Elections are upcoming for mayor, city council, and city commissioner in Philadelphia. But where do the candidates stand on education issues?
See our platform items below to get an idea of where the candidates should be. If you are attending any meet and greets or public forums, use these items to get the opinions of those who are running!
The Caucus of Working Educators of the PFT believes that ALL Philadelphia school children have the right to a thorough and efficient education. To those ends, WE ask all candidates for public office in Philadelphia to adopt the following platform:
1. Adoption of a fair funding formula that creates equal funding for districts across Pennsylvania, as well as securing of additional revenue sources specifically for Philadelphia. This would include a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program for institutions of higher education within the city limits, closing tax loopholes for corporations that do business in Philadelphia, as well as state-wide 5% tax on shale drilling, to be split equally between education and public employee pensions state-wide.
2. Restructuring of district debt. In 2015, debt servicing is projected to eat up 9% of the annual budget, or $280 million dollars (http://schoolbudget.phl.io/). Banks must be approached directly to forgive or at least restructure this debt.
3. Local control of our school district, specifically a school board elected by the citizens of Philadelphia.
4. A moratorium on the closing or transitioning of public schools until the district establishes complete financial transparency and oversight for all charter schools.
5. A reduction of the importance of standardized testing, including working to eliminate district-based exams, supporting families that refuse standardized testing for their children, and advocating for the use of multiple measures to evaluate student and school success.
6. Integration of wrap-around services into our schools, including social workers, medical professionals, and universal pre-kindergarten.
7. Equal rights to due process and collective bargaining for all teachers and school staff members across the state, even those in “cities of the first class.”
Here's my testimony from Thursday's charter hearing. It was so odd. There weren't any SRC or District officials, just a lady up front with a laptop. Strange. On the positive side, I was surprised given the crowd, that quite a few people clapped when I was done and someone I don't even know thanked me on Twitter. We are slowly making an impact. We just have to keep showing up.
It is not a choice when they close your neighborhood school.
It is not a choice when they starve your school of staff and resources with the goal of creating an unsafe environment.
It is not a choice when in exchange for much needed private funds, schools are compelled to fire over half their teachers.
It is not a choice when stranded costs from charter enrollment drain resources away from regular public schools.
What about those of us who choose and fight for non-charter schools?
We don’t have branded t-shirts and glossy posters, but we have a fierce devotion to the idea that schools are community anchors.
We believe that every neighborhood should have a school that accepts anyone who lives in that community-regardless of their home life or testing prowess or special needs.
We believe that public schools are the foundation of democracy, and that charter schools are chipping away at that foundation.
We believe that soon we will be in the same boat as New Orleans, Newark, and closer to home, York-very soon.
The choice will have been made. Not by parents, but by those who tug at the strings of a broken political system.
Charters are a false choice. They are the ones doing the choosing-gaming the system and counseling out the unworthy come January or February before testing season gets underway.
They quietly put out applications requesting illegal information that helps them screen out children who lack supports at home to burnish their reputations.
They expect a double standard when it comes to data-driven evaluations.
They expect us to look the other way at the fraud and ethics violations that have become a norm in this industry.
I am here today to say that I stand with neighborhood schools. I endorse the community school approach. And I request that you look at the barriers to access audit done by PCCY and PA Ed Law Center in April 2013. Any school on that list with identified barriers should absolutely not be given any more schools.
By Diane Payne
On Monday, I went to 440 N. Broad Street to testify regarding the 40 charter school applications being submitted this week. I wasn’t able to be there all day for the presentations, so I didn’t hear the bells and whistles that Monday’s group of charter school applicants presented. I was speaker 29 and discovered that a fellow public school advocate was speaker 30. I left after the 30th speaker and want to note that only four people were there to speak against the expansion of charters. The 26 other speakers were students, parents, politicians, community leaders and charter school personnel that spoke in favor of their particular charter of choice. This included the newly elected president of the NAACP.
In addition to hearing the virtues of the “charter of choice”, it was very disheartening to often hear the disparaging remarks made about public schools. I really, really urge any public school advocate to try to get down to 440 N. Broad Street, 2nd floor auditorium on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday to offer your 3 minutes of public testimony to say “NO MORE CHARTERS” and to support our neighborhood public schools. The total time from sign in to the end of speaker 30 was 1 1/2 hours.
Here is my testimony from Monday.
