Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thoughts on countering the Renaissance Schools plan.

This is adapted from something I wrote for a group of teachers who are organizing in Philly around School Reform. No one has signed onto it, but I wanted to put it out there to see if anyone has any comments on my broad, sweeping gestures about School Autonomy and Student-centered change:

With the passing of the School District’s Imagine 2014 plan, the future direction of Philadelphia’s schools is uncertain. Is the change that’s being imagined one that involves teachers, students, parents, and the wider community taking part in directing their individual schools along a stronger course? Or is the change one that removes the voices of those people who are most affected by their underperforming school buildings, replacing them with outside contractors who don’t have a pre-existing stake in that school’s improvement?

As teachers who are committed to our students’ public education within the School District of Philadelphia, we believe that change is absolutely necessary. Our students and our buildings most assuredly need to see a turn-around. However, the District’s plan to take those schools who are consistently underperforming, shut them down, and turn them over to outside providers as Renaissance Schools holds serious ramifications that we are concerned about.

We believe that total school transformation can be achieved without turning our District-run schools over to outside providers. And we want to be a part of it.

Those targeted schools should have:
• An opportunity to lay-out their specific issues, design a Strategic Action Plan for improvement, and be given District resources to meet their needs.
• More autonomy at the local level to bring together Teachers, Administrators, students, and parents to decide on budgeting, hiring, school culture, curriculum, academic vision, etc.
• The opportunity to demonstrate educational progress through their student body’s meaningful and authentic performance of learning, not merely standardized testing
• A commitment from the District to be given those additional resources necessary for 21st Century teaching and learning