Wednesday, July 7, 2010

SLAM; A Good Thing

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman introduced a new reform called Summer Learning and More (SLAM) this summer. In the SLAM Program students in underachieving schools are automatically enrolled in their home school for the month of July, regardless of their current academic performance.

Kudos to Arlene Ackerman, I think summer enrichment is something our students are definitely in need of, especially the younger K-8 students (I think getting a job could be a more valuable learning experience for some of our older students however). That said, this is a great alternative for many kids who spend their summers on the sweltering streets of Philadelphia. This is a great opportunity if kids are underperforming or parents just want to give their kids something constructive to do during the summer.

SLAM for educators: Currently, the staff members of SLAM schools have the option of working at their school’s summer program. In future Renaissance schools I believe summer work will be mandatory for teaching staff. As a teacher who loves kids I personally want to spend my summers recuperating and reenergizing for the next school year, but SLAM can be a good situation for educators who want to make an extra buck, as long as the compensation is fair. From a teacher’s perspective, as long as the process remains voluntary it is also a benefit for teachers. Hopefully next year the district will have a better system in place to ensure that teacher-student ratios are right. Otherwise we could have a waste of taxpayer money. This year teachers were guaranteed a position before the district had any clue about enrollment. Having schools full of teachers with few students is foolish.

While I believe the district has many other issues they need to address before real progress can be made, SLAM is one of the few good ideas being implemented by the current administration, as long as it can be run efficiently. Hopefully the funding will remain in the future, which is no guarantee.

Please check out my next blog, in it I want to discuss an issue the district can’t continue to ignore if it wants to bring about significant improvements in Philly education.

What are your thoughts about SLAM?


  1. SLAM is a great idea in theory, but I think the student number issue is a huge one. The problem you mentioned is large - I have friends who are teaching 3 kids a day in some cases. Other times, a roster was supposed to have 30 and has 10. The numbers game the District is playing is large - they have 58,000 students registered for SLAM, but how many actually show up? I want to see those numbers.


  2. Brian, i think you make an excellent point. That is one of my biggest concerns with these things, attendance. Check out my next blog I think it will resonate with what you are talking about. This is something that needs to get addressed. This is one of the reasons people don't want to give more funds to city schools, they see it being allocated poorly.

  3. I'm teaching SLAM at a comprehensive High School. I teach English 3 (11th grade) and the Bridge Program for rising 9th graders. Our first 2 days, none of the rosters were correct. The rising 9th graders had a Transition class with no teacher. I had no training with the Voyager program we are supposed to use, and I still don't have any materials for Step Up to Writing (or enough books for English 3).

    I think the Bridge program is a great idea...but we have many, many more issues to work out of the district.

  4. Andrew,

    I definitely agree that the district has many other issues they need to address. It also sounds like they have jumped into this reform without working out some of the major details in running a successful program. This seems to happen a lot in the school district. We are always reforming and always trying something new without making sure it is done well (Renaissance 2014). So while I like the idea of SLAM i was and am no way convinced that it would be run well. I would be interested to here some other accounts of their SLAM experience. Are kids showing up? I thought this would be a major issue in the high schools, considering it is hard to get students to come during the traditional school year.

  5. SLAM is a great idea but there some things are very flawed. I taught SLAM in 2010. 4th grade class with 26 kids. Of those 26, 3 had behavior problems and TSS workers that didn't show, 3 kids with IEPs, 8 that had failed, 12 there for enrichment. It would have been very good if they had separated the failing students from the enrichment students, but they didn't. These kids came every day.

    And then there was the curriculum. Which was a third grade Voyager Program. SO if they did well, they'd be ready for 4th grade not 5th grade. The pages they used for assessment were almost impossible to fail. Most of the kids ended up with passing grades based on the assessments and attendance. I suggested that the 8 failing students should be retained. When they got back to their school, the principal/leadership team would have veto power over my recommendation. The principal at my school always wanted to promote because it looked good for the school and that is what the Regional Superintendent wanted.

    Maybe while we fix the attendance problem, we can get a real promotion policy that works.


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