Academias de Alto Desempeño”
para estudiantes de grados elementales e intermedios reflejarán uno de cinco diferentes
• 15 escuelas Emerging Scholars: Este
modelo, creado por el Distrito, le permite a los
maestros observar las mejores prácticas, están
enfocadas en los puntos fuertes del estudiante,
y funcionan en base al currículo central del
Distrito. Utilizará los acuerdos de colaboración
con la comunidad e incorporará varios programas de enriquecimiento.
• 10 escuelas de Bachillerato Internacional
(International Baccalaureate, IB): Estas escuelas tienen un enfoque internacional, se concentran en las relaciones de los estudiantes con
su propia identidad nacional y las tradiciones
culturales de los demás. Los estudiantes
comienzan a aprender un idioma extranjero a
los 7 años.
• 10 escuelas Montessori: Los estudiantes
en una escuela Montessori aprenden del ambiente y de sus compañeros mientras los maestros les guían a “investigar y explorar”. Los
estudiantes diseñan contratos para equilibrar
el trabajo y aprenden a manejar el tiempo y
educar su carácter.
• 10 escuelas SpringBoard: Modelo
diseñado por el College Board en base a sus
“Estándares para tener éxito en la Universidad”. Estas escuelas ponen énfasis en las
matemáticas, lectura y escritura para participar en programas avanzados (Advanced Placement, AP) que preparan al estudiante para tener
éxito en sus estudios universitarios.
• 5 escuelas University Lab: Estas escuelas aprovechan los recursos académicos de universidades que colaboran en el programa. Su
currículo abarca mucho más que las materias
básicas, a diferencia de las escuelas que actualmente tienen programas de colaboración con
Las primeras 13 escuelas anfitrionas del
programa Emerging Scholars se anunciaron
en marzo. Vallas dijo que lo colocó estratégicamente en escuelas que ya se habían identificado para desegregación, para así permitir
que el Distrito aprovechara las rutas de autobús ya existentes. Las escuelas para el programa Emerging Scholars también se seleccionaron en base a cuán aptas son para cumplir
con las exigencias del programa y a su ubicación geográfica.
Las escuelas elementales pueden solicitar
ser anfitrionas de una Academia mediante uno
de los otros cuatro modelos.
Las escuelas seleccionadas para el programa Emerging Scholars son escuelas cuyas puntuaciones en los exámenes PSSA de matemáticas y lectura fueron entre un poco y bastante
más altas que el promedio del Distrito.
Aunque las escuelas del programa
Emerging Scholars tienen una diversidad
geográfica y racial casi igual a la del Distrito,
la mayoría de las 13 escuelas tienen un promedio de estudiantes de bajos recursos mucho
menor que el del Distrito – una diferencia de
20% o más.
La escuela Kearny, que tiene 80% de estudiantes de bajos recursos, es la única en que
el porcentaje de pobreza es casi igual o excede
el promedio del Distrito, que es 71%.
Enriquecimiento para todos
Vallas dijo que a partir de este verano, todos
los estudiantes de Kinder a octavo grado tendrán la oportunidad de beneficiarse del programa de $4 millones del Distrito “Oportunidades de Alto Desempeño”, disponible
después de la escuela, los sábados y durante
el verano.
Según explica el Distrito, el programa consistirá de una hora de enseñanza académica y
una hora de enriquecimiento diseñadas con el
propósito de preparar a los estudiantes “de
desempeño académico promedio” para
enfrentar los conceptos matemáticos de mayor
nivel; y un programa internacional y creativo
de resolución de problemas que utilizará desde
construcción mecánica hasta interpretación literaria.
Traducción por Mildred S. Martínez.
¿Se está haciendo presión todavía para la igualdad racial?
n Suspendida la supervisión
de las cortes; el impulso para
la igualdad puede provenir del
Distrito o de la comunidad.
Por Paul Socolar y Len Rieser
Mejorar las escuelas públicas es el “problema de derechos civiles del siglo XXI”, dijo
el CEO Paul Vallas poco después de llegar a
Filadelfia. Muchos residentes de Filadelfia
están de acuerdo, y señalan el contraste entre
las condiciones de las escuelas en la ciudad
(donde la mayoría de los estudiantes son de
color), y las condiciones en los suburbios
(donde la mayoría de los estudiantes son blancos).
Sin embargo, existe otro problema de derechos civiles – dentro de las escuelas de la ciudad. En una decisión que fue causa de noticia
cuando se emitió en 1994, la Juez de la Corte
estatal Doris Smith-Ribner encontró que el
Distrito Escolar en sí era “un ambiente escolar
racialmente segregado en el que no todos los
estudiantes reciben las mismas oportunidades
Las víctimas, escribió la Juez SmithRibner, eran los estudiantes afroamericanos
y latinos, especialmente en las escuelas con
una mayoría de estudiantes de color. Estos
niños, encontró ella, no tenían “acceso igual
a... los maestros más cualificados y de más
experiencia, las mismas facilidades y planteles, acceso igual a cursos avanzados o de
admisión especial, asignación equitativa de
recursos, o al compromiso para eliminar los
desequilibrios raciales en las escuelas al
mayor grado posible”.
Por gran parte de la década pasada, la juez
fue una participante clave del sistema de escuelas públicas de Filadelfia y usó sus poderes
para ponerle presión al Distrito en asuntos de
igualdad racial. Pero ahora que el caso sobre
desegregación se aproxima a su final, ¿qué
otras fuerzas en pro de la igualdad en el Distrito o en la comunidad asegurarán que los
esfuerzos para proporcionar oportunidades
iguales de educación continúen?
Impacto de la corte
En 1994, la Juez Smith-Ribner actuó rápidamente para preparar un plan de reforma. El
nuevo superintendente, David Hornbeck, anunció que aceptaba con gusto la supervisión de
la corte. Por muchos años, el Distrito visitó
frecuentemente la corte para reportar los pasos
que se estaban tomando para resolver las
desigualdades raciales.
Michael Churchill, el abogado director del
Centro de Leyes de Interés Público en
Filadelfia que representó a grupos comunitarios en el caso, notó que “La corte logró que
el Distrito se asegurara de que las escuelas
racialmente aisladas no fueran las últimas en
obtener programas de día completo para
Kinder, tecnologías de computadoras y otros
recursos. Algunas de las desigualdades importantes se redujeron bajo la supervisión de la
Sin embargo, la presión que ejercía la
decisión de la corte no duró mucho. Cuando
la juez tomó la decisión no usual de ordenar
que el estado pagara por las mejoras en las
escuelas predominantemente no blancas del
Distrito, la Corte Suprema de Pensilvania
revocó su orden.
Por no tener más fondos del estado, mantuvo el Distrito, ya no podría reducir el tamaño
de las clases, aumentar el adiestramiento de
maestros ni asumir otros gastos fuertes necesarios para eliminar por completo las diferencias que la Juez Smith-Ribner había identificado. Los recursos necesarios para lograr
tanto la igualdad como la calidad ya no
estarían disponibles, y la reforma comenzó a
Hornbeck renunció a su puesto en el 2000,
y 18 tumultuosos meses después, el estado
tomó las riendas del Distrito. Se creó la
Comisión para la Reforma Escolar y llegó el
CEO Paul Vallas, trayendo consigo nuevas
agendas para mejorar las escuelas. Las órdenes
Foto: Harvey Finkle
La diferencia en recursos disponibles para las escuelas de la ciudad y de los suburbios es grandísima. Dentro de Filadelfia, algunas escuelas están en una situación
aún peor.
de la Juez Smith-Ribner ya no eran el centro
de atención, y el Distrito buscó finalizar el
En un compromiso logrado el año pasado,
las partes acordaron que el caso se mantendría
abierto por tres años más. Durante este tiempo, el Distrito habría de
reportar sus actividades
una vez al año,
enfocándose en si estaba eliminando o no las
diferencias raciales en
desempeño y en si estaba o no repartiendo los
recursos de manera
justa, pero la corte no
tomaría ninguna acción.
(La mayoría de los
datos en esta edición
provienen del primer
reporte que dio el Distrito.) A menos que una
de las partes convenza a la corte de lo contrario, el caso terminará en 2007.
Ahora que se suspendió la supervisión del
Distrito por parte de la corte, los que están
preocupados por la desigualdad racial están
buscando otras maneras para poder fiscalizar
el sistema. Hay otro caso federal pendiente y
separado que alega que el estado ha gastado
fondos de manera discriminatoria, pero también está suspendido mientras las partes reexaminan las tendencias más recientes de
gasto de fondos en todo el estado.
el Distrito responda a asuntos de igualdad,
actualmente tiene solamente dos empleados.
El enfoque de Vallas ha sido mejorar a nivel
de sistema, tratando de evitar lo que él describe
como “una dinámica en la que las comunidades con escuelas relativamente pobres y
de pocos fondos se
pelean entre sí, cuando el problema estriba en un asunto de
mayor importancia:
cuán inadecuadas son
las fórmulas para la
asignación de fondos
a las escuelas”.
