This week, the PFT joined our PCAPS coalition partners at a press conference to announce the release of our Community-Based plan for public schools. The plan is the end result of town hall meetings and workshops with hundreds of parents, students, educators and community leaders; it is a plan that was shaped by the survey responses of over 1,500 Philadelphia residents; and, most important, it is a plan being presented by people who are most affected by what happens in and around our neighborhood schools.
Unlike the Boston Consulting Group’s bottom line-focused recommendations for “rightsizing” the school district, the PCAPS plan addresses the question, “What do our kids need to get a great education?”
We didn’t simply write a report and then give the public a small window of time to react to our plan. We insisted that the community didn’t just give feedback, but work closely with us to create a comprehensive plan for how to ensure that every child in Philadelphia can attend a great neighborhood school.
The PCAPS plan is guided by ten key components, and contains recommendations for each. These are the items we should be focusing on as we discuss the future of our public schools:
- High-Quality Learning Conditions: Ensure that every student has access to appropriate facilities and learning materials, and that every school is properly staffed.
- Comprehensive Student Supports: Adopt a holistic approach to meeting student needs, and transform school buildings into community hubs.
- Enhanced Curriculum: Ensure