I am speaking today to request that the SRC suspend the consideration of any further charter school applications. The current rhetoric of our families needing “choice” is a false dialogue laced with false hope and false promises. What you are deciding today isn’t about giving parents choice it is about taking away a basic, founding principle of our country…a free and quality public education for all. Not a mish-mash of unregulated “choices” which promotes itself as an easy answer to complex problems. The complex problems of poverty, English as a second language, broken families, abuse, unequal job opportunity, lack of health care, crime to name a few, do not have easy answers and will not be fixed by Charter Schools. There is more and more hard evidence coming out on a daily basis that point to the problems inherent in charter school expansions. To name only some:
*Charter school expansion causes the further starving of public schools
*Fraud and financial mismanagement that enrich savvy members of the charter school network via real estate deals, management contracts, service contracts, equipment purchases, and pricey CEO salaries
*Lack of transparency in operation and finance
*Re-segregation of student populations
*Failure to mirror the neighborhood school’s demographics because of how students are admitted and then how students are retained if problems of any nature arise
*Here in Philadelphia, an absolute budget crisis that cannot sustain any further draining of resources
*And last but not least a total lack of available oversight again due to lack of resources
Although there are reputable and honorable charter schools functioning and helping children that do not mirror these problems, it is difficult if not impossible with the lack of fair regulation and oversight to manage the current number of schools, much less additional ones.
These problems relating to charter schools are not unique to Philadelphia. It is a nationwide issue that is harming our poor and urban areas. You will notice that you rarely find Charter Schools in wealthy suburban districts and that is only because you don’t find the complex problems I previously mentioned in those neighborhoods either. Expansion of charter schools will not be the savior of education but they could be the demise of a cornerstone of our democracy, fair and equitable public school for all.
Please do not expand charter school options at this time. Thank you.
Councilman Squilla, Councilwoman Sanchez, and Councilwoman Blackwell have introduced a resolution to City Council calling on the School District to scale back its standardized testing.
The resolution will be introduced for a vote during the week of December 8th. Please take five minutes to call your councilperson -- or an at-large representative -- to let them know that you want them to vote YES on this resolution!
Think about all of the days your students give up on these exams. Five minutes of advocacy is worth it.
Calling upon the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission to analyze the financial and human impact of standardized testing, to identify strategies to minimize its use, and to request a waiver of the Keystone Exams from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order to adopt assessments that better serve local needs and priorities.
WHEREAS, Standardized testing has dramatically increased since 2002’s No Child Left Behind Act imposed federal mandates requiring the testing of every student in reading and math from 3rd grade to 8th grade and again in high school, implemented in Pennsylvania through the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests; and
WHEREAS, In addition to federally-required tests, states have layered on additional assessments, including in Pennsylvania new requirements for Keystone Exams that will be required for high school graduation as of 2017; and
WHEREAS, On average, students in large urban school districts take a total of 113 standardized tests between Pre-Kindergarten and 12th Grade, with students in 11th grade forced to devote as many as 27 days or 15% of the school year to testing and yet many more hours to test preparation; and
WHEREAS, Since 2002 spending on standardized tests has skyrocketed, with the Keystone Exams projected to cost hundreds of millions even billions, without the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania providing any corresponding or dedicated funding to local districts for these costs or for the necessary supplemental education to help struggling students; and
WHEREAS, The over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing interferes with educators’ efforts to focus on students’ development in areas such as problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking, thus undermining skills needed to excel outside of the classroom; and
WHEREAS, There are indications that this increase in testing is causing children to experience stress, anxiety, and even in some cases even physical illness; and
WHEREAS, Minority and low-income students, special-needs students including those impacted by trauma and those with Individual Education Plans, as well as students who do not speak English as their first language, are disproportionately harmed by the overuse of standardized tests, particularly when those tests are used to determine ranking, admission, and graduation of students or to evaluate teachers and school staff as well as overall school performance; and
WHEREAS, the City of Pittsburgh engaged in a thoughtful process to evaluate how to minimize and mitigate the use of testing, and has adopted a plan that will cut over 33 hours of annual testing for students in certain grades; and
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania law provides the opportunity for local districts to request waiver of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement and seek approval of alternative assessment strategies; and
WHEREAS, Philadelphia’s ongoing and serious budget crisis as well as its high concentrations of minority, low-income, special-needs, and Limited-English Proficient students, justify the critical examination of state-mandated testing as applied to Philadelphia students and the development of a more streamlined, demographically-appropriate, and cost-effective testing structure for the Philadelphia School District; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, THAT THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA respectfully calls upon the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission to analyze the financial and human impact of standardized testing, to identify strategies to minimize its use, and to request a waiver of the Keystone Exams from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order to adopt assessments that better serve local needs and priorities; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that an engrossed copy of this resolution be sent to William R. Hite, Jr., Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, and the members of the School Reform Commission.