Vallas explicó que,
“Yo actúo en base a la
premisa de que todas
nuestras escuelas
tienen deficiencias –
se ha descubierto que todas nuestras escuelas
tienen problemas en cuanto a la condición física de los edificios, la contratación de personal, la inversión en el currículo, instrucción y
desarrollo profesional, y a las actividades
En relación a otros dos grandes asuntos
de igualdad que enfrenta el Distrito – cómo
rectificar el inmenso desequilibrio racial en
la distribución de maestros cualificados y
dónde ubicar los $1,500 millones en escuelas
nuevas para resolver las desigualdades raciales
y reducir la segregación – no está claro si hay
o no presión dentro del mismo Distrito para
lograr igualdad.
La “Declaración de
Educación” del
Distrito Escolar,
adoptada en 2004,
establece un conjunto
claro de metas para la
igualdad en el sistema.
Agenda de igualdad del Distrito
La “Declaración de Educación” del
Distrito Escolar, adoptada por la Comisión
para la Reforma Escolar en 2004, establece
un conjunto claro de metas para la igualdad
en el sistema, y el CEO Vallas declaró que
los presupuestos y evaluaciones de programa del Distrito están ahora alineadas con esas
Las “metas objetivo” para igualdad de la
Declaración incluyen:
• “La desigualdad en base a raza, origen
étnico, sexo y estatus socioeconómico será
menos de 10 por ciento en todas las medidas
• “El 100% de las escuelas tendrán igualdad en facilidades, programas y recursos”.
• “El 100% de los maestros y paraprofesionales del Distrito estarán altamente cualificados para ejercer sus puestos”.
El Distrito tiene una Oficina de Responsabilidad que supervisa si está cumpliendo sus
metas. La Oficina de Igualdad Educativa,
que supuestamente tiene que asegurar que
Grupos externos de defensa
La escasez de maestros de alta calidad en
las escuelas de mucha pobreza y predominantemente no blancas es uno de los problemas de
igualdad que en años recientes ha contado con
una defensa prominente por parte de las organizaciones comunitarias. Otro problema es el
cambio que hizo el Distrito de parte de sus fondos Título I, pasándolos de escuelas de alta
pobreza a escuelas de menos pobreza.
Carol Hemingway, presidente de la junta
de Philadelphia ACORN, identificó la
igualdad en maestros como un problema
clave de igualdad para los padres de las
escuelas de bajos ingresos y predominantemente no blancas. ACORN empezó
recientemente a desarrollar una campaña
“Grow-Your-Own” (Prepara los tuyos) en
Filadelfia, mediante la cual se ayuda al personal no docente de las escuelas (como los
NTA y paraprofesionales) a prepararse para
ser maestros.
La campaña Teacher Equity Campaign
(Campaña para la igualdad de maestros) ha
presionado al Distrito para que proporcione
mejores incentivos a los maestros si aceptan
trabajos en escuelas de mucha pobreza.
Un poco de presión también puede provenir
de la Ley Que Ningún Niño Quede Atrás
(conocida como NCLB), que ordena mayor
calidad de los maestros, reportes de progreso
para cada grupo racial y étnico, y que se apoye
más la participación de los padres. Hemingway dice, “La Ley NCLB tiene muchos defectos, pero algo bueno que tiene y que mucha
gente no está captando es la participación de
los padres. Los Distritos no pueden seguir impidiendo la participación de los padres... [ellos]
van a tener que hacerlo”.
Pero, a diferencia de los reportes requeridos
bajo la resolución de la Juez Smith-Ribner, la
ley no requiere ningún tipo de reporte sobre
las diferencias raciales en la distribución de
maestros o de recursos financieros, ni tampoco
sobre si las facilidades y cursos ofrecidos son
de igual calidad en las escuelas cuya matrícula de estudiantes de color es grande.
De acuerdo con Churchill, el peor problema es la falta de fondos en todo el Distrito en
comparación con los distritos suburbanos con
matrícula predominantemente blanca. Las
deferencias cruciales en desempeño académico dentro del Distrito no se pueden arreglar,
observó, porque tomaría demasiado dinero
reducir el tamaño de las clases, contratar y
retener maestros con cualificaciones comparables a las de los maestros de los distritos
suburbanos, y proporcionar suficiente tutoría,
asesoramiento y apoyo para los estudiantes.
Churchill sostuvo que la opinión pública
durante los años de labor del pasado gobernador favorecía mucho la igualdad en
asignación de fondos, pero que la legislatura
de Pensilvania bloqueó todas las redistribuciones reales, y Pensilvania sigue siendo uno
de los peores estados del país en cuanto a la
igualdad de financiamiento de escuelas. “Hasta
que los estudiantes, padres, abuelos, empleados y contribuyentes que solventan el costo de
este sistema educativo racialmente polarizado y deficiente, verdaderamente amenacen a
los legisladores con verdaderas consecuencias,
no parece que habrá ningún cambio”, dijo él.
Paul Socolar es el editor del Notebook y
se le puede escribir a [email protected].
Len Rieser es co-director del Centro de Derechos Educativas.
Traducción por Mildred S. Martínez.
In a highly segregated system, many racial gaps remain
continued from p. 1
board, the progress has not been robust enough
to diminish the gaps affecting students of color.
Resource gaps in nonwhite schools
In some key areas, the District’s resources
now appear to be distributed more equitably than
at the time of Judge Smith-Ribner’s decision.
While achievement has
risen, progress has not
been robust enough to
diminish gaps affecting
students of color.
Major initiatives of the Vallas administration –
such as class size reduction, new curriculum
materials and textbooks, extended day and summer school programs, services to address school
climate, and technology improvements – appear
to benefit students across the board.
A long-standing problem has been the almost
complete absence of high-quality, advanced
courses in neighborhood high schools. A lack
of Advanced Placement (AP) courses, lab sciences, and foreign languages has traditionally
forced students seeking quality courses to leave
those schools. Change is occurring, including
a significant expansion of the college-level AP
courses, but racial disparities in course offerings are still apparent (see p. 14).
Progress has also not been sufficient to overcome the vast difference in numbers of students
identified for participation in “gifted” programs
in the predominantly nonwhite schools versus
the rest of the schools (see p. 15).
Surprisingly, despite an emphasis on early
childhood education as a way of equalizing
experiences for children in low-income neighborhoods, none of the three new early childhood centers are planned for schools that are
predominantly nonwhite.
The two biggest resource gaps between the
predominantly nonwhite schools and the rest
of the District are hard to quantify, but they
appear to be substantial.
The first is in the District’s school buildings. An analysis conducted for the District in
the mid-1990s concluded that the facilities in
the most intensely segregated parts of the city
were older and in poorer condition. Repair
efforts have improved the condition of many
schools, but there is no up-to-date comprehensive survey. The District’s $1.5 billion capital plan should provide major relief for older
schools, but with the project list still in flux, it
is too early to say if that plan will provide equal
benefits to predominantly nonwhite schools.
The second key resource gap is the shortage
of experienced, qualified teachers. Study after
study has shown predominantly nonwhite
schools have less experienced teachers, fewer
certified teachers, and higher turnover.
A 2003 study conducted by Research for
Action found that over a three-year period, gaps
in the percentage of uncertified teachers between
the District’s predominantly nonwhite schools
and schools with more White students had actually widened. A recent analysis updating these
trends found that gaps in certification, turnover
rates, and teacher experience persist (see p. 18).
that 154 of the District’s schools had “school
councils” – shared decision-making bodies that
allow parents and teachers to have a voice at the
school level. But at a majority of predominantly
nonwhite schools there are no school councils.
There has been no concerted effort to foster new
councils for several years, and it is unclear to
what degree existing councils actually function.
Elsewhere, the District reported in 2003 that
only 137 schools had functioning Home and
School Associations.
The recent creation of the Office of Language Access Services and Community Outreach may strengthen schools’ connections with
families whose first language is not English.
Funding gaps have grown wider
Finally, the disparity in resources for Philadelphia’s students of color becomes even clearer
when comparing school spending in Philadelphia with that in surrounding suburban areas.
In 1992 the suburban schools were spending $690 more per student than Philadelphia,
or approximately 10 percent more.
In 2002-03, the difference had risen to
$1,867 – more than 20 percent above what
Philadelphia spends (see p.15). Closing this gap
would require an infusion of well over $300
million into District schools.
Even that would not bring the system into
parity with the top 20 percent of the suburban
districts, which spend from $3,800 to $7,962
more per student than Philadelphia.
Michael Churchill is chief counsel of the
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.
Notebook editor Paul Socolar can be reached
at [email protected].
Parental involvement still lagging
At the most recent hearing in the School District’s desegregation case in March 2004, Judge
Smith-Ribner singled out parental involvement
as an area “of great concern.”
“I’ve not seen the progress that I would like
to have seen by this point,” the Judge noted. “I
have believed consistently that without the parents’ involvement and engagement, our children will not achieve and succeed as they can.”
