The City Paper published an article last week entitled Urban Studies. The article highlights the risk that parents take in choosing to go the a Philadelphia public school in the current climate. Specifically, budget cuts and declining enrollment are forcing the district to close schools and change catchment boundaries. The result–parents that gamble by buying a house in a desirable catchment or choose to invest in their catchment school and forgo the lottery or private school application process could end up out of luck–their intended destination becomes overburdened with students from other schools being diverted in or worse, the school is simply taken away.
Don’t think that the problem of having a school yanked out from under you is limited to public schools either. Private schools are not immune. Faced with declining enrollments, last week the Archdocese of Philadelphia announced that it was closing 44 elementary schools in the region (Inquirer story).
If you hadn’t noticed before last week’s news cycle that the education landscape in this city is in the midst of a sea change, how do you like the wake up call?
There has long been a rift between the city, school district, and charter schools. It looks like some financial incentives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are encouraging these folks to start to work together now. The Inquirer reports
The [School Reform] commission will vote Wednesday on a resolution outlining the broad goals of the compact to demonstrate the city’s commitment to “grow or replicate high-performing charter and district schools, and to improve or close low-performing charter and district schools that are not serving students well.”
I don’t typically reprint press releases, but it makes sense to reprint this one from the School District of Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA – Each summer, neighborhood public schools are open to register students new to the School District of Philadelphia for the upcoming school year. Students who need to register include: those whose families are new to Philadelphia; children transferring from private, parochial and charter schools; kindergarten students who were not pre-registered this past spring; and School District of Philadelphia students who moved to a new neighborhood over the summer.
Beginning yesterday, August 8th, and continuing through September 2nd, all District schools will be open for matriculation. Elementary and middle schools are open from 8:30 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. and neighborhood high schools are open for registration from 8:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. On September 6 and 7 high schools will also have registration hours after school from 3:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. High school students must accompany their parents to registration so that the students may select courses. In addition, the District is running a special registration program for new immigrant students. The program is available at two locations until August 31
The locations are: the School District Education Center at 440 N. Broad Street and the District’s Welcome and Enrollment Center located at 2603 North 5th Street. The services are available on Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Translation and interpretation services are available on-site.
Parents are asked to bring the following types of documents to registration:
• Proof of child’s age (examples: birth or baptismal certificate or other religious document, passport or immigration documents).
• Proof of identification for parent or guardian (examples: driver’s license, non-driver’s identification, employer identification, and passport.)
• Proof of current address (examples: voter’s registration card, recent utility bill, and residency affidavit. The document must contain the parent’s name and address).
For children entering the School District of Philadelphia for the first time, parents also should bring:
• Proof that childhood immunizations are current (examples: a health passport or immunization summary sheet issued by a licensed health care provider or facility).
• Your child’s most recent report card, and/or any other document that will help in placing your child in the appropriate grade.
• Copies of the child’s Individualized Education Plan (if applicable).
For further information the public is invited to visit the District’s Back to School 2011-2012 website
My online chat a couple of weeks ago (transcript here) was dominated by people asking questions about schools and test scores. I’ve said over and over again that parents should avoid putting too much weight on a schools standardized test scores. Go back and read those posts for details, but to summarize, I believe that schools shouldn’t teach to the test and that test scores have been demonstrated to be a better measure of income level than school quality.
The stakes are high in the test score game, which is a big motive for cheating. I am pretty sure that some cheating is going on, I’m just not sure how widespread it is. I’ll let politicians and school administrators sort that out. My recommendation now, as it always has been, is to file away test score information in your mind, but when you evaluate schools, do your own research. Make sure that you don’t limit yourself to looking at just the hot and trendy schools. It is amazing how much you are able to tell by visiting a school, talking to parents, talking to teachers and school officials. At the very least, when evaluating test scores, PLEASE–compare schools with similar demographic makeups to one another. There are even tools to help you do that kind of evaluation.