Her report describes classrooms where "little or no learning was actually occurring" and "many of the students in attendance were listening to headphones, sleeping, doodling or wandering around the room talking or shouting."
Some administrators estimated that 10 percent to 30 percent of their students were causing the problems, and "numerous teachers" said they spent 40 percent to 50 percent of their time dealing with student disruptions, the report said.
The report - completed last summer but kept under wraps by the district until yesterday - was released six days after a Germantown High School teacher's neck was broken when two students attacked him after he confiscated an iPod. It was released at The Inquirer's request.
Green-Ceisler recommended that the 173,000-student district hire a cabinet-level discipline czar to oversee an overhaul and that it revive a safety advisory committee.
District officials, who hired Green-Ceisler in summer 2005 and paid her $25,000, immediately criticized the report as being full of vague generalizations and for using words such as "numerous" and "some." They said they had asked Green-Ceisler to visit the most problematic schools to expose troubles and had expected an earful - although Green-Ceisler said she also had visited schools where things were supposedly working well.
And the officials contended that the report did not include a wide enough sampling.
However, a separate survey by the district of more than half the 11,000 teachers also found widespread concern about discipline. In the May survey, released yesterday, more than half the respondents said they did not think their schools were addressing discipline issues effectively or consistently.
"Some schools are getting it right. Some schools aren't," said Paul Vallas, the district's chief executive officer. "The bottom line is this: There are two things that you need, and it goes far beyond coordination. You need to be able to expedite the discipline process, and you need to be able to expel students permanently."
He maintained that state law, which allows expelled students to return to regular schools eventually, and other regulations tied the district's hands.
The report's blistering assertions were welcomed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which faces mounting concern from members about discipline and violence in schools.
"Their frustration is tremendous at this point," spokeswoman Barbara Goodman said last night. "They don't feel anybody is listening to them, and I think after the tragic attack at Germantown, our members are demanding that the system change."
Green-Ceisler said in a memorandum attached to the report that she had interviewed 330 to 340 staff members in administrative, teaching and other positions across the city. She visited 13 of the district's 270-plus schools, those with significant numbers of at-risk students; held three meetings with about 200 school-based teacher union leaders and other staff; and conducted about 20 more interviews with staff from eight additional schools.
Schools visited included Grover Washington Jr., Central East, Roberto Clemente, Stoddart-Fleisher, Turner, Cooke and Pickett Middle Schools; Benjamin Franklin, Lincoln and Olney High Schools; and Taylor, Spring Garden and Kearny Elementary Schools.
"I really think people should read it," Green-Ceisler said, expressing frustration that it had taken so long for the report's release.
District officials said they had withheld the report because they felt it was incomplete.
The district for years has faced criticism of its disciplinary process, which in 2000 was the focus of legislative subcommittee hearings exploring violence in the city's schools.
Green-Ceisler's report praised the district for improvements, including more disciplinary schools for problem students, better use of technology, and better coordination between the district, police and other agencies.
But Green-Ceisler maintained that much work was yet to be done.
The problem with the system "seriously undermines its overall integrity and effectiveness," she wrote. "In some schools, teachers and administrators have virtually abandoned the system in all but the most extreme and dangerous situations."
She also contended that the discipline system lacked transparency, leading educators to become cynical when they saw problem students remaining in school.
Insufficient numbers of counselors and psychologists compound the problem, she wrote. There is one counselor per 500 students and one psychologist per 1,666.
Finger-pointing is rampant, but many agree that blame should fall on "uninvolved and/or dysfunctional parents who undermine the district's efforts to help their children," she wrote.
Some administrators, the report said, inappropriately transferred problem students to other regular schools rather than to disciplinary schools to avoid the cumbersome process.
The disciplinary hearing process also needs attention, the report said. At hearings she attended, personnel sometimes did not show up, and those who did were ill-prepared to speak. Documentation presented at the hearings was fraught with errors, Green-Ceisler wrote.
She found that discipline worked best in schools with principals who had been in their posts at least five years, and in schools that had well-staffed "accommodation rooms" for problem students who needed time out of regular classroom.
In addition to recommending the hiring of a discipline czar, Green-Ceisler said the district should publish a manual with disciplinary procedures to be distributed to all staff and improve training.
She also advocated a better filing system, noting that she had found some problematic students' files "were remarkably devoid of any documentation or information describing these disciplinary incidents or any efforts that were made to address these issues."
Vallas and district administrators said last night that they already had made improvements to the system after the Green-Ceisler report and their May survey, but he dismissed the idea of a discipline czar. He said the state-appointed safe-schools advocate was expected to play that role.
Vallas said the district needed more funding for alternative disciplinary schools so it could increase capacity. It also would like to be able to expel serious offenders permanently. One of the students in the attack on Germantown High teacher Frank Burd had been expelled from Roosevelt Middle School, but was allowed to return to the high school, Vallas said.
In light of the attack on Burd, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers yesterday sent an e-mail urging its 18,000 members to participate in an online poll on school violence.
The Web survey was launched in September, but union officials said Burd's injuries had heightened concerns for safety in the schools.
"This may be one of the most dramatic and terrifying examples, but this is happening in big and small ways every day in schools," Goodman said..
About half the 214 members who had filled out the survey before Burd was injured said they felt unsafe or "very unsafe" at school. Eight-six percent said there were not enough adults providing supervision inside their schools.
Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inquirer staff writer Martha Woodall contributed to this article.