Information about the extent of parental
involvement is sparse. One District report showed
Philadelphia’s most segregated schools
One school is more than 90 percent White: Bridesburg
One school is more than 90 percent Latino: Sheppard
107 schools are more than 90 percent African American:
Audenried HS
Bartram HS
Dobbins HS
Edmonds, F.S.
Franklin HS
Germantown HS
Gratz HS
Hill, L. P.
Kelley, W. D.
Kelly, J. B.
King HS
Overbrook Elementary
Overbrook HS
Peirce, Thomas M.
Peirce, William
Penn HS
Prince Hall
Rhodes, E. Washington
Spring Garden
Stanton, E. M.
Stanton, M. H.
Strawberry Mansion HS
University City HS
Washington, Martha
West Philadelphia HS
In addition to these highly
segregated schools,
59 additional schools are
racially diverse but less than
10 percent White.
Latino, White and Asian students are
highly concentrated in some schools
In many areas, racial differe
Percentage of of total student enrollment by race, 2003-04
Total District
African Americans are in the majority; Latinos have replaced Whites
as the second-largest constituency in the School District.
Philadelphia PSSA reading scores
Percentage of students scoring advanced
and proficient by race, 2002-04
Philadelphia PSSA math scores
Percentage of students scoring advanced
and proficient by race, 2002-04
African American White
PSSA reading and math scores have climbed since 2002, but the racial gaps remain.
Number of high schools offering
Advanced Placement courses
Number of Advanced Placement
courses offered per school
44 or
or more
more 17%
Schools with the highest percentage of White students:
Bridesburg – 93%
A. S. Jenks – 87%
Adaire – 84%
Hackett – 72%
Mayfair – 72%
Native American
African American
Schools with the highest percentage of Latino students:
Sheppard – 92%
De Burgos – 87%
Munoz-Marin – 87%
Hunter – 83%
McKinley – 83%
Schools with the highest percentage of Asian students:
Kirkbride – 62%
Key – 47%
McCall – 43%
Southwark – 39%
Taggart – 31%
(4 of
of 23
23 schools)
44 or
of 17
47% schools)
2002-03: 17
2003-04: 40*
33 or
or fewer
fewer cours
High Schools
Schools with
with 10%
or more
Schools with
with less
White students
*excludes 6 schools that
White students
offered only online courses
Most high schools now offer college-level Advanced Placement courses,
but the schools with few White students typically offer fewer AP courses.
All data for this report were supplied by the School District of Philadelphia and are for the
2003-04 school year, unless otherwise noted. Figures are for public schools in the School
District of Philadelphia and exclude charter schools.
Data analysis by Aylese Kanze, Michael Churchill, and Paul Socolar
ences persist in School District
Percent of Philadelphia students who attend
schools where their race is a majority
African Americans (at
Percentage of Philadelphia students by racial
group who attend schools with 90% or more
students of their own race
57%(at 107
African Americans
(at 2435%
Asians 5%
(at 21 schools)
1 school)
1 school)
1 school)
0 schools)
Many Latino and White students, as well as most
African American students, attend schools where
their race is a majority.
A majority of African American students attend
schools in which at least 90% of the students are
African American.
Population in discipline schools in 2003-04,
by race (2246 students total)
Percentage of students by race at District’s
three largest magnet schools, 2003-04
(Central, Girls, Masterman)
The District’s “alternative” discipline schools have
a higher percentage of African American students
than the system as a whole.
Schools where more than half of students are
“proficient” in reading and math
1968 – Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
(PHRC) begins an attempt to desegregate Philadelphia public schools. PHRC says 70 percent of District’s 269 schools are 90 percent or more of one
race. District suggests a plan where once a week elementary school students from “uniracial” black and
white schools meet with one another.
1969 – Federal government tells Pennsylvania it must
desegregate all public schools and colleges.
1972-73 – In desegregation case brought by the PHRC,
Commonwealth Court and Pennsylvania Supreme
Court find District in violation of state Human Relations Act for maintaining a segregated school system.
1977 – Philadelphia Inquirer reports “235 of the city’s
280 schools are considered racially imbalanced.”
Commonwealth Court orders implementation of plan
for voluntary busing and creation of magnet schools.
Asian 19%
White 35%
1978 – PHRC and District reach agreement that all
school faculties will be racially balanced.
The racial mix of the District’s three largest
magnet schools is very different from
the District as a whole.
Schools with a certified school council
of 167 schools)
(27 of 92
1959 – Philadelphia Board of Education adopts a
“nondiscrimination” policy.
1976 – PHRC’s plan to bus 53,659 students is rejected by District.
Latino 6%
African American
1954 – Brown v. Board of Education decision – U.S.
Supreme Court rules that segregated schools are
“inherently unequal” and therefore unconstitutional.
1967 – Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo orders an
attack against African American students demonstrating to have “Black Studies” added to curriculum
of Philadelphia public schools.
Segregation in Philadelphia schools:
Timeline of the past 50 years
(82 of 166
1980 – PHRC goes back to Commonwealth Court,
asserting insufficient progress by District.
1982 – Commonwealth Court announces that magnet
school and other voluntary steps are insufficient. However, court refuses to order busing of students.
1983 – A “Modified Desegregation Plan” is announced,
which emphasizes improvements at racially isolated
1993 – Six community groups intervene in lawsuit
between PHRC and District, arguing that District has
not kept its promise to provide an equal education to
all students. Commonwealth Court Judge Doris SmithRibner denies PHRC request for mandatory busing
between 11 pairs of schools.
1994 – Judge Smith-Ribner rules that District is still failing to provide an equal opportunity to Black and Hispanic students. She appoints expert task force to
Schools with less than 10%
Schools with 10% or more
review District’s programs and then orders District to
White students
White students
submit improvement plans for her approval.
(72of 96 schools
Few of the District’s predominantly nonwhite
schools score high on state tests.
Fewer of the District’s predominantly nonwhite
schools have a school council allowing parents to
participate in governance.
Schools where only 0 - 5 students
have been identified as “gifted”
Total per pupil spending, 2002-2003 for
districts in Philadelphia five-county region
10% or more Schools
less than 10%
Source: PA Department of Education
district $11,166
Schools that
that are
less than 10%
10% or more
White (71) White (11)
At many predominantly nonwhite schools, only a
small number of students are identified as “gifted.”
• SUMMER 2005
Lower Merion
(top spending
$17, 261
1999 – In another case seeking additional funding for
Philadelphia schools, Pennsylvania Supreme Court
[gap=$1,867 per student]declares courts have no power to enforce state constitutional requirement of “a thorough and efficient
system of public education.” Case is dismissed.
per student]
While there are inequities within the city,
funding gaps between Philadelphia and most
surrounding suburbs are substantial.
1997 – Judge Smith-Ribner orders state to pay $40 million the first year for improvements in racially isolated schools.
1998 – State Supreme Court holds that Commonwealth
Court has no power to order state to pay for any
1995 – Commonwealth Court approves District plans
to place more experienced teachers in racially isolated schools, expand community involvement, start
full-day kindergarten, reduce class size, and improve
2004 – Judge Smith-Ribner approves agreement under
which the court will take no further action for three
years. During this period, CEO Paul Vallas will be
expected to implement his own plan to address continuing problems.
–compiled by Tim McDermott
Is the pressure for educational equity still on?
Court monitoring suspended; momentum for equity rests with District and community
by Paul Socolar and Len Rieser
Improving public schools is the “civil rights
issue of the 21st century,” CEO Paul Vallas
stated soon after arriving in Philadelphia. Many
Philadelphians agree, pointing to the contrast
between conditions in the city’s schools, where
students of color are a majority, and conditions
in the mostly White suburbs.
But there is another civil rights issue –
within the city’s schools. In a decision that
made headlines when it was released in 1994,
Commonwealth Court Judge Doris SmithRibner found that the School District itself
was “a racially segregated school environment
where all of the students do not receive equal
educational opportunities.”
The victims, Judge Smith-Ribner wrote,
were Black and Latino students, especially
those in schools that serve mostly students of
color. These children, she found, did not have
“equal access to ... the best qualified and most
experienced teachers, equal physical facilities
and plants, equal access to advanced or spe-
cial admissions academic course offerings,
equal allocation of resources, or a commitment
to eliminating racial imbalances in the schools
to the extent feasible.”
Through much of the past
decade, the judge was a key player in the Philadelphia public
school system who used her powers to press the District on issues
of racial equity. But with the
desegregation case now winding
to a close, what other forces for
equity in the District or in the
community will ensure that efforts
to provide equal educational
opportunity continue?
case, noted, “The court caused the District to
make sure racially isolated schools would not
be last in getting full-day kindergartens, computer technology, and other resources. Some
important inequalities were
reduced under court oversight.”
But the pressure created by
the court decision did not last.
When the judge took the unusual step of ordering the state to
pay for improvements in the District’s predominantly nonwhite
schools, the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court quickly overturned her order.