Councilman Mark Squilla
Councilman – 1st District
Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell
Councilwoman – 7th District Councilwoman – 3rd District
In light of recent no indictment ruling in the Eric Garner case, the Caucus of Working Educators stands in solidarity with the family of Eric Garner and everyone across the country fighting for #blacklivesmatter.
Two days after the 59th anniversary of Rosa Parks refusal to move from her seat, a New York Grand Jury ruled that police officer, David Pantaleo, would not be charged in the choke-hold death of Eric Garner, a father of 6. In spite of the following two facts: Choke-holds are banned from the New York Police Department and the autopsy ruled Garner’s death a homicide and the choke hold as the official cause of death according to the coroner report. Despite the push for body cameras, this incident was completely captured on video, which questions the veracity and effectiveness of the new proposed camera policies. We hope that justice will be done for Tamir Rice.
True change will have to include acknowledgment of an always broken American Justice system, deep bias in policing, major education and training for law enforcement, firing of police officers who have violated civilian rights, and transforming our mechanisms and priorities for building truly safe communities.
Educators, community members, and parents want our children to feel safe and for justice to prevail over bias and inherently racist laws. We want to be able to look each of our students in the face and tell them that they are safe and that their lives DO matter.
If these issues matter to you as an educator, then we strongly encourage you to attend today's happy hour hosted by Teacher Action Group:
531 N 13th Street
Dear Mr. Wolf,
The members of PFT's Caucus of WE congratulate you on your election as Governor of Pennsylvania. It was our pleasure to help Get Out the Vote for your election. We look forward to working with you to repair the harm done by the current administration in the last four years and since the economic recession began in 2008.
We hope that you keep a few key criteria in mind when making all of your political appointments. Diversity in terms of geography, race, gender, religion and political leanings should be a priority. Your cabinet should look like Pennsylvania. Appointees should be Pennsylvanians with a track record of public service and notable achievements. They should be highly qualified and bold thinkers. They should be brave enough to advise you from their experience and conscience. Leaders can only do their best when they surround themselves with people they respect enough to listen to their dissenting opinions.
As professional public school educators and concerned citizens, we take the appointment of the PA Secretary of Education most seriously. Education was the biggest issue in the governor's race and remains a huge challenge for all of us. When your team is vetting prospective appointees, only consider men and women who have actual public school experience. They should be former teachers, administrators, assistant superintendents, and superintendents that have deep roots in Pennsylvania.
Only consider candidates who were educated and received their certifications from legitimate brick and mortar educational institutions. Temple, Penn State, and Pitt, come to mind. Choose someone who can work with the students, parents, and teachers of Pennsylvania.
We are hungry for a leader who will lead us out of the current educational wasteland to a safe and stable place where students and staff are respected and supported. Seek out a candidate who is erudite, motivated, and compassionate. We do not need more tough talk and threats. We do not need someone who will reduce humans to data points. We need a person who can use both socioeconomic and educational data to create equity of opportunity to all of our students.
The Steering Committee
Caucus of Working Educators
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
WE has been featured in a number of big news stories recently! Please read and share widely, so that more educators and community members can learn about our work strengthening our union and public schools from the ground up.
-Earlier this month, The Notebook covered our First Annual Convention:
On Nov. 8, the Caucus of Working Educators (WE) held its first annual convention at the Old First Reformed United Church of Christ in Philadelphia, where more than 125 teachers, counselors, and education advocates from Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey came to learn more about strategizing and organizing.
“It’s a get-together, it’s a rally, it’s an informational setting,” said Kristin Luebbert, the communications chair of the caucus. “It’s all those things, to help expand the work we need to do for our children right now.”
The keynote speaker, Yohuru Williams, a professor of history at Fairfield University and a member of the Badass Teachers Association, compared the mission of the caucus and the goal of its first conference with Martin Luther King Jr.’s goals during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
“I want to be clear: We have the power to transform education,” said Williams. “I want to be clear, because our schools are not failing, it is our democracy that is failing. And we’re going to need to address and correct that if we’re going to be successful in endeavors to preserve public education.”
