Thursday, February 04, 2010

What's Been Tried in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Public School Notebook has an awesome piece on the history of turnaround-like strategies in Philadelphia, many of which parallel various initiatives in Providence's history. Feinstein High School (in Providence) was basically created on this model:

5. School-based management schools, (early 1990s)
Superintendent Clayton and the union proposed allowing schools to adopt their own goals and strategies for achieving them, with more control of their own budgets and the ability to seek waivers from the teachers’ contract and administrative rules. Each participating school would have a decision-making council including teachers and parents. Not many schools participated, and the joint teacher-administrative committee approved few waivers. Some school councils continue to operate, but their powers have waxed and waned. As a reform approach, school-based management quickly fell off the radar.

And then reconstituted similar to the "Keystone Schools:"

6. Keystone Schools (1997)
In the 1996 contract, the administration of David Hornbeck and the PFT agreed to a provision that allowed the “reconstitution” of schools that were academically distressed, including the removal and replacement of teachers. The contract spelled out that the schools would be chosen by a joint committee after a collaborative process. The following year, Hornbeck announced that Olney and Audenried High Schools would be “keystoned,” but staff protests erupted. The union filed a grievance claiming that the agreed-upon process had not been followed, and an arbitrator agreed. Many staff voluntarily left the two schools, but the District did not follow through with a reform program.

Although here it was more successful, ultimately "the District did not follow through."

Science Leadership Academy (in Philly) is one of these:

9. Small high schools (2004 - present)
CEO Paul Vallas created nearly a score of small, mostly themed high schools during his five years in Philadelphia, including ones built in partnership with Microsoft, the Constitution Center, and the Franklin Institute. He created nine schools from scratch, converted several middle schools to high schools, and divided Kensington and Olney High School into smaller units. Some had special admission requirements; others, like the new Kensingtons, were designed to improve the typical neighborhood high school experience by focusing on themes like the arts or business. A recent study of the new small high schools found improved climate and attendance, but not discernibly better academic results. Varying resources and admissions requirements for all the different schools have exacerbated inequities.

Also, note that the interventions get more traditional over time. If you're at EduCon talking about breaking down the walls of a school, you're talking about something they had extensive experience with in the Philadelphia School District. Forty years ago.

One of these for every city in the country would be great.

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