Without more state money,
the District maintained, it could
The court’s impact
not reduce class size, increase
Commonwealth Court
In 1994, Judge Smith-Ribner Judge Doris Smith-Ribner teacher training and undertake
moved swiftly to put together a reform plan.
other costly steps necessary to fully close the
A new Superintendent, David Hornbeck,
gaps that Judge Smith-Ribner had identified.
announced that he welcomed the court’s overThe resources necessary for both equality and
sight. For several years, the District made frequality were missing, and reform began to stall.
quent visits to court to report on steps being
In 2000, Hornbeck resigned, and 18 tumultaken to address racial gaps.
tuous months later, the state took over the DisMichael Churchill, chief counsel of the
trict. A School Reform Commission was crePublic Interest Law Center of Philadelphia,
ated and CEO Paul Vallas arrived, with new
who represented community groups in the
school improvement agendas. Judge Smith-
Ribner’s orders were no longer front and center, and the District sought to end the case.
In a compromise reached last year, the parties agreed that the case would stay open for
three years. During this time, the District will
report once a year on its activities, focusing
The ‘Declaration of
Education,’ adopted
in 2004, lays out a set
of clear equity goals
for the system.
on whether it is closing the racial achievement
gap and on whether it is distributing resources
fairly, but there will be no court action. (Most
of the data in this edition are from the District’s
first report.) Unless a party convinces the court
to reopen it, the case will end in 2007.
With the court monitoring of the District
suspended, those concerned about racial equality are looking for other ways to hold the system accountable. A separate, federal case alleging discriminatory spending by the state is still
pending, but it too is in suspension as the parties re-examine the most recent statewide
spending patterns.
District’s equity agenda
The School District’s “Declaration of Education,” adopted by the School Reform Commission in 2004, lays out a set of clear equity
goals for the system, and CEO Vallas stated
that the District’s budgets and program evaluations are now all aligned with those goals.
The Declaration’s “target goals” for equity include:
• “Disparity based on race, ethnicity, gender
and socioeconomic status will be less than 10
percentage points on all academic measures.”
• “100% of schools will have equity in facilities, programs and resources.”
• “100% of District teachers and paraprofessionals will be highly qualified for their
The District has an Office of Accountability to monitor whether it is meeting its goals.
The Office of Educational Equity, which is
supposed to ensure that the District responds
to equity issues, currently has a staff of only
Vallas’s focus has been on systemwide
improvement, trying to avoid what he
described as “a dynamic that has communities
with relatively poor and underfunded schools
fighting each other, when the problem lies in
the larger issue of the inadequacies of school
funding formulas.”
Vallas explained, “I proceed from the
premise that all of our schools have deficiencies – all of our schools have been found lacking when it comes to physical conditions of
the buildings, staffing, investment in curriculum, instruction and professional development,
and extracurricular activities.”
On two big equity issues facing the District
– how to rectify the huge racial imbalance in
the distribution of qualified teachers, and where
to place the $1.5 billion of new schools on the
drawing boards in order to address racial disparities and diminish segregation – it is not
clear what pressure there is for equity from
within the District.
Outside advocacy groups
The shortage of high-quality teachers in
high-poverty, predominantly nonwhite schools
is among the equity issues about which there
has been high-profile advocacy by community organizations in recent years. Another is the
District’s shifting of some of its Title I funding from high-poverty to lower-poverty
Carol Hemingway, board president of
Philadelphia ACORN, identified teacher qualSee “Pressure” on p. 19
Teacher quality inequitable
in Philadelphia’s schools
by Benjamin Herold
age, 97.1 percent of teachers in Philadelphia’s
10 percent or more White schools were certiSchools that have a student population with fied in any subject in 1999-00 compared to 9110 percent or more White students are more 92 percent of teachers in predominantly nonlikely to have certified
white schools.
and experienced teachThe data used in the
ers and low teacher
analysis count “internturnover than schools whose student bodies certified” teachers as certified. “Intern-certihave fewer White students, a new analysis of fied” teachers, who may not have classroom
data on Philadelphia teachers shows.
experience and/or coursework in teaching methThis work, conducted by Elizabeth Farley ods, have passed the PRAXIS licensing exams
at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate and have enrolled in an approved teacher eduSchool of Education, updates a prior analysis cation program.
in Once and For All: Placing a Qualified
Teacher in Every Philadelphia Classroom, a Teacher turnover and experience
2003 report published by Research for Action
High teacher turnover is a problem across
(RFA), as well as a March 2005 RFA report the District, but it is most pronounced in
titled Quest for Quality.
Philadelphia’s predominantly nonwhite schools.
Those reports, based on a data set on the
On average, more than a fifth of the teachteaching workforce provided by the District’s ers departed from these schools at the end of
Office of Human Resources, provided statisti- the 2002-03 school year, the most recent year
cal analysis of how poverty and race impact for which Farley had data on turnover. In comteacher certification and experience in Philadel- parison, slightly less than 14 percent of teachphia schools.
ers departed from schools whose student bodies were at least 10 percent White (Table 2).
Teacher certification
The teacher quality data show that the mix
On average, in the 91 Philadelphia schools of experience levels among teaching staffs in
where 10 percent or more of the student body is Philadelphia schools varies according to the racial
White, 93 percent of teachers were certified in composition of the student body (Table 3).
any subject in 2003-04, the most recent year
In 2003-04 in the District’s schools that had
for which data were available.
10 percent or more White students, an average
In comparison, only 85 to 86 percent of of only 7 percent of the teachers were new (i.e.
teachers in Philadelphia’s 173 predominantly
See “Teacher quality” on p. 19
nonwhite schools (less than 10 percent White)
were certified (Table 1).
These disparities in teacher certification are
evident since the 1999-00 school year, the earliest year for which Farley had data.
Following general District trends, the percentages of certified teachers were higher for
all types of schools in the earlier years. On aver-
What do ‘Mixed Minority’
and ‘Racially Isolated’
The three tables included on these pages
adopt categories and definitions used by Judge
Doris Smith-Ribner in the School District
desegregation court case.“Mixed minority” schools are those with student populations that are more than 90 percent nonwhite, but do not have more than 90 percent
of any one race. “Racially isolated”
schools are those with student populations
that include more than 90 percent of one
In considering “racially isolated schools,”
Philadelphia’s lone school with a student population that is more than 90 percent White
was excluded.
In the article,“racially isolated” and “mixed
minority” schools are collectively referred to
as “predominantly nonwhite schools” – or
TABLE 1: Mean percentage of teachers certified in any
area at Philadelphia schools, 2003-2004
TABLE 1: Mean percentage of teachers certified in any
100.0%area at Philadelphia schools, 2003-2004
"Racially Isolated" s
"Racially Isolated" s
"Mixed Minority" scho
"Mixed Minority" scho
10% or more White
schools (N=91)
10% or more White
schools (N=91)
TABLE 2: Mean percentage of teachers leaving
their school after 2002-2003
TABLE 2: Mean percentage of teachers leaving
their school after 2002-2003
"Racially Isolated" s
"Racially Isolated" s
"Mixed Minority" scho
"Mixed Minority" scho
10% or more White
schools (N=91)
10% or more White
schools (N=91)
TABLE 3: Teacher experience balances at Philadelphia
schools, 2003-04
TABLE 3: Teacher
40% balances
schools, 2003-04
schools (N=115)
"Racially Isolated"
schools (N=115)
"Mixed Minority"
schools (N=58)
"Mixed Minority"
schools (N=58)
10% or more 7.3%
schools (N=91)
10% or more 7.3%
% new to District in 03-04
entering 2nd, 3rd, or 4th
new to District in 03-04
entering 5th year or more
entering 2nd, 3rd, or 4th
entering 5th year or more
year of teachi
of teaching in
year of teachi
of teaching in
Pressure for equity
resources, or on whether facilities and course
offerings are of equal quality in schools serving large numbers of students of color.
ity as a key equity issue among parents of stuAccording to Churchill, the overarching
dents in low-income and predominantly nonproblem is the underfunding of the entire Dis"Racially Isolated"
white schools. ACORN recently initiated an
trict compared to the predominantly White
effort to develop a Philadelphia-based “Growsuburban districts. Crucial gaps in achieveschools (N=115)
Your-Own” campaign to help school-based
ment within the District cannot be fixed, he
non-teaching personnel such as NTAs and
observed, because it will take so much money
"Mixed Minority"
paraprofessionals to become teachers.
to reduce class size, to hire and retain compa15.0%
schools (N=58)
A citywide Teacher Equity Campaign has
rably qualified teachers with the suburban dispressed the District to provide stronger incentricts, and to provide sufficient tutoring, guidtives for teachers to take jobs in high-poverance, and supports for students.
10% or more 7.3%
ty schools.
