Last Monday I attended a meeting held by Teacher Action Group (TAG). The group was made up of about 20-25 Philadelphia teachers. The meeting was well organized and TAG had some good informative details about the school district’s “Renaissance” school plan. From my understanding TAG does not see the “Renaissance” school plan as something that can be stopped, an opinion with which I strongly agree. Their goal is to find some key ways in which teachers can influence the way in which the Renaissance plan comes about; another step which I believe is extremely important.
Here is a list of some of the areas in which TAG hopes to influence the Renaissance Process:
- Accountability, TAG wants to ensure that there is accountability for the “Renaissance” schools.
- School Advisory Councils, TAG would like encourage caring individuals (parents and teachers) to be on the committees that will be making key decisions on Renaissance Schools.
- Reconstitution, TAG would like communities and teachers to a voice in which schools are chosen to be “turned around.”
- Slowing Down the Process, TAG would like to ensure that this process is not rushed into without proper time to implement quality change.
- Innovation Schools, these are the schools that will be run by teachers and principals, TAG would like to see that these schools be the number one choice.
My Remaining Concerns -
I agree with TAG on a number of points. I agree that the creation of Renaissance Schools cannot be stopped and that it is important for teachers to try to influence this process. I also agree that drastic changes need to be made in Philadelphia Public School system in general. Where I may differ is that I am and will remain in opposition to this the whole Renaissance plan as it currently stands. I just don’t agree that the majority of the proposed Renaissance changes are the right ones. These changes do not address the biggest issue in Philly schools, discipline, or the myriad of other issues that are pushing quality professionals away. Another problem is that these changes are coming about from the wrong direction. A community will only be given a say in the matter after authorities (who are unfamiliar with the community in question) make the decision to reconstitute their neighborhood school. This translates to an experiment on kids who have already been experimented on before (Educational Management Organizations being the latest example). So while I do feel it is important to try to be a voice in the process, I also feel it is important to speak up when something is wrong. Frankly, I think this entire “turn around” process is wrong. Unless some major changes can be made in the reconstitution process this is going to further damage the students who need the most help.