Last night, a meeting organized by the School District of Philadelphia was at 5:30 pm at West Philadelphia High School. There will be two more meetings, today, at Benjamin Franklin High School and Tuesday, October 29 at Southwark School, 1835 South 9th Street. The agenda centers around the proposed School Performance Profile Measures formerly referred to as School Report Cards (just this past August). All meetings are facilitated by Dr. Hite Jr, Superintendent, Evelyn Sample-Oates, Chief, Family and Community Engagement, and Melanie Harris, Chief, Information Officer.
The evening opened with a brief overview of what the School Performance Profile Measures will include. The concept of Equity will provide a better measure (hopefully) of the supergroup that the state created that includes Historically Low Achievers (Blacks, Hispanics, ELL, Special Ed, and Low Income). It will also provide a measurement for Postsecondary Outcomes (college matriculation rates for those students that successfully graduate from Philadelphia public high schools). Lastly, it will measure Stakeholder Voice (parents, students, and teachers). Throughout the meeting questions were asked and responses were jotted down by the facilitators.
Lisa Haver from Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools asked valid questions regarding the financial support from Dell. After three attempts a response regarding the money and how much was finally given. Approximately a half of million (or billion) dollars has been allocated for this project. Lisa continued to point out, “Something this crucial. Everyone should be talking about this. Data has been used against schools.” The attendance at this meeting was low (only 26 attendees were in the audience). Dell is paying for consultants to look at the measurements and criteria for an accounting system. The danger of corporate partnerships is when it shuts the very stakeholders it affects out. Conversations continue to be held behind closed doors and this is a time to build trust as opposed to creating more mystery. Hite confirmed that, "Scores were not used to close schools, utilization levels were." Will this be used to close more schools?
Hite does not believe that the state captures data that is important to the School District of Philadelphia. He even mentioned and agreed with an audience member that the calculations are usually wrong despite the data being from the same source. These new metrics replace AYP. Unfortunately, numbers do not usually showcase or highlight the nuances that occur in low achieving schools or classrooms. Rich Migliore, Attorney at law and a former Reading Specialist , brought up an excellent scenario supporting this lack of a complete story when you simply collect numbers. “In a classroom, a group of students may actually demonstrate movement from one grade level to the next, but if it is still below proficiency that achievement will be overlooked.” It should be based on where students start.
“The most get more” alludes to the fact that some schools within the district can raise $300,000 from parents (Meredith) and others cannot. The emphasis that this measuring tool will help to better funnel funds to needed areas and schools is not guaranteed.
The following questions and comments were heard last night:
- How can you compare and rank schools appropriately?
- Many students that are historically high achievers are forgotten
- Gated community schools will continue to receive additional funds under this system
- “This environment punishes the starving” (Joan Taylor, APPS)
- What are the interests of the corporate sponsors?
- What should be included in the framework?
- Parents want information about school principal effectiveness and teacher professional development
- “How will you judge equity within a district known for inequity?” (Shanee Garner, PCCY)
- How do you capture the nuances?
- Parents want a clear measurement and reporting of school safety.
- How can you avoid the fact that standardized tests measure poverty instead of skills?
- The combination of qualitative and quantitative data must be collected
- A low rank may not tell the full story of the school
Some emotions were heightened when Lisa Lobitz spoke about her daughter’s teacher receiving an email about being laid off. She continued to say, “They are not a subgroup, kids are kids.” I believe the majority of the room felt, “Why are you spending money on this?” How will this help the current crisis we are in?
The School District of Philadelphia just received 45 million dollars from the state, and more is hoped for in order for this to become a fully funded district. Hite and the other facilitators admitted that they have been fighting in Harrisburg for Philadelphia. These meetings can be exhausting, but it allows the stakeholders to hold the powers that be accountable and for real answers (hopefully) to be heard. The schools are in crisis and I do not believe that any of these ideas are viable until the desperation is cured completely and thoroughly.
If you have additional questions and are unable to attend any of the meetings please send them to PerformanceFramework@philasd.org.