Churchill argued that public opinion in the
schools (N=91)
Some pressure may come from the No
last governor’s race was strongly in favor of
Child Left Behind Act, which mandates highmore equal funding, but the Pennsylvania leger teacher quality, progress reporting for each
islature blocked any real redistribution, and
% new to District in 03-04
racial and ethnic group, and increased support
Pennsylvania remains one of the worst states
% entering 2nd, 3rd, or 4th year of teaching
in District in 03-04
for parental involvement. Says Hemingway,
in the country for school funding equity. “Until
% entering 5th year or more of teaching “There
in District
in 03-04
are so many things wrong
with NCLB,
students, parents, grandparents, employers, and
but one good thing that most people are not
taxpayers who will bear the cost of this racialBenjamin Herold is a senior research assisgrasping is its parent involvement piece. Disly polarized and failing education system realtant
ly threaten legislators with consequences, it
continued from p. 18
cation research firm that is leading a consormore...[they] have to do it.”
does not look like change will occur,” he said.
had taught in Philadelphia for less than a year),
tium of scholars in “Learning from
But, unlike the reports required under Judge
Notebook editor Paul Socolar can be
and more than three-quarters had five or more
Philadelphia’s School Reform,” a research and
Smith-Ribner’s settlement, the law doesn’t
reached at [email protected]. Len Rieser
age of about 13 to 15 percent of teachers in
phia’s current wave of education reform.
the distribution of teachers or financial
is co-director of the Education Law Center.
predominantly nonwhite schools were new,
and only two-thirds had five or more years of
In sum, even small differences in the racial
makeup of student bodies appear to be associated with significant variations in the qualifications and turnover rates of schools’ teaching staffs.
As District administrators craft initiatives to
comply with federal mandates to provide highly qualified teachers in every classroom, these
findings suggest that they will need to pay special attention to providing credentialed and experienced staff in schools where racial segregation of students of color is most extreme.
TABLE 3: Teacher experience balances at Philadelphia
continued from p. 17
schools, 2003-04
Teacher quality
Magnets for some, enrichment for all
n Vallas promises dozens of
accelerated school options for
K-8 students. Past magnet initiatives have raised equity issues.
by Sheila Simmons
Promising “high achievement academic
opportunities” to elementary public school students in every region of the city, the Philadelphia School District has unveiled plans this
spring for a three-tiered approach to providing “accelerated options” for its K-8 students.
Fifty schools are to
be converted into magnet “High Achievement
Academies” by fall;
three selective magnet “High Achievement
Centers” are planned for fall 2006; and new
enrichment programs open to all K-8 students
are in the works for this summer and in the fall
through extended day and Saturday programs.
“We plan to accelerate the development of
our younger students,” CEO Paul Vallas
explained. “And our goal is to have at least 15
percent of the District’s students enrolled in
high-achievement programs by 2008.”
Vallas predicted that the program will have
“a transforming effect on the District,” adding,
“When you seed schools with programs of
excellence, there are some kids who will
improve far beyond the proficiency level.”
Nationally, magnet programs are often criticized for skimming students who are the system’s “cream of the crop” from neighborhood
schools, leaving those schools with an even
greater concentration of disadvantaged students and the ones most likely to exhibit serious academic and behavioral struggles. In the
1990s, District magnet programs were under
scrutiny in the School District’s desegregation
court case, with Commonwealth Court Judge
Doris Smith-Ribner finding underrepresentation of African American and Latino students
in such schools.
And so some observers are skeptical about
whether the benefits of the new programs will
be equitably shared.
Vallas sees the initiative as a dramatic
expansion of options for students that will help
stem the exodus of students from Philadelphia
public schools. The magnet initiatives, targeted for every region, will encompass one-third
of the District’s K-8 schools.
“A rising tide
lifts all boats,” he
“The things that
make the schools more attractive for the people with the economic means to go somewhere
else are the same things that are going to make
the schools better for children who don’t have
those choices,” he stated.
Magnets and tracking
Magnet schools were popularized in the
1970s and 1980s as a desegregation instrument
that could attract students “like a magnet” from
outside neighborhoods because of the schools’
unique themes and academic thrusts.
But because of admissions criteria or simply the fact that only some students seek them
out, magnet schools do represent a type of
“tracking” of students – sorting of students into
different academic paths based on perceived
ability or motivation.
“A lot of studies demonstrate that tracking creates a downward spiral for all but the
very top track of students,” former School
District equity official Katherine Conner
pointed out, “because those who are not in
the top track experience lots of lower expec-
tations from their
teachers, which
translates into
less challenging
content, less time
for students to
answer, and less
specific feedback.”
While noting
that his organization, Philadelphia
Student Union,
does not have an
official position on
magnet schools,
executive director
Eric Braxton comPhoto: Harvey Finkle
mented, “We’ve Students in grades K-8 at 50 schools will see new “High Achievement Academies”
been concerned set up next fall.
for a long time that
the focus on magnet schools doesn’t do anyprospect of more tracking at an earlier point
thing about improving the quality of educain students’ lives.
tion for all students.”
Currently, most of the District’s 30 “magAdmissions criteria
net” schools or schools with selective admisDistrict officials say selective admissions
sions criteria are high schools.
criteria will be instituted only at the three new
Research on magnet high schools by UniK-8 “High Achievement Centers,” which will
versity of Pennsylvania professor Ruth Curfocus on mathematics and science, fine and
ran Neild found that while Philadelphia’s magperforming arts, and aeronautics and aerospace.
net high schools themselves were racially
These three schools will serve students from
diverse, the movement of students did result
the surrounding neighborhoods, selected
in a greater degree of racial isolation and eco“based on multiple criteria, including past acanomic segregation in most neighborhood high
demic performance, creativity, and demonschools.
strated interest, talent and commitment,” and
In Philadelphia, the impact of tracking picks
also will be open to “students from across the
up as students transition into the middle years,
city as space is available,” according to a Disand many students seek out magnet middle
trict description of the program.
schools such as Masterman. By dramatically
Vallas said the admissions policies currently
expanding its magnet elementary school proin place at each of the 50 Academy schools –
gram, the District’s initiative creates the
See “Magnets” on p. 21
Magnets for some
continued from p. 20
whether neighborhood enrollment, lottery, or
selective admissions criteria – will for now
remain unchanged.
The 50 “High Achievement Academies”
serving elementary and middle grade students
will each reflect one of five different models:
• 15 Emerging Scholars schools: This
model, created by the District, allows teachers
to observe best practices, are centered on a stu-
dent’s unique strengths, and driven by the District’s core curriculum. It will utilize community partnerships and incorporate a number of
enrichment programs.
• 10 International Baccalaureate schools:
These schools provide an international focus
to students, centered on students’ relationships
to their own national identity and the cultural
traditions of others. Students begin studying a
foreign language by age 7.
• 10 Montessori schools: With teachers
guiding student “research and exploration,”
Montessori children learn from the environment and each other. Students design contracts
to balance work and learn time management
and character education.
• 10 SpringBoard schools: A model
designed by the College Board around its
“Standards for College Success,” these schools
stress math, reading, and writing standards to
prepare for participation in college preparatory Advanced Placement programs.
• Five University Lab schools: Lab schools
tap the academic resources of university part-
schools as an option for them,” the initiative
should boost the number of families and businesses that become stakeholders in the city’s
public schools.
District school choice provisions allow students to transfer to other neighborhood schools
as space allows, with lotteries held at schools
where there are more applicants than seats. A
number of Center City schools are popular:
Greenfield, Meredith, McCall, and Bache-Martin are among the District’s most sought-after
elementary school placements, turning away
hundreds of prospective students each year.
Vallas commented, “What we will do after
this year is look at the make-up: who’s coming in and who’s not; has there been a significant change in the breakdown of where the
children are coming from? And then we’ll
make the appropriate adjustment.”
But some education advocates remain worried about the broader effect on opportunities
to enter choice schools for those who do not
live in Center City.
A number of parents of students at Masterman, a selective admission magnet school at
16th and Spring Garden streets, were concerned
about their children’s opportunities as well.
During a May press briefing, Vallas
acknowledged there had been a push in Cen-
ter City to establish a set-aside for neighborhood residents at Masterman.
“But we haven’t signed off on that, and I
don’t anticipate that we will,” he said. “Now,
maybe two, three years from now, when we
have three ‘Mastermans,’ that might be a consideration.”
Heller said two letters clarifying that the
Center City initiative’s priority enrollment rule
would not affect Masterman and other special
admissions schools were mailed to Masterman
parents after an initial letter about the Center
City region caused complaints.
Meanwhile, District officials stressed that
they welcome proposals from business and
community leaders in other neighborhoods
interested in replicating Center City’s special
schools region.
Aside from expanding the selection of public schools for residents living in the Center
City region, the initiative – boosted with a
recent $250,000 state grant – also provides free
marketing and websites for a number of the
region’s schools. Center City architects and
business owners have volunteered their talents
towards enhancing the schools. The initiative
seeks to furnish schools with admissions counselors, who can pitch their schools’ merits to
parents, host tours, and discuss the curriculum.
Center City residents to get first dibs on some transfers
By Sheila Simmons
Philadelphia School District CEO Paul Vallas said the District will monitor the demographic make-up of students participating in a
new initiative that expands school options for
families living in Center City.
