Sunday, January 31, 2010

Need to Know Information For Upset Educators, A Meeting to Take Action!

Hey everyone,

I want to inform you all of a great opportunity to have your voices heard. There is an organization "Teacher Action Group" that is strategizing a response to the Renaissance
School Plan. The meeting will be Monday February 8th at 6 P.M, location 4205 Chestnut St. I will be there to help organize a response. Click the link to check out the attached information flier, it is excellent.

ps- No, my school will not be part of the Renaissance model next year, but I still believe some of these changes will do more harm than good. If we don't stand up and say something now we may never get that chance. There are too many teachers who have worked too hard serving kids in Philadelphia to have no say in these sweeping reforms. We are the ones on the ground in these schools our ideas should matter! The district often wants us to look like the enemy and our Union has it's tail between it's legs. Every teacher knows that unless some other issues are dealt with in schools these new policies are not going to have the intended effect.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Empowering Teachers Makes a Difference

A friend sent me this great article that discusses the positive effects of including teacher input when making decisions on school reform. I recommend reading the article. Just click on the link and scroll down to page 16.

Let’s face it; this is the exact opposite of what is happening here in Philadelphia. Instead of including dedicated and committed educators in the decision process teachers are being treated as the villains and often pointed to as the main problem in our schools. I really believe that until multiple parties can sit down together and discuss what needs to be done to change the climate of “failing” schools all these reforms are going to not only be a failure, but a catastrophic waste of hundreds of millions of tax payers dollars.

Stay posted. In the next couple days I am going to post some direct steps educators can take to make sure their voices are heard amid all this change.

“The third- grade teacher has seen a noticeable and positive change since her district began to collect and analyze classroom teachers’ views on the conditions of teaching and learning.” (American Teacher, page 16)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No Longer Employees of the District...?

Charters and EMO’s will be hiring their own staff:

"If selected as a teacher for a Renaissance charter school, the employees will have the option to either request a leave of absence from the School District of Philadelphia for up to five years, or resign from the District and then accept the new position at the Charter School. If selected as a teacher for a Renaissance contract school, the employees will no longer be an employee of the School District of Philadelphia and will need to resign and accept the new position with the contract organization." -Philadelphia Notebook

We were told by Jerry Jordan that the employees of reconstituted schools would remain district employees! Yes, our backs are up against a wall as a union, but folks deserve to know the truth and should be given time to make a calculated decision. We weren’t given that opportunity.

You can’t tell me that Jerry Jordan didn’t know this. I am not here to bash our Union. Yet at the same time I can’t help but feel that the teachers were misled. So where do we go from here? I don’t merely want to be a complainer. Instead, I think we as teachers who care for our students need to make a stand and do the job our Union hasn’t been able to do. If we don’t organize now these sweeping and insulting “reforms” will occur without any real input from the people who have spent tens of thousands of hours serving kids.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Districts Response to Upset Teachers

Evelyn Oates-Samples and downtown administration continues to insult us as professionals. In the paper she said teachers may not understand the new model. We are professionals who can read! We understand the model because we took the time to figure it out for ourselves. The district didn’t take the time to explain it and the Union officials were hoping we wouldn’t so they could pass the contract through with no ruffles. We realize the potential negative ramifications these turnaround schools may have on already struggling communities that need our support not our experimentation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Successful March!!!

While our numbers were small our hearts were in the right place! It felt good as a teacher to have a chance to voice our frustration over the lack of teacher input in the Renaissance Schools and to show our opposition. The newspaper reporters who were there seemed very interested in hearing what teachers had to say. I have to say that is what I enjoyed most, real educators who care about kids being able to voice their concerns. There was definitely talk of doing another march on a larger scale. In our next march we could give it a little more time to organize, plan better, and get out more teachers, parents, and students. Talking with teachers I really believe we could get large numbers to take a stand! Thanks to the two or three teachers who organized today's march!

Please give some feedback on your thoughts for a future march. If you are interested send your email or contact info to, I would love to chat.

Why Ackerman was forced out of San Francisco.

Hey, I just read an interesting article a friend sent to me from a San Francisco newspaper about Ackerman's firing in San Francisco. I will post it the link below if you are interested. A few highlights.
It seemed like Ackerman could not get along with their School Board. She often bickered with them or accused folks of being racist when they didn't agree with her. It seems as if she didn't have the rubber stamp that she has hear in Philadelphia. The board questioned her when she recommended just shutting down "failing" schools, in fact they refused to let her do it. My favorite quote from this Article, "Lipson Mar and Sanchez -- along with leadership of the teachers' union -- have fought the reapplication requirement saying it is a slap in the face to educators who have dedicated their careers to working in difficult schools." I wish our Union and SRC gave the teachers who care deeply the same respect that they did in San Francisco.
Any way I recommend checking it out. I would love to hear your comments.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Please Join the March Tommorow, see earlier blog for details.

