Plan for Philly public schools calls for bold steps

Posted: February 18, 2014

SCHOOL DISTRICT of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite today will unveil a bold action plan, calling for more school turnarounds, more autonomy for principals and new student assessments.

The blueprint, called Version 2.0, hinges on four interrelated goals: getting 100 percent of students to graduate and be ready for college and a career; getting 100 percent of 8-year-olds reading on grade level; providing every school with a great principal and teachers; and getting 100 percent of the funding needed. It builds upon Hite's first action plan released in January 2013.

"The plan is really meant to define our work and define the work we think is important and that we think is evidence-based in improving student outcomes," Hite said. "The plan is also our communication about what we aspire to have all children exposed to, in terms of rigorous educational expectations and caring adults."

The plan comes at a critical time for the district: It is in contract negotiations with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, whose previous deal expired in August 2012; two new members were recently appointed to the School Reform Commission, including City Councilman Bill Green as chairman; and local and state budget hearings will take place over the next few months.

Several of the outlined strategies require immediate decisions by the district if they will be seen in 2014-15, including the Renaissance Schools initiative to turn around underperforming district schools by pairing them with charter operators. Hite said his administration must decide this week if any schools would be designated for turnaround next year.

Among the other changes outlined in the 43-page blueprint:

* Develop and implement a coherent assessment system.

* Accelerate progress toward personalized learning.

* Empower school leaders and their leadership teams with the authority to make important decisions.

* Ensure that all schools are connected to community resources and partnerships to meet student needs.

* Strengthen the principal and teacher pipelines.

* Set clear expectations for teachers, principals and support staff, and implement regular performance evaluations.

* Actively reach out to parents to involve them in their children's schools, including a School Advisory Council (SAC) in every school.

* Cultivate and sustain partnerships at the system and school levels.

* Seek additional revenue.

As for the cost, the second-year superintendent said that later this week he would reveal the estimated price tag.

Green, who offered similar ideas before being tabbed by Gov. Corbett for the SRC, said the district's success depends on being able to implement the plan.

"It's another way of saying we know what we have to do, and what's in that plan is what we have to do, and if we can't do what's in that plan we're not going to be successful," Green said. "To me, it's an outline for everyone, including the unions we're currently negotiating with and others, as to what we need."

PFT president Jerry Jordan, reached Friday, said he had not received a copy of the report and could not comment.

Jordan said that progress has been made with the negotiations, but that the union continues to push for services - such as guidance counselors, nurses and librarians - that have been drastically cut in recent years.

"It's very difficult for the district to [say] that they have an interest in reading and getting our children interested in reading and yet they walk past these libraries in schools [without librarians]," he said. "I don't consider [those issues] work-rule changes. I consider them vitally important to the overall education plan for students."

On Twitter: @ChroniclesofSol

comments powered by Disqus