Students living in the newly established
Center City Academic Region – from Poplar
Street to Washington Avenue and river to river
– beginning in fall 2006 will have priority when
applying to any of the dozen neighborhood
schools in that region, once students in the
receiving school’s own neighborhood catchment area have been accommodated.
Alice Heller, executive director of the Center City Academic Region, described the plan
as providing a “secondary catchment area” for
Center City schools.
District and Center City leaders downplay
the concern that the new rule could lessen the
number of good school options available to the
rest of the city’s large population of low-income
students and students of color.
Center City District’s Paul Levy said the
expanded choice is part of a broader initiative
aimed at stemming a continued loss of Center
City families due to the quality of schools. He
added that by reaching families of all racial
backgrounds “who have not seen the public
ners. They differ from current university partnership schools in offering curriculum beyond
the core subject matter.
The first 13 host schools for Emerging
Scholars programs were announced in March.
Vallas said he strategically placed them in
schools already targeted for desegregation,
thereby allowing the District to take advantage
of existing busing routes. Emerging Scholars
schools were also selected on the basis of their
fitness to meet program demands and on geographic location.
Elementary schools can apply to host an
Academy using one of the other four models.
The schools selected for the Emerging
Scholars program scored from slightly to substantially higher than the District average on
PSSA math and reading tests.
While the Emerging Scholars schools do
approximate the District’s geographic and racial
diversity, a majority of the 13 schools have far
fewer than the District’s average of low-income
students – by 20 percentage points or more.
Kearny, with 80 percent of its students lowincome, is the only one whose poverty rate
approaches or exceeds the District average of
71 percent low-income.
Enrichment for all
Vallas said that starting this summer, all K8 students will have a chance to benefit from
the District’s $4 million afterschool, Saturday,
and summertime “High Achievement Opportunities.”
The program consists of a one-hour academic program and a one-hour enrichment program, designed to prepare “academically average” students for higher-level math concepts;
and an international, creative problem-solving
program utilizing everything from mechanical
building to literary interpretation, according to
the District.
Contact Notebook education writer Sheila
Simmons at [email protected].
Integrated schools, but segregated classrooms
By Ros Purnell
For more than 30 years, Philadelphia has
grappled with ways to desegregate its schools.
But little attention has been paid to the patterns of segregation within integrated schools.
While students themselves introduce some
degree of social segregation into schools, academic tracking of students into different classes based on perceived ability results in further
racial separation.
Often the perceptions guiding schools’ deci-
sions about tracking students are influenced
by “stereotyping and racism,” observed veteran guidance counselor Doris Shirley.
“We’re all guilty of that,” she noted.
Critics say tracking causes separate and
unequal spaces to emerge within integrated
public schools, and children conclude from
this segregation that students with different
color skin have and deserve different levels of
education – that some are therefore inherently smarter.
Racial separation within schools often
begins at the elementary school level with the
grouping of students based on their reading
levels. There are no districtwide data on that,
but the District does have data on students
identified as gifted through IQ testing. These
children typically get pulled out of their regular classrooms for special enrichment activities in a small class setting.
Over 8,000 African American students in
Philadelphia are classified as mentally gifted,
just 48 percent of students so classified. African
American students comprise 65 percent of
Philadelphia’s school population.
At the high school level, further evidence
of segregated tracks is provided by comparing participation in college-level Advanced
Placement (AP) courses in schools that are
well integrated.
Central High School’s White enrollment is
only a few percentage points higher than its
African American student population. Yet 219
White Central students took AP exams last
year, and only 53 African American students
did. Similarly, George Washington High
School’s African American enrollment is only
slightly smaller than the percentage of White
students. But there only seven African Americans took AP tests, compared to 186 White
Since tracking is based on the belief that
teaching can be more effective when it is
addressed to relatively homogeneous groups
of students, assignments of students to tracks
and, hence to classrooms should in theory be
based on objective measures such as students’
scores on aptitude tests.
But even if the decisions actually are fair
and objective, a danger in tracking is that, with
higher expectations often generating higher
achievement and lower expectations generating the opposite, the practice often sentences
poor children and children of color to learning environments that are unlikely to develop
their potential.
As a classroom teacher, Debbie Bambino
of Philadelphia challenged the rationale for
sorting students into academic tracks in an
online journal on the topic: “As a teacher, I now
question why bright kids must be separated to
succeed . . . The research says that differentiation is the way to go, not homogeneity.”
But she noted, “It’s easier to separate kids
than to differentiate our instruction so all our
kids can join in the conversation.”
Raymond Gunn, a doctoral candidate and
researcher who mentors students at Philadel-
phia’s Bodine High School, is aware of how
some students respond to segregated environments. Bodine is majority African American,
and many of Bodine’s students are low-income
and come from neighborhood schools. Gunn’s
observations indicate that African American
girls excel at Bodine; but with rare exceptions,
African American boys “are at the bottom [academically].”
The fallout of negative bias, according to
Gunn, most acutely impacts African Ameri-
Critics say tracking
causes separate and
unequal spaces to
emerge within integrated
public schools.
can boys. They are stereotyped as “not interested in academics,” and there is an “undercurrent of unsociability” – not outright
antagonism, but “coolness” from peers.
Closing the achievement gap between
White students and students of color will
require identifying features of segregated classrooms that contribute to the gap in the first
A 2004 paper by Jean Yonemura Wing of
the University of California at Berkeley,
describing research at Berkeley High School,
identifies several alterable features that contribute to the achievement gap:
• Curriculum choices that permit (and often
encourage) some students to leave high school
unprepared for college or living-wage jobs;
• “Mass-production” organization of
schools and rules that sort students into large
“batches” and deprive students of supportive
relationships with adults;
• A school climate that treats racial disparities as normal;
• An absence of advocates and networks
within and outside of school, similar to the
supports that advantaged students have.
Wing noted that the most academically successful low-income students or students of
color require stable relationships with school
personnel who believe that giving students
“extra” support is reasonable and normal, and
does not reflect deficits in a student’s background. Nurturing these relationships can do
much to address the negative impact of segregated classrooms.
Doris Shirley stressed that African American teachers can be particularly instrumental
in inspiring, motivating, and informing students
See “Integrated schools” on p. 23
Community voices: some see room for improvement on equity issues
by Deborah Russell-Brown
The Notebook asked parents and community activists of diverse backgrounds with connections to the School District’s predominantly nonwhite schools to talk about any differences
in the level of support for those schools versus
schools with more White students – and about
what can be done to improve school equity districtwide. Here are some of the responses.
Lisette Agosto Cintrón
Education Campaign Director, ASPIRA
I see differences in schools with majority
Latinos, African Americans and other bilingual
kids. The District needs to increase parent and
community involvement, and there’s been positive change in that direction, especially since
[Chief Academic Officer] Dr. Thornton arrived.
The District started a community roundtable
for organizations representing different ethnic
groups. I’ve raised the issue of finding publishers that sell textbooks geared to Puerto
Rican history. The goal is to get action out of
this. The most important thing? Fix the mess
that is called bilingual education.
Integrated schools
continued from p. 22
of opportunities to pursue the higher track.
Bambino speaks passionately about another possible strategy: ending the harmful
effects of tracking by grouping students in
diverse, desegregated groups. She said, “In
a classroom where multiple perspectives are
valued and students are assessed in multiple
formats, everyone improves. I’ve seen it. I
know how powerful a mixed ability classroom can be.”
Ros Purnell is chair of the Notebook’s editorial board.
Carol Hemingway
President, Pennsylvania ACORN
ACORN did a bus tour two years ago that
still has many people shaking their heads. We
took Paul Vallas with us to Gillespie Middle
School, [in North Philadelphia], and then to
Baldi Middle School in the Northeast. The differences were startling. Gillespie had … an
aging building, barred windows and locked
doors. Even the library was locked…. Baldi was
modern with a lot of resources. ACORN put
that in front of Paul Vallas and demanded action.
But the challenge is not to get lost in the
race issue. School equity means organizing parents to pressure the District to hire good, qualified teachers to come into low-performing
schools and stay there. ACORN is pushing the
District to develop teaching talent from within its own ranks … a Grow-Your-Own project.
This would be about developing non-traditionaltrack teachers who have a vested interest in our
communities and a willingness to learn. [Too
many teachers] get in their cars and drive home.
getting the right things to motivate them –
things like sports, extracurricular activities,
clubs. Activities that make them want to learn.
Suggestions to improve my son’s school would
be more computers.
Foster parent, Webster Elementary
There’s a difference in schools with majority nonwhite versus white schools. Just look at
a playground during lunch or dismissal. In
schools with large numbers of Latinos and
African Americans... the kids are running
around screaming … and the attitude seems to
be, “That’s expected of certain cultures.” Safety, security and developing discipline should
begin with a strong show of authority – both
on the teacher’s part – and by placing a police
car outside every schoolyard each morning and
afternoon. The District is not responding to fos-
ter kids, and many nonwhite schools have a
large proportion of them.
