College & Workforce Readiness A National Roundup

Philadelphia Will ‘Enrich’ More Students

By Christina A. Samuels — August 30, 2005 1 min read

The International Baccalaureate program is coming to the Philadelphia public schools.

So are more after-school enrichment programs, Advanced Placement classes on Saturdays, and Algebra 1 for 8th graders.

While the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act have some districts fighting to raise the achievement of students who aren’t performing at grade level, the 185,000-student Philadelphia district plans to expand greatly the number of enrichment programs for its students.

By exposing children to such programs when they are young, the hope is that they will be ready to enroll in AP and honors classes by high school.

Currently, about 3,600 high school students in the district, or 6 percent, take such classes. The goal is to increase that to 12,000 by 2008.

In a press release, Paul G. Vallas, the district’s chief executive officer, said the school system should be on a par with the enrichment programs offered at its suburban counterparts.

‘Stretch Their Learning’

Philadelphia doesn’t plan to stop with Saturday classes and the International Baccalaureate. Neighborhood school “academies” that would offer Montessori programs and SpringBoard, a rigorous curriculum crafted by the College Board to prepare students for AP tests, are also planned.

Donna J. Benson, the president of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education and a teacher of gifted education in Mechanicsburg, Pa., cheered Philadelphia’s decision, noting that she would like to see enrichment activities during a student’s entire school day.

“I can praise the school district for trying to do as many enrichment activities as they can. I think that’s wonderful,” Ms. Benson said.

Ellen Linky, a longtime Philadelphia school administrator who is heading the district’s newly established office of accelerated learning, said that each of the enrichment programs would be woven throughout the core curriculum that all Philadelphia students must learn.

“What they do is take the core curriculum and stretch it in different ways,” Ms. Linky said. “They are all giving kids the opportunity to stretch their learning.”

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