Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Philadelphia School District plan would dismantle central office, close schools

Among the panelists, one person appears out of place since he has no link to New Orleans: Mike Wang, who manages the Philadelphia School Partnership's outreach and growth strategy. I invited him because I think what's happening in Philadelphia right now is the closest thing to the "relinquisher" model in any other city – here's an article about it from The Philadelphia Inquirer (you know it must be really good stuff in light of the response of the local union boss: "He called it a "cynical, right-wing, market-driven" blueprint"):


The realities are ugly, leaders said Tuesday - the Philadelphia School District is nearly insolvent, lags behind most other urban districts in academics, and loses students to charters because parents believe it does not keep their children safe.


"What we do know through lots of history and evidence and practice is that the current structure doesn't work," School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos said. "It's not fiscally sustainable and it doesn't produce high-quality schools for all kids."


So, at the SRC's direction, Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen on Tuesday announced a plan that would essentially blow up the district and start with a new structure.


The plan - subject to public comment and SRC approval - would close 40 schools next year and 64 by 2017, move thousands more students to charters, and dismantle the central office in favor of "achievement networks" that would compete to run groups of 25 schools and would sign performance-based contracts.


Knudsen, in a news conference, avoided references to the "Philadelphia School District."


"We are now looking at a much broader definition of education in the city that includes not only district schools but other schools as well," he said.


Mayor Nutter hailed the plan, which he said would push control over education down to the school level.


"If we don't take significant action, the system will collapse," the mayor said at a separate news conference. "If you care about kids and if you care about education, if you care about the future of this city, that's what we need to all grow up and deal with."


Teachers union president Jerry Jordan decried the radical restructuring as the SRC divesting itself of many of the core responsibilities of public education. He called it a "cynical, right-wing, market-driven" blueprint.


"This is totally dismantling the system," Jordan said. "It's a business plan crafted to privatize the services within the School District."


Philadelphia School District plan would dismantle central office, close schools

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kristin Graham


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