Friday, January 25, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For January 25, 2013: What Works: Why were parents willing to camp out for four days in freezing temperatures to enroll their children in a Philadelphia public school kindergarten?

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup
For January 25, 2013

What Works: Why were parents willing to camp out for four days in freezing temperatures to enroll their children in a Philadelphia public school kindergarten?
In Philly, Penn Alexander parents scramble to join four-day-long kindergarten-registration line
Citypaper Naked City Blog Posted by Samantha Melamed  JANUARY 18, 2013, 3:32 PM
Don't blame Robert Tucker; blame the system. Last year, the line for registration at Penn Alexander involved a nearly 24-hour wait outside West Philly's most sought-after neighborhood elementary school. Rumor was, this year, the line for Tuesday registration would be starting the Friday before. So, this morning, Tucker enlisted his mom (his wife is 37 weeks pregnant) to bring a chair out and start things off, hopefully ensuring a kindergarten slot for his daughter. By 2 p.m., nearly 70 parents (after a tense period of detente) had joined him.
It's the longest-ever wait for registration at the school, run via a partnership between thePhiladelphia School District and Penn Alexander.

What’s different about Penn Alexander?
Penn Alexander School
Penn Graduate School of Education website
In 1998, Penn, the School District of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers agreed to create a state-of-the-art university-assisted PreK-8 neighborhood public school in University City/West Philadelphia.  The idea was to encourage urban renewal, ease overcrowding in area schools and serve the children of the city with a joint venture in educational improvement.  Penn Alexander School is the result of that agreement.  

Penn Alexander is located in the middle of a combined residential/commercial neighborhood at the western edge of Penn's campus on a site that also houses a private daycare/pre-school program and a Head Start center.  After opening with kindergarten and first grade in 2001, Penn Alexander now serves grades K-8 (nearly 500 students) along with two Head Start classrooms.  The student body reflects West Philadelphia's rich ethnic diversity: 48 percent African American, 30 percent White, 13 percent Asian, four percent Hispanic, and five percent other. Nineteen percent of Penn Alexander students are international, and 19 percent are from families affiliated with Penn (e.g., children of University faculty, staff, and students).

Penn Alexander's instructional practice is built upon the best available educational research and a rich core of classroom and school experiences that draw upon the diversity of cultures and contexts to which students have been exposed.  The strong academic program gives students access to specialized programs in art, music, and technology.  Numbers of students participate in the broad array of after-school clubs including a literary magazine, student government, sports, newspaper, games club, math enrichment, and design technology. More than 25 percent of Penn Alexander students take instrumental music lessons at school.

Since its establishment, Penn Alexander has earned a reputation as one of the top elementary schools in the city with student performance on state-mandated academic assessments exceeding both the City of Philadelphia and keeping pace with the state.  In reading, 85 percent performed at or above grade level in 2007-2008 and in math 82 percent performed at or above grade level. These figures exceed the City averages and put Penn Alexander among the top 10 public elementary schools in the City.   In other measures of success, Penn Alexander students placed first in the district's Reading Olympics, eight were selected for the All-City Middle School Music Festival, and 23 won Carver Science Fair awards.  Penn Alexander also took top honors at the School District of Philadelphia computer fair. A further testament to the academic program is that 97 percent of the 8th graders in 2008 were granted admission at either citywide admission high schools or special admission high schools. 

What is Penn’s involvement?
Penn subsidizes Penn Alexander with an operating contribution of $1330 per student per year to reduce class size and enhance the educational program, provides customized professional development, maintains the school grounds, and partners with the school in community outreach programs.  Most important, however, a large number of Penn schools and departments are working with Penn Alexander to enrich the students' educational experiences. Penn GSE takes the lead in this work, providing student teachers in the classrooms, professional development courses and workshops for staff, and enriched curriculum in literacy, math, and science. Penn students from all across the campus serve as interns, tutors, pen pals, and as the leaders of after-school clubs.

The building's design accommodates a variety of spaces that promote learning and a sense of community. Architectural features include a sun-drenched atrium, classrooms with sliding walls, small-group instruction spaces, a library/media center with a storytelling area, common learning areas where entire grades can assemble, a and gymnasium and cafeteria that overlook a porous surface play area and field with underground water management system.

According to the AYP results on PDE’s website, Penn Alexander has made AYP each year from 2004 through 2012.

There seems to be consensus that it is working, long term…..
In catchment or not, Penn Alexander will be forced to turn new students away Posted on 11 May 2011
Enrollment at the vaunted Penn Alexander School at 43rd and Locust has increased every year since it began with 75 students 10 years ago. Now, School District of Philadelphia and Penn Alexander officials have announced, the school’s lower grades are full and many new students will likely not be admitted next year even if they live in the school’s catchment area.
Rumors have been swirling for months that the school, which has operated cooperatively with the University of Pennsylvania since opening in 2001, was at capacity in its lower grades. The District has confirmed that special arrangements have been made with Penn Alexander to limit the number of new students, a break from the District’s usual requirement of reserving spots in neighborhood schools for students who live within the school’s catchment boundaries.
The school’s lower grades, particularly 1-3, are at capacity and students who live in the school’s catchment area, where housing prices have tripled since the school opened, are no longer guaranteed spots.

Ten-Year Extension of Penn Alexander School Pact Continues Penn’s Support of Public Schools
Penn News June 16, 2011
PHILADELPHIA -– With the School Reform Commission’s approval, the partnership agreement that supports the successful and innovative pre-K-8 Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School in West Philadelphia has been extended for an additional 10 years, through June 30, 2021.
Under the new agreement, Penn will continue to provide a contribution of $1,330 per child per year to the school, as much as $700,000, and a range of other services for the term of the agreement.  Penn Alexander School, a neighborhood school, last year enrolled 605 students in kindergarten through grade 8 who speak 21 languages. Seventy percent are children of color and 46 percent are from economically disadvantaged families.  In addition, there are 38 children enrolled in Head Start at the school.