Check Out This Article About the Shortcomings of Chicago's Renaissance Schools

Click on the link, it is an old article so search Archives; "Daley School Plan Fails to Make the Grade"

How Renaissance Schools Will Hurt Our Children

What is a Renaissance School (Skip this paragraph if you know)? As I understand it (based on the Philadelphia teachers contract and news reports) a Renaissance will be a reconstituted school. Schools that have been persistently failing are eligible. I recently heard this is 95 Philadelphia schools including every neighborhood high school. The first step in the process will be the initial clearing out of all staff and administration. The school building will then be handed over to some outside manager; charter or for profit Educational Management Organization. The new administration can re-hire up to 50% of the former staff of the school, if those teachers decide to re-apply for their former positions. Teachers at these new Renaissance schools will work an extra hour a day at school, two Saturdays a month, and from my understanding there will be an option to work in July.

So why am I against these Renaissance schools? In some ways it sounds good, right, more time equals more results. If I only believed that would be true in these new schools, then I would adamantly support them. The new Renaissance schools don’t deal with the issues that persistently plague our city schools; lack of quality resources, overcrowded classrooms, serious discipline issues (i.e. South Philly High), truancy, and a lack of sufficient staff. Adding more time to the day and year isn’t going to be the silver bullet politicians are hoping for. In many cases it will likely exacerbate these issues.

Many of the best teachers are going to leave! Shouldn’t this concern us? There are teachers who are the very fabric holding many of these schools together, barely yes, but still together. Quality teachers want to be treated like professionals and under this contract it is not happening. People are human, if they can work one-third less the time and make more money elsewhere they are going to do it. Not to mention many teachers don’t want to sacrifice their home and family life for the ten thousand extra dollars a teacher might be able to earn in the Renaissance model. I have talked to many good teachers who said they will go if their school become Renaissance.

So when the good teachers leave what will happen? I believe you will be left with a very young, and overworked group of people. These are teachers who might last one or two years at the school. The rest of the teachers will be people either in it for the money or folks who could not find jobs anywhere else. Please remember every year Philadelphia has a shortage of over one hundred teachers, often more. People aren’t going to be lining up to teach in these schools that are not sustainable.

Who suffers? The kids, the kids, the kids!!! Yet again, they will feel the blow of another political experiment. They will lose many of the teachers who care deeply for them. For many of our students school is one of the few places that offers stability and now that will be taken as well. The issues that hold back their schools will continue to go unaddressed. When I think about this I get sad and angry. People tout themselves as reformers and advocates for these children. The children they claim to help, they will hurt!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Teacher March Tuesday

I got this email from a friend. I decided to change the guys name who wrote the email, although it does not seem as if he minds people knowing his name. For more info I would email him. Personally I plan to march!

Fellow Teachers,

My name is John Smith. I recently spoke at the PFT meeting last Thursday. I expressed my opinion, and I believe the opinion of many others, that these new Renaissance schools will not be in the best interest of our students. I do not feel that our Union represented those of us who felt this way. The media seems to have only heard reports praising our new contract. I truly believe these Renaissance schools will drive away many of the teachers our students need the most. I also believe they will create schools that have a revolving teaching staff of very young teachers who will not last. How can this be in the best interest of our students?

I would like to make our voice heard! I would like to make a public response to let parents know what the implications of these new Renaissance schools will likely be. Please join me in marching this Tuesday outside of 440 N. Broad to let out opinion be heard. For those of you who wish to march join me at Broad and Spring Garden at 3:30, marching will being around 4:00 and go until 5:30. Come bringing signs and posters expressing frustration with the school district’s new plan! For questions or a confirmation email just email me at, I will hit reply as a confirmation.

Ps- Please pass this along to as many other teachers as you know within the district as well as parents who may be concerned as to the impact these Renaissance schools may have on their own children.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why Did our Union Mock Us?

Hopefully many of you were able to attend last Thursday's (1/21) union meeting in which the members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers supposedly made the decision to ratify the new contract that we philly teachers will operate under for the next three years. This is the contract that many politicians are hailing as a historic contract that will change education in our cities. I cannot wait to discuss this historical new contract in my next blog, but that discussion will have to wait.
What really needs to be discussed first is how our very own union failed to represent us and insulted our intelligence at the same time. Let me recap what went down on Thursday...
The first shortcoming of our union came days before our meeting to ratify the contract. Our Union announced a meeting in which members would vote on a life changing contract that would effect the rest of our careers. They gave us teachers a whopping three days notice, not even quite enough time to arrange a babysitter for the kids. Our union also announced that NO DETAILS of the contract would be released until the meeting Thursday. This would allow a good thirty minutes to look over six pages of fine print changes that would forever alter our lives (plenty of time to discuss the implications of this contract with our family, loved ones, and colleagues). Fortunately because of the pressure of some concerned teachers the Union ended up releasing the details of the contract the day of the meeting. This gave some teachers a few hours to look over the big changes to the contract.
The actual meeting was one of the most disgusting and disappointing things for a paying union member to witness. PFT president Jerry Jordan spouted off all the things he and his team prevented Arlene Ackerman from getting. He mentioned the few things we gained, such as a normal 3% raise and the ability to defend ourselves against student attacks. He also mentioned all the new PFT positions that were created. Coincidence? Then he touted the creation of the new Renaissance schools as a new way to earn extra cash. He failed miserably to explain the ramifications these changes will have on the teachers who currently teach in these chosen Renaissance schools (look to later blogs). He didn't mention that all teachers in these schools would have to reapply for their jobs, he didn't mention that only 50% of the staff could be hired back, and he didn't mention that teachers will be working two Saturdays a month. When Jerry finished giving his selected details of the contract the debate was opened up to the floor.
This perhaps was the most frustrating part of the evening. The first five speakers were clearly hand selected by the Union's CB team to say very pro-union things. The first speaker said something like "Jerry I would just like to thank you and the executive board for all the wonderful work that you've done, I know I couldn't have dreamed of a better contract." The next four that followed were almost just as sickening. Finally a gentleman came to the mic who was not handpicked. He requested a motion to postpone the vote to a later time. Shouts could be heard all over the stadium, "yes, postpone!" and "I second that motion." Unfortunately our union president was very prepared to stop this more than reasonable request. The former union president cut the line to get to a mic and called the motion "out of order because the motion wasn't stated first", Jerry Jordan quickly confirmed and we move on. Thankfully a few teachers got to truly speak their mind in between the plants the union sent to the mics. Jerry Jordan continually dodged questions that were directed around the Renaissance Schools. He refused to tell how many schools were going to become Renaissance, or where all the teachers would go who don't want to work and extra hour a day, two saturdays a month, and the month of July. When the verbal vote was announced the "Ayes" and the "Nays" sounded split. Jerry quickly stated the contract was ratified.
As an individual who believes in unions this night disturbed me. It was clear that Jerry Jordan and the PFT were not there to truly represent their people. They were there to do what was best and easiest for them. Yes, I know they have a difficult job and that these are difficult times for teachers in urban districts, but please do us justice and let your members decide! The truth was not shared and our Union leaders insulted us by filling the mics with plants who were told to say specific things, taking away the voice of the teachers who are going to have their lives changed. I say, "Shame on you Jerry Jordan! Shame on you PFT executive board. You all failed to do the very thing you have been chosen and paid to do. In my mind you no longer represent us!"

Intro. Why a blog?

This blog has being created for a few different reasons that I will name in the following paragraph. First, let me introduce myself. I have now been an educator with the school district of Philadelphia for over five years working at a K-8 school and a high school. In addition to now having some decent experience in urban schools, I have also taken courses in Urban Education and Education Reform. I live and teach in Philadelphia and am deeply concerned about the well-being of our city as a whole. I love the students I teach and am passionately committed to improving education in our city.
I hope this blog can serve a couple of purposes. One, I would love to see it become a forum where Philadelphia educators and the like can discuss and critique policies that impact education. It would also be nice for teachers to have a place where they can go to speak the truth about what really goes on in their schools. I don't want this to be a place for teachers to complain because it seems that that reputation already proceeds us. This is a place to talk about the real injustices that are constantly occurring in our urban schools (example- teachers being pressured to pass students). Lastly, I want this to be a place where educators can organize. Sometimes injustice calls for action! I want us, as educators, to have a real voice in the ever-changing policies that are constantly effecting us (if anyone hasn't noticed, our union has dropped the ball in many ways). So please stay updated, I will try to post ways for teachers to make some real changes.

Peace, Philly Teacher

Would you remain at your school if it became a Renaissance School?

Is it time for the PFT to change it's leadership?

Good books for Urban Educators

  • "High Stakes Education" by Pauline Lipman
  • "Entertaining an Elephant" by William McBride
  • "City Schools and the American Dream" by Pedro Noguera