Nutter Targets Low-Performing Philadelphia Schools for Reform

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and members of the School Reform Commission are examining schools across the state, after the city's district promised to move aggressively on a pledge to eliminate 50,000 seats in the lowest-performing city schools, writes Kristen A. Graham at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philadelphia recently adopted its own "Great Schools Compact," that came with $100,000 and the chance at millions more from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, the decision came despite the fact that only three of the four appointed Philadelphia School Reform Commission members were present and the room was only half full when the decision was made, writes Lisa Haver at Chalk and Talk.

The target set by the Compact is the transformation of 50,000 seats in failing public schools through school closings and charter conversions. Nutter outlined the ethos:

"Reform, restructure, replace. That's where we are. That's where we're going in public education in Philadelphia.

"It's time to end any notion of contention between the district and the charter-school communities. This is our chance, this is our opportunity, and we need to grab it.

"We can use the Great Schools Compact to begin a new chapter in our city schools."

Nutter, along with the School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos, SRC member Wendell Pritchett, and others are now examining schools around Denver learning about the challenges and successes that city has had since it adopted its compact a year ago.

It is believed that the group will decide on Denver as a model as it consists of a mix of traditional district and charter schools.

Denver "is not perfect, but learning some lessons," Ramos said.

Ramos said officials had not abandoned the idea of district-run turnaround schools, despite reform through charter conversion being seemingly more popular.

District officials recently closed the central office that oversaw its Promise Academies, shifting responsibilities for the schools to other places – which saw the end of Saturday school, cut an hour's instructional time one day a week, and made other trims.

Promise Academy has experienced cuts, but still receive extra per-pupil funding.

"The responsibilities have been reorganized, not eliminated," Ramos said.

"Despite some of these changes, our intention is to continue with the agenda."

While acknowledging enormous budgetary pressures, Nutter is adamant that the city and the district must still press on with Promise Academies and other changes.

"We still have a school system to run," the mayor said.

"We have to do everything we can, even with limited resources, to support these young people."

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