-Then, this week's edition of the Philadelphia City Paper wrote a profile of our work so far and where we're going:
WE, which boasts 141 dues-paying members, held its first convention on Nov. 8. Its quick growth could shape the larger fight to defend public education in Philadelphia, where thousands of jobs have been eliminated, charter schools have expanded rapidly with little financial oversight, dozens of schools have closed, preparation for high-stakes testing dominates much of the curriculum and now, because of the attempt to impose health-care cost-sharing, underpaid teachers face what is effectively a salary cut.
The PFT is the single most powerful force fighting for fair funding for city schools and opposing school closings and layoffs. Its weakness and inability to mobilize its members undermines the entire movement to save Philadelphia public schools.
The WE Caucus takes inspiration from Chicago's militant Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE, which took over leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union in 2010. Then, in 2012, they led teachers out on a high-profile strike that grabbed national attention and, more important, received widespread support from parents and community members.
-This weekend, Philadelphia Magazine wrote a follow-up story to the City Paper article. Rather than citing that article, which you can read here, we'd like to offer the following response:
We are excited about every conversation on how to strengthen our union, and encourage everyone to read the full piece at the City Paper to get a more complete perspective.
While WE appreciate the shout-out, Mr. McQuade's focus on intra-union politics misses the main point of our caucus: to energize the rank and file membership of the PFT, build deep partnerships with parent and community groups, and fight for a vibrant and sustainably-funded public education system in Philadelphia. We want every teacher, parent, and student to feel supported and empowered to stand up proudly for the schools our students deserve. No matter who they are, where they work, or who they associate with.
***Bonus news story: WE members Alison McDowell and Diane Payne were featured in various news outlets wearing their WE shirts at last week's City Council Hearing on Standardized Testing. Look out for more info on how WE is supporting the Opt-Out movement soon.
As recently reported in The Notebook, charter school applications must have a review that is open to the public. The first round of reviews are now scheduled.
We strongly encourage educators and community members to look up whether charter schools are targeting their zip code with their application -- and then attend that application's meeting to let the School District of Philadelphia know that we are committed to our public schools in these neighborhoods.
We know that educators are working during most of these meetings, but we urge you to contact your parents and community members so that they can turn out and represent your school.
Let the review board know -- charter schools are not a sustainable option for our district!
The only reason that charter applications are even being considered again is due to an add-on clause to the Cigarette Bill Tax. Parents at Steel and Marin showed the District last spring that they did not want charters in their neighborhoods. Now there are 40 applications that need the same kind of community input.
The meetings will be held at the School District Central Office, 440 North Broad Street.
|Proposed School Name||Initial hearing date||Time||Area of City||Zip Code|
|Germantown Community Charter School||8-Dec||11:45 AM||Germantown||19144|
|Liguori Academy Charter School||8-Dec||12:25 PM||unkown||unknown|
|Philadelphia Career and Technical Academy||8-Dec||12:05 PM||Germantown||19144|
|String Theory Charter School - East Falls||8-Dec||1:50 PM||East Falls||19129|
|String Theory Charter School - Greys Ferry||8-Dec||2:05 PM||South Philly||19146|
|String Theory Charter School - Southeast||8-Dec||2:30 PM||South Philly||19148|
|The Partnership School for Science and Innovation - MaST Community Charter School||8-Dec||12:45 PM||Center City||19106, 19146|
|Urban STEM Academy||8-Dec||1:30 PM||NW Philly||19138|
|ASPIRA Ramon E. Betances Charter School||10-Dec||11:30 AM||North Philly||19120|
|Congreso Academy Charter High School||10-Dec||11:50 AM||North Philly||19133|
|Esperanza Elementary Charter School||10-Dec||12:35 PM||North Philly||19140|
|Friendship Public Charter School||10-Dec||10:50 AM||North Philly||unknown|
|KIPP North Philadelphia Charter School||10-Dec||10:30 AM||North Philly||19132|
|Leon H. Sullivan Opportunities Charter School||10-Dec||12:55 PM||North Philly||unknown|
|Mastery Charter School - Gillespie Campus||10-Dec||2:25 PM||North Philly||19140|
|Mastery Charter School - North Philadelphia Campus||10-Dec||2:45 PM||North Philly||19132|
|New Foundations Charter School - Brewerytown||10-Dec||11:10 AM||North Philly||19121|
