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!