School & District Management

Phila. Panel Taps Temple University, Others to Run Troubled Schools

By Catherine Gewertz — April 17, 2002 3 min read

In a decision that could prove pivotal for Philadelphia’s school system, the appointed panel running the district has chosen three school management companies and three nonprofit organizations to manage 75 of its lowest-performing schools.

Assembled by the city’s mayor and Pennsylvania’s governor to run the schools when the state took over on Dec. 21, the School Reform Commission is charged with turning around the fiscally and academically troubled district. With their April 10 announcement, the five panel members took what many view as a big step into uncharted waters, attempting a large-scale improvement with a variety of methods.

The panel’s chairman, James E. Nevels, characterized the decision as “a major step in the reform process.”

“This is an exciting time for Philadelphia schools, and it is a monumental moment in the history of education,” Mr. Nevels said in a statement. “We all understand that change is long overdue, and today we begin a course to better serve students, teachers, and their families. These are schools where change is most urgently needed.”

The reform commission tapped Chancellor Beacon Academies of Miami and two New York City companies—Edison Schools Inc. and Victory Schools—to run some of the schools. To run others, it chose Temple University in Philadelphia; Foundations Inc., a Mount Laurel, N.J.-based nonprofit organization that operates after-school programs; and Universal Companies, a nonprofit, neighborhood-redevelopment organization in Philadelphia that runs one charter school in the city.

The groups will operate as educational management organizations, pairing up—in many cases—with community groups to run schools. The schools were chosen based on their low performance on the Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition and Pennsylvania state tests.

Details Unresolved

When Gov. Mark S. Schweiker, a Republican, pushed for a takeover of the 200,000-student Philadelphia school system late last year, his plan called for private educational management organizations, or EMOs, to take over the worst-performing schools in partnership with community groups, with Edison playing the lead role.

The reform commission has not decided how many or which schools each group will run. But its plan departed from that of Mr. Schweiker by making clear that privatization—which prompted intense local opposition—was only one of five governance models that would be used at the schools.

“An assumption a lot of people made was that schools would just be privatized,” said Carey Dearnley, a spokeswoman for the reform commission. “That’s not the case.”

The “most radical” step, Ms. Dearnley said, would be for schools to be privatized—taken over completely by private managers, which could replace current staff members with their own employees. The least severe step would be for a school to become “provider managed,” with a company or nonprofit group working with the existing administration.

Between those models are three other choices: reconstituting a school, converting it to a charter school, or making it an “independent” school, a term used in Pennsylvania for a type of public school similar to a charter school.

Ms. Dearnley said not all models would employ a combination of EMO and community group; some might use only an EMO. The reform commission had not yet decided late last week which models would be used at which schools, or which community groups would be involved in running schools.

In a decision March 26, the panel decided to negotiate contracts with 12 groups, including Edison, to offer consulting services at the district level. (“Takeover Team Picked in Phila.,” April 3, 2002.)

The governor’s spokesman, Steve Aaron, called the SRC’s latest decision “a bold step toward reform. It’s what those kids need and it’s long overdue,” he said. “We like the direction we’re seeing.”

The local teachers’ union, the 21,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, expressed doubts about the new developments, repeating its criticism that the reform commission has not focused enough on ways to improve teaching and learning.

“While they are tinkering with management and governance, it’s business as usual in Philadelphia schools,” said PFT spokeswoman Barbara Goodman.

Of great concern to the union was the reform commission’s contention that under at least two of the models—privatization and charter school—union contracts could be abrogated.

A version of this article appeared in the April 17, 2002 edition of Education Week as Phila. Panel Taps Temple University, Others to Run Troubled Schools

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion The Year of Scourges: How I Survived Illness and Racism to Find My 'Tribe'
A Black school leader reflects on the hardest year of her professional life.
Reba Y. Hodge
4 min read
new growth on a bare tree
Vanessa Solis/Education Week & Getty Images
School & District Management From Our Research Center How the Pandemic Is Shaping K-12 Education (in Charts)
Surveys by the EdWeek Research Center show how schools have changed during the pandemic and what adjustments are likely to stick.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School on Oct. 6, 2020, in Rye, N.Y.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School in Rye, N.Y., last fall.
Mary Altaffer/AP
School & District Management Opinion Ed. Leaders: Discuss Race, Call Out White Supremacy
Downplaying the realities of racism leads to misunderstanding school problems and developing inadequate solutions.
John B. Diamond & Jennifer Cheatham
5 min read
Hand writing the word racism on blackboard. Stop hate. Against prejudice and violence. Lecture about discrimination in school.
Tero Vesalainen/iStock/Getty
School & District Management 'You Can’t Follow CDC Guidelines': What Schools Really Look Like During COVID-19
All year, some teachers have said that enforcing precautions to slow the spread of the virus in classrooms can be nearly impossible.
13 min read
Guntown Middle School eighth graders walk the halls to their next class as others wait in their assigned spots against the wall before moving into their next class during the first day back to school for the Lee County District in Guntown, Miss on Aug. 6, 2020.
Eight graders walk the halls on the first day back to school in Guntown, Miss., on Aug. 6, 2020. Teachers in several states told Education Week that since the beginning of the school year, enforcing precautions such as social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus has been nearly impossible.<br/>
Adam Robison/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP