"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Riding the 'Turnaround' Merry-Go-Round in the Continuing Assault on Philadelphia Public Schools: Part IV

by Ken Derstine
May 8, 2016

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission – April 28, 2016

Crossing the Rubicon
The Rubicon has been crossed in the privatization assault on Philadelphia public schools. On Thursday, April 28th, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to turn three more public schools over to charter companies.

The Battle for Wister has been decided in favor of Mastery Charters over the objections of many parents at the school. (See The Battle for Wister in Part I of this series.)  What makes this turnover different than all preceding turnovers is that Wister, even by Broad graduate Superintendent Hite’s own admission, had been making progress as a public school. The School Reform Commission (SRC) reversed his decision one week after Hite had withdrawn Wister from the turnaround list. No more can the SRC claim that the turnover of a public school to a charter company is based on the pretense that their “data” shows a school is a “failing school”. It is now clear for all to see that the drive for privatization is based on the market interests of corporate education reform, not education.

Also to be turned over to charter companies that have a dubious history, are Jay Cooke Elementary to Great Oaks Charter and Samuel B. Huey Elementary to Global Leadership Academy.

These turnovers went forward despite the SRC’s Charter School Office presenting strong evidence that many charters up for their five-year renewals are performing no better, or worse, than the public schools they replaced. In addition, Philadelphia Newsworks' reporter Kevin McCorry observed, based on Newsworks analysis, “the most consistent thing about school ‘progress’ as captured by the SPR [the District’s School Progress Report] is inconsistency.” He wrote,

There are many reasons to be wary about relying too heavily on the School District of Philadelphia’s main tool for measuring school quality [SPR] – especially when it comes to making high-stakes decisions about closures, staffing shake-ups and charter conversions.

Despite this evidence, along with protests from parents, students, teachers and community members, the SRC is forging ahead with turnovers to charters and disrupting the lives of thousands of students and staff. Like all corporate education reform, it presents its decisions as being based on “failed schools” due to “bad teachers and administrators”. That these turnarounds are happening only in low-income neighborhoods gives the lie to this claim. The educational opportunities of children from low-income families will not change by moving school professionals from one school to another, year after year. What must change are the economic circumstances of these families.

The Latest Spin of the Turnaround Merry-Go-Round in Philadelphia Schools

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