|PHASE 4 America Charter School||10-Dec||1:15 PM||North Philly||unknown|
|TECH Freire Charter School||10-Dec||1:35 PM||North Philly||19132|
|The Pavilion Charter School for Exceptional Students||10-Dec||2:05 PM||North Philly||19132|
|ACES Business Entrepreneur Academy Charter School||11-Dec||12:55 PM||West Philly||19151|
|Belmont Charter High School||11-Dec||10:10 AM||West Philly||19104|
|Girls' Latin of Philadelphia Charter School||11-Dec||10:30 AM||West Philly||19143|
|Global Leadership Academy International Charter School||11-Dec||1:15 PM||West Philly||19131|
|Green Woods Charter School at Overbrook Farms||11-Dec||10:50 AM||West Philly||19151|
|Independence Charter High School||11-Dec||11:50 AM||West Philly||19104|
|Independence Charter School West||11-Dec||11:30 AM||West Philly||19142|
|Innovative Dimensions STEAM Academy||11-Dec||11:10 AM||West Philly||unknown|
|KIPP Dubois Charter School||11-Dec||2:25 PM||West Philly||19131|
|KIPP West Philadelphia Charter School||11-Dec||2:45 PM||West Philly||19143|
|Philadelphia Music and Dance Charter School||11-Dec||1:35 PM||West Philly||19139|
|PHMC Preparatory Charter School||11-Dec||2:05 PM||West Philly||19143|
|Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School II||11-Dec||12:35 PM||West Philly||19143|
|American Paradigm Charter School (Oxford Circle)||12-Dec||2:25 PM||NE Philly||19111|
|American Paradigm Charter School at Port Richmond||12-Dec||2:05 PM||Richmond||19124|
|Franklin Towne Charter Middle School||12-Dec||1:45 PM||NE Philly||19137|
|Keystone Preparatory Charter School||12-Dec||1:25 PM||NE Philly||19135|
|MaST Community Charter School - Roosevelt Campus||12-Dec||12:55 PM||NE Philly||19116|
|String Theory Charter School - Port Richmond||12-Dec||12:35 PM||Richmond||19134|
|Sustainable Roots Academy Charter School||12-Dec||12:20 PM||Richmond||19125|
Last night, a grand jury declined to charge Darren Wilson, the police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The Caucus of Working Educators stands in solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri and the parents of the Michael Brown in their disappointment of this ruling.
As teachers in the city of Philadelphia, we work every day to help our students see that their lives matter. We fight for quality public schools that will give every student the opportunity to feel that their voices, opinions, and lives are valued and cared for.
However, moments such as the non-indictment of Darren Wilson in the murder of Mike Brown teach our students a different story. This story -as well as the story of 12 year old Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and many others- says that the lives of black and brown youth don’t matter. These stories paint our students as criminals, rather than the intelligent and loving young men and women we know they are.
WE stand in solidarity with everyone across the country fighting for #blacklivesmatter. WE are inspired by the millions of young people in Ferguson and around the country who have said “We’ve had enough”, and have stood up for justice for Mike Brown and the countless number of black men and women who continue to die at the hands of police officers under questionable circumstances.
It is time now for the Attorney General Eric Holder to continue the federal case and find justice for Michael Brown. We encourage teachers in Philadelphia to discuss the verdict with your colleagues and students in your school. We will not be able to save public education without fighting for racial justice and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline at the same time. You can find many articles and resources to spark your discussion by searching #FergusonSyllabus.
Until we stop sanitizing the issue of race, class, and its connection to how American justice is delegated, we will never find a real sustainable solution.
On Wednesday, December 19th, many educators from around Philadelphia gave testimony to City Council in opposition to the overwhelming number of standardized tests that are administered in Philadelphia. Here is the spoken and written testimony of one such teacher.
Dear Honorable Councilwoman Blackwell:
I am one of the most privileged teachers in the School District of Philadelphia, because I am an ESOL teacher at Furness High School. I work with intelligent, creative, and enthusiastic students whose native language is not English in a neighborhood school whose student population includes a great deal of political refugees, unaccompanied and undocumented minors, immigrants from over 20 countries, students with IEPs and some students who arrived only after they were ejected from Catholic, private, charter, or special admit schools, but for whom our doors are always open. English language learners account for 57% of Furness High School’s current student population of 682 students. Even our Principal is a former Furness ESOL student and refugee from Cambodia, and his ESOL teacher at the time is still teaching at our school.