Karin Bivins
Education Director, NAACP
To increase the quality of the school climate
and environment, the District must demand all
principals, in every community, write “serious
incident reports” every time a student breaks a
rule or makes a threat. This is not about trying
to avoid looking bad. Too many of us tolerate
[In terms of resources,] a District survey
could determine how many books, computers,
librarians, counselors, etc., are available in the
whole District. Then we should give lower-performing schools additional supports.
Deborah Russell-Brown is an activist and
member of the Notebook editorial board.
Sue Ann Ramirez
Parent, two sixth graders, McKinley School
My children attend a school that’s half Latino, half African American. I feel comfortable
with where my kids’ school is in terms of providing resources. I do not feel that kids who
attend schools with a greater majority of White
kids get more resources. I would like to see the
District expand the kinds of books they offer
to kids and get more material on Spanish-speaking culture.
Julio Lopez
Parent, seventh grade, Vaux Middle School
There is definitely a difference … the education is completely different. I can’t tell you
about the [mostly] White schools. My kid and
my friends, all their kids are in Latino and
Black schools, but it looks like our kids aren’t
Glimpses at success: great strides in some racially isolated schools
n Edmonds, Kearny are among
several predominantly nonwhite
schools in Philadelphia showing
strong student achievement.
by Liza Herzog
Over the past decade since Pennsylvania
Commonwealth Court Judge Doris Smith-Ribner’s ruling demanding improvements in what
she called the “substandard quality of education
in racially isolated minority schools,” much of
the focus on the District’s most racially segregated schools has been negative.
Attention has been drawn to those schools
that are floundering. All but three of the 70
low-performing schools targeted for privatization and other management changes in the
2002 takeover were 90 percent or more students of color.
Yet we do not hear much about the schools
that have made great strides in “closing the
gap” and are fostering high achievement
among African American, Latino, and Asian
students. Eight predominantly nonwhite
neighborhood schools – F.S. Edmonds,
Emlen, Heston, Howe, Kearny, Lingelbach,
Wagner Middle, and Welsh – continue to defy
the trends by getting more than half their students to proficiency in both reading and math
on state tests.
What are these schools doing right? What
makes them ‘make it’?
Two principals provided glimpses at what
is different about these two schools, both with
98 percent or greater African American population, that continue to outperform most of
their counterparts. While racially segregated
schools as a whole struggle with insufficient
funding and less-skilled teaching staffs, these
two schools appear to be able to leverage
resources to create supportive, encouraging
environments for teaching and learning.
F. S. Edmonds School
Sharon Finzimer considers herself lucky.
As principal of F. S. Edmonds Elementary
School in East Mount Airy, she has benefited
from a host of academic and social supports
and interventions for her 653 students in grades
K-6, with half of her students coming from
low-income families.
Edmonds is in its third year of an intensive
Saturday reading program managed by Options
Publishing that serves about 25 second graders
from October through June.
Students in need of focused literacy supports use Fast ForWord (FFW), a software program that helps improve auditory processing
skills; Finzimer noted that unlike other schools,
at Edmonds, FFW is run by both the resource
room teacher and classroom teacher.
Partnerships with local universities include
Arcadia University’s math-science practicum,
with 50 student teachers doing student pullouts
and tutorials. Edmonds partners with Arcadia
in other ways – via B2EST (Building Behavioral Support Teams), an expanded, 27-hour
professional and paraprofessional development
opportunity for all staff over the course of three
Saturdays. Kim Dean runs B2EST at Edmonds.
“[Professional development] sessions are targeted toward positive climate – we implement
strategies to reduce disruptive behaviors.
Schoolwide, we help kids build social skills
and put classroom systems in place,” said Dean.
Healthy minds demand healthy bodies –
and the Food Trust delivers farm-fresh, organically grown food right to Edmonds classrooms.
Staff is also strong. “We have a staff to die
for – high teacher attendance, high-quality
instruction, caring,” said Finzimer. “Nobody
put in for a voluntary transfer.”
The community continues to bring extensive resources to the school. Reformation
Church, long a community pillar, runs beforeand after-school programming in the school
building between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., and offers
on-site daycare. People Organized for the
Restoration of Temple Stadium (PORTS) raised
$50,000 for Edmonds. The District matched it,
resulting in a state-of-the-art playground. Alvin
Williams, Jr., a Toronto Raptors basketball star
and an Edmonds alumnus, contributed $59,000
to go toward 39 iMac computers.
All these offerings seem to have paid off.
The school recently became the first in the District to be nominated for the National School
Change Award, because of its increase in TerraNova scores at every grade level. Students
have made equally significant gains on the
PSSA – over the past three years, fifth graders
at Edmonds scoring at or above proficient
jumped from 18 to 59 percent in reading and
from 15 to 52 percent in math.
Kearny School
Kearny is no stranger to honors either.
A small school at 6th and Fairmount serving 325 students in grades K-5, Kearny will
add a sixth grade this fall. Its population is 99
percent African American, with four-fifths of
the students considered high-poverty. Through
skillful use of discretionary funding, class size
is also kept small; average class size is 20 in
kindergarten and 16 in the first grade.
The school’s high teacher retention rate –
about 95 percent of teachers have more than
five years tenure – and quality faculty are
essential to the school’s success. Knowing the
students well helps teaching staff identify students who may need extra help early and guide
their progress over the years.
“The key is to identify children – those who
are below grade level – at a very early age, as
early as kindergarten, before they fall too far
behind,” said Principal Eileen Spagnola. “When
we see red flags go up, it’s important that we
start the CSAP process [Comprehensive Student Assistance Process, an early intervention
program for struggling students], and that strategies are put in place early for these kids – mentoring, tutoring, Fast ForWord, afterschool programming. After 60 days, we revisit [the fit].
We work with them and work with them to continuously build their academic skills.”
A series of professional development institutes in math, science, and English language
arts – supported by Annenberg Foundation
through the Philadelphia Education Fund – has
helped teachers over the years to act more as
facilitators than as traditional lecturers. Spagnola’s staff learned how to teach hands-on
methods, critical thinking skills, and do more
cooperative learning.
Collaboration with local higher education
institutions fortifies Kearny’s community bond.
For example, the school partnered with St.
Joseph’s University on GeoKids, a program
aimed at enhancing science literacy.
Not only is Kearny a star among its peers,
but it continues to outshine itself. Over the past
three years, fifth graders at Kearny have made
great gains on the PSSA, with a 28 percentage
point increase in students scoring at or above
proficient. In 2004, 69 percent of fifth graders
scored at or above proficient in reading, outperforming students statewide by 6 percentage points.
Edmonds and Kearny lend hope that, despite
the inequities in educational opportunities
described elsewhere in this issue, more highachieving racially isolated schools can emerge
in Philadelphia. With a relentless focus on getting all students to read on grade level, dedicated principals, collaborative staff teams, and
a sense of connection to a larger community,
these schools may be able to teach others something about how to use resources in smart and
effective ways to improve achievement.
Liza Herzog is a senior researcher with the
Philadelphia Education Fund.
Where have all the White kids gone?
n White public school population has declined for decades.
cation. The decline of the city’s public schools
is frequently cited as a key reason for White
and middle-class flight from the city to the subby Ron Whitehorne
urbs and for the failure of the city to attract or
An entrenched, two-tier educational caste retain new middle-class residents. What is less
system has evolved in the Philadelphia region acknowledged is that this decline has coincidin which Whites increasingly go to private ed with the ebbing of White political support
schools or well-resourced suburban public for the city’s public schools, rise in support for
schools, and the city’s underfunded public vouchers, and resistance to efforts to desegreschools serve a predominantly nonwhite, poor gate the schools.
Whites, depending on their economic status,
This is a large part of what school segrega- can exercise a number of options. Some Whites
tion means today in Philadelphia and other leave the city altogether to take advantage of betcities around the country. In spite of years of ter schools in the suburbs (in the 1990s, the city
legal efforts to desegregate education, the school lost 181,444 Whites). Many institutional forces
experience for children today remains separate contribute to White flight. The real estate indusand unequal.
try, for example, promotes the idea that the subAs of the 2003-04 school year, fewer than urbs have a near-monopoly on good education.
15 percent of the students in the Philadelphia
Others, frequently those who lack the means
public schools were White,
to move, turn to the Catholic
a decline that has continued
O P I N I O N school system, which for
unabated since the 1960s.
generations has provided an
During this same period, the White popula- affordable (for some) alternative to public
tion of the city has also continually dropped, schools, not simply for Catholics but for the reswith Whites losing their majority status in the idents of White ethnic neighborhoods generallast census. However, the drop in White public ly. The overall consequence, if not the intent, of
school enrollment is much more drastic. Whites the Church’s role has been strong institutional
make up 42 percent of the city’s population.
support for segregation, in spite of the existence
In some part this is because the city’s White of some schools that are relatively diverse. The
population is aging, causing a lower percentage effect of the Catholic system can be seen at a
of school-age children relative to nonwhites.
school like St. Bridget School, a mostly White
More fundamentally, the low numbers of elementary school in East Falls, sitting just a
Whites in public education reflect the growing block from Mifflin School, which is only 10 perrejection of public schools by the majority of cent White.