Read more about Penn Alexander at the school’s website here:

Why aren’t we working with other colleges and universities to replicate this process?

Philly Kindergarten enrollment crush spreads to Meredith Elementary
WHYY Newsworks By Benjamin Herold January 24, 2013
Sparked by the recent kindergarten enrollment drama at West Philadelphia's Penn Alexander Elementary, parents have quickly gobbled up the available kindergarten seats at popular Meredith Elementary in Queen Village.
Now, parents from the surrounding community are facing a possible waiting list to get their children into their neighborhood school -- and the school district is facing questions about seemingly inconsistent school enrollment policies across the city.

Philadelphia Council calls for moratorium on school closings
WHYY Newsworks By Tom MacDonald January 24, 2013
As Philadelphia City Council got back to work for the first time in 2013, one of its first actions was approval of a nonbinding resolution calling for a one-year moratorium on public school closings in the city.  The financially struggling Philadelphia School District plans to close 37 schools in the fall. City Council approved the nonbinding resolution by a 14-to-2 vote, saying the district should wait a year before closing any schools.
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who wrote the bill, she says council needs to have a say in the closings.  "We want the opportunity to have inclusion in the discussion about which schools close and to make sure that all the issues that involve the transportation issues, the turf issues that could get some kids killed," Blackwell said. "We want a chance to have those kind of discussions before they close schools."

The Best Career and Technical School in the U.S. is in Schnecksville
At the turn of the millennium medical device manufacturer B. Braun decided to put time, effort and money into keeping manufacturing jobs in the U.S. That meant automating its manufacturing process and training hundreds of workers for jobs in modern facilities.  So B. Braun, which has its American headquarters in Bethlehem, turned to the Lehigh Career & Technical Institute about 10 miles north of Allentown. LCTI, located in Schnecksville, is one of the most highly regarded in the U.S.

New PCCY President Donna Cooper still has education as top priority
WHYY Newsworks By Shai Ben-Yaacov January 24, 2013
For the first time in 26 years, the advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth has a new president. Donna Cooper will lead the organization following the retirement of Shelly Yanoff, whose work on health, education, child care and other issues affecting kids made her a household name in Philadelphia.
Donna Cooper comes to the job with some accomplishments of her own. As Governor Ed Rendell’s Secretary of Policy and Planning, she was one of the most influential figures in Harrisburg for years. In the 1990’s she was a deputy mayor for policy and planning in Philadelphia, and after that founded and led the statewide advocacy group Good Schools PA. 
She recently sat down with WHYY’s Senior Reporter Dave Davies to talk about her past work and her plans for PCCY.

The feds' education power grab
It's time to have a conversation about the issue before we find that the executive branch, or even the entire federal government, has become our national school board.
LA Times Op-Ed By Marc Tucker January 24, 2013
In December, California's application for a waiver from provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act was denied by theU.S. Department of Education. This, we were told, was because California had failed to embrace the federal department's reform agenda, especially on issues of evaluating teachers.
The denial is disturbing for what it reveals: namely, that the American education system is being reshaped in a truly fundamental way, and with little debate. National policymakers now behave as if they believe their role in making education policy ought to be much the same as that of the states in setting goals and standards, creating accountability systems, defining teacher quality, determining strategies for producing high-quality teachers and improving low-performing schools. Left unresolved, the conflicts this creates about who is in charge are likely to worsen.

If you are a Pennsylvania educator, Teachers Lead Philly would like to know what you and your colleagues think about teacher evaluation (survey)
To what extent should teachers be involved in determining what an effective teacher is?
On Jun 30, 2012, Pa Governor Corbett signed HB1901 (3885), a law that requires teachers to be evaluated by multiple measures including student achievement, graduation rates and locally-designed rubrics.  Teachers Lead Philly would like to know what you think about teacher evaluation. TAKE THE SURVEY, and share it with a friend! 

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
SAVE THE DATE: 2013 Pennsylvania Budget Summit Feb. 21st
Many Pennsylvanians have sent a clear message to Harrisburg in recent months: The state budget cuts of the past two years were too deep. It is time to once again invest in classrooms and communities.  Next month, Governor Tom Corbett will unveil his 2013-14 budget proposal. Join the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center for an in-depth look at the Governor's proposal and an update on the federal budget -- and what they mean for communities and families across Pennsylvania.
2013 Pennsylvania Budget Summit
Thursday, February 21, 2013, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hilton Harrisburg, 1 North Second Street, Harrisburg, PA
Registration is free and lunch is included.


The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2013 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Registration is $45 and includes coffee/donuts, lunch, and materials.  
Philadelphia Region Saturday, February 2, 2013 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 1605 W. Main Street, Norristown, PA 19403
Harrisburg Region Saturday, February 9, 2013– 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Headquarters, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Pittsburgh Region Saturday, February 23, 2013 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh/Monroeville, 101 Mall Blvd., Monroeville, PA 15146
To register, please click here.

2013 PSBA Leadership Symposium on Advocacy and Issues
April 6, 2013 The Penn Stater Convention Center Hotel; State College, PA
Strategic leadership, school budgeting and advocacy are key issues facing today's school district leaders. For your school district to truly thrive, leaders must maintain a solid understanding of these three functions. Attend the 2013 PSBA Leadership Symposium on Advocacy and Issues to ensure you have the skills you need to take your district to the next level.

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