Do you know the percentage of English Language Learners at Central? 1% of their 2300+ student population. Masterman 0%, CAPA – 1%, Engineering & Science – 3%, Science Leadership – 3%. Why do you think ELL students are virtually absent from the city’s academically selective high schools and charters? Because English language proficiency has a profound impact on standardized testing. The elite public schools and charters do everything possible to keep or improve their test scores, unfortunately the major indicator of a school’s success. This means ESOL students are excluded from their esteemed populations to ensure high test scores.
The widely researched and accepted facts show that it takes a minimum of 5-7 years for a student to gain academic English, IF they are literate in their first language, AND they have content knowledge from their native education, which is far from the case with many of our ELLs in Philadelphia. Yet, these same students are expected to become “native-level” proficient in English after one, two or three years of ESOL and content area coursework in Philadelphia schools. It is utterly inappropriate academically, and is a practice that repeatedly makes our students feel deficient and defeated, despite obvious gains on the ACCESS test which IS designed for their assessment.
Put yourself in their positions for just a moment, a Philadelphia legislator for one school year in a country vastly different from anything you’ve ever known. You have no family with you, or maybe one sibling, like many of my students. The food and water don’t agree with you and you have skin problems, and an upset stomach, and the lunch you’re served every day, you have to force down. The environment is hostile, especially when you’re coming from one extreme climate and going to another, maybe from a village to a crime-ridden city. Your whole support network of friends and neighbors that you relied on before, now consists of strangers who shout at you when you don’t understand them or respond as they expect you to. You spend 7 hours a day in classes in a foreign tongue, with a different form of writing and you don’t know how to write a single word. Imagine, every time anyone in your household has to communicate in this
new language it is your responsibility, for the bills, at the doctors, shopping, when school calls for a younger sibling. Then, midway through your school year, you will be given standardized tests in language proficiency, math and science. Do you think that you, an educated professional, literate in your first language, could pass any of the assessments at a high school level in your “new” language? Now, imagine each of those advantages you have as an American professional disappearing, and you are one of my students.
Common sense tells you that second language students don’t have a fighting chance to score “proficient” on standardized tests developed and “normed” on native English-speaking test populations. Even their English-speaking educated peers struggle to perform at a proficient level, in a district devoid of support for the learning needs of our students, many of whom live below the poverty level.
English language proficiency has a profound effect on assessment and its outcomes. These tests are not appropriate for our English language learners. They do not adequately assess their progress in learning—not only the English language, but in grade-level content. These assessments are not an accurate measure of their true achievement.
My students remain in school and continue their education despite the many academic, cultural and economic challenges they face on a daily basis. And what do we do to them? We force them to take test after test that they are not ready or able to succeed at. We make them cry in frustration to comply with mandates. We ask them to reach a proficient level on standardized tests even though they have not acquired the English language proficiency needed to meaningfully interact with the tests’ content. Then these test scores are used to label our school “low performing” even though they are attending one of the best schools for English language learners in the state.
If you were able to visit our school, and I personally invite you to do so, you would see students of all nationalities, religions, and political persuasions with rich and varied histories collaborating as they navigate a new world together. You will see them volunteering thousands of service hours with BuildOn. You will see them apply to, get accepted by and receive scholarships at quality universities all over the state. You will see ESOL students working with Americans in AP classes after only a few years here. You will see students sharing their culture, their lives, their academic endeavors with each other and their teachers. You will see the true meaning of proficiency, success, academic achievement and social responsibility. You will see a high performing school. The Keystone test will never show you any of this.
No, the Keystone will show you how our school failed. Our students are below basic. The teachers are unsatisfactory. A test which robs our students of weeks of instructional time as we complete 12 days of testing, without factoring in Benchmarks that we will also administer this year. All at the cost of millions of dollars, fully knowing that the students will not be proficient by this irrelevant test. The state of Pennsylvania will spend $58.3 million this school year alone on PSSAs and Keystone exams. Just think what that money could do to truly educate these young people.
So, who wants to go to Fuzhou, China next fall for a reality check about standardized testing? Any volunteers? I am sure the Inquirer and Notebook would love to publish your scores. I wonder how many Chinese characters you could learn by March.
Tiffany Bhavnani, ESOL Teacher
Horace Howard Furness High School
School District of Philadelphia