Philadelphia’s White families with school-age
Other Whites send their children to neighchildren. As of 2000, over half of White chil- borhood public schools that are predominantly
dren as opposed to roughly 1 of 10 African White or pursue admission to magnet schools
American children were enrolled in private that are disproportionately White. For some,
schools (see table).
charter schools have become another option for
While it is not easy to document, it seems those seeking a largely White setting. The charclear that race is a major factor in the decisions ter school population has a higher concentrathat Whites make about their children’s edu- tion of Whites than regular public schools, and
Hallinan notes that in surveys, most Whites
don’t object to sending their own children to a
school that is racially integrated. “However,
when you begin asking White parents how they
would feel about certain percentages of Black
children in schools or classrooms you begin to
get the perception that their tolerance for the
presence of Black children in their children’s
classrooms is relatively low,” she adds.
five charter schools in the city are more than 75
percent White, with most Whites in charters
going to one of these schools.
Whites typically have no difficulty with their
children attending school with some children of
color, but in racially changing areas, they may
balk when the numbers reach what
Philadelphia school enrollment in 2000
sociologist Maureen Hallinan calls
All races White African American
“the tipping point.”
versity Law Review in 1998, HalTotal
298,504 86,040
linan argues: “To the White mothSource: U.S. Census
er, the school is integrated if it has
10 percent or fewer Black students. It is viewed
This explains why Whites have no difficulas becoming threatening when that number rises ty with neighborhood schools that have a small
to 20 percent and it is intolerable if it reaches number of African American or Latino students
40 percent. At that point, the school rapidly but many have adamantly oppose busing plans
becomes all Black.”
continued on p. 27
White kids gone?
continued from p. 26
that would create a more equitable racial mix.
It also illuminates why in racially changing
neighborhoods, schools become all Black well
before the neighborhood does. White parents
tend to assume that a school with substantial
numbers of African Americans will hurt their
child’s educational progress, an assumption not
supported by research.
It should be noted, however, that over half
the White children in the District attend schools
in which Whites are not in the majority. This
indicates there has been some real acceptance
of integration among Whites in the public
school system.
The terrible costs of segregation for Black
It seems clear that race
is a major factor in the
decisions that Whites
make about their
children’s education
children are clear enough. But what about for
White students, the apparent beneficiaries of
our system of de facto segregation? Whites are
clearly privileged in the sense that the majority-White schools many attend generally have
more resources, more experienced teachers,
and higher expectations than their nonwhite
counterparts. But these advantages are relative,
particularly for less affluent working class
Whites. Neighborhood schools in Port Richmond or Mayfair may have better educational
outcomes than schools in West Philly or Kensington, but they still have class sizes among the
highest in the state and low rates of proficiency in reading and math.
If Whites, instead of focusing on protecting
their privileges within the city’s public schools
or promoting support for private education,
were willing to join with people of color and
fight for quality, desegregated education, the
likelihood is we would have better schools for
all. In this sense, White children also pay a price
for segregation.
There are also the less tangible but equally
important costs that racial isolation imposes.
White children who have little interaction and
few relationships with children of color are
more susceptible to stereotyped racial thinking
and are poorly equipped to participate in building a multiracial, democratic society.
It is ironic that as we “celebrate” the
anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of
Education Supreme Court decision which ruled
that the doctrine of separate and unequal was
unconstitutional, our schools are as separate
and unequal as ever, and the legal and political challenges to segregation with few exceptions have been shelved.
The working assumption of policy makers
today is to focus on making improvements in
the segregated schools. Reform forces in the
Black community for the most part concluded
long ago that because of White resistance to
desegregation, community control of schools
in some form was a more effective strategy.
Even White progressives have shown little willingness to challenge the prevailing consensus.
But if we want genuine education reform,
desegregation needs to be part of the agenda.
Reformers should think through what meaningful steps could be undertaken to begin this
process. Given the need for equity in resources
and the changed demographics, an effective
desegregation plan would have to be metropolitan in scope. Separate but equal was a dangerous myth in the 1890s when it was first elaborated and it is no less so today.
The author, a retired teacher and member of
the Notebook editorial board, thanks Yulanda
Essoka for research assistance for this article.
Remembering Miriam Hershberger
by Becky Horner
The School District has lost one of its
finest ESOL teachers, Miriam Hershberger. On March 10, as Miriam walked to
Southwark School, she was struck and
killed in a tragic accident.
Miriam was a legendary teacher – one
of a kind.
I first met Miriam Hershberger when I
participated in a workshop, and she was the
facilitator. Miriam presented a way of doing
Shared Writing that used the students’
names as references for the consonant
sounds. She kept a list of her students’
names next to her writing easel. We pretended to be her first graders, and she modeled how to stretch out the sounds, slowly,
all the while encouraging us with that 1000watt smile of hers.
A year later, I found myself in Miriam’s
classroom – taking her place while she took
a sabbatical. A sabbatical – sounds restful,
doesn’t it? Not for Miriam. She packed her
bags and moved to Cambodia for a year to
better learn Khmer. After all, Khmer was
the language of the majority of her students
and their families, the door she could enter
to better know their culture and their lives.
And Miriam knew her students. She had
extensive portfolios on each student that
showed growth and progress over the course
of the years. Miriam knew the strengths and
weaknesses of every child in detail – and,
most importantly, she knew what each child
needed to get to the next level. Miriam also
collected the students’ writings.
Miriam’s classroom was an oasis filled
with books for Guided Reading, tubs of
books for author studies, and so many children’s books in Chinese, Vietnamese, even
Khmer! Her collection put most school
libraries to shame. She had written countless successful grants, which afforded her
this literary treasure trove.
Miriam was so dedicated to her students,
whom she loved. She came to school early
every day and stayed late every day. She
made very big deals about each festival or
holiday which her students celebrated and
shared this joy with the rest of the school.
During the year that I tried to fill Miriam’s shoes, I was called upon by the
Philadelphia Folklore Project to write a
grant so that Chimroeun Yin could continue teaching Cambodian dance in that South
Philadelphia neighborhood. Corresponding
by email, Miriam and I together wrote a
successful grant, which allowed Chimroeun’s connection to Southwark’s Cambodian students to flourish for many more years.
Miriam had a rich and diverse cross-cultural experience as an educator, which
began with student teaching in Puerto Rico
and took her to Thailand and Vietnam. But
we will remember her for her 17 years of
dedicated service at Southwark Elementary.
Miriam exemplified the highest ideals
of an ESOL teacher. She never stopped
thinking of her students and of what she
could do to make sure they succeeded. She
encouraged the classroom teachers to collaborate with her and provided great support to her colleagues. In her quiet, private
way Miriam made a real difference in the
lives of her students.
Becky Horner is an ESOL teacher at
Richmond Elementary. This is an excerpt
from a presentation April 16 at the Spring
PennTESOL Conference, Community College of Philadelphia.
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About this edition
This edition of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an independent quarterly newspaper committed to quality and equity in public education, was produced in partnership with two organizations: the Public Interest Law Center of
Philadelphia and the Education Law Center. ELC, PILCOP, and the Public School Notebook acknowledge the support of the William Penn Foundation, which helped make possible the analysis and publication of data reported in this edition.
Public Interest
Law Center
of Philadelphia
The Public Interest Law Center of
Philadelphia represents parents, children, and
organizations in impact litigation designed to
create quality education for all. It brought the
original PARC suit, which opened schools to students with disabilities, and the Gaskin
statewide class action litigation to increase the inclusion of disabled students. It represents
the community intervenors in the Philadelphia desegregation case and helped create the
Close the Gap Coalition for equal funding. It provides data analysis for community
groups on the scope of funding disparities around the state, and is counsel in federal litigation challenging Pennsylvania funding disparities. It files numerous due process cases
each year to help parents achieve effective inclusive education.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
125 S. 9th Street, Suite 700 • Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-627-7100 (phone) • 215-627-3183 (fax)
www.pilcop.org • [email protected] (email)
Education Law Center-PA
The Education Law Center-PA is a nonprofit legal advocacy organization dedicated
to ensuring that all of Pennsylvania’s children have access to a quality public education. ELC offers information and help to parents, students, and community organizations
on issues of equal educational opportunity for poor students and students of color; rights
of students with disabilities and English language learners; fairness in school discipline;
education of children in foster care and juvenile justice placements; school finance equity; and other issues and problems affecting Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren. ELC was
founded in 1975 and has offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Education Law Center-PA
1315 Walnut St., 4th Floor • Philadelphia, PA 19107-4717
(215) 238-6970 (phone) • (215) 772-3125 (fax) • (215) 789-2498 (TTY)
www.elc-pa.org • [email protected] (email)
Education Law Center-PA
1901 Law & Finance Bldg. • 429 Fourth Avenue • Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 391-5225 • (412) 391-4496 (fax) • (412) 467-8940 (TTY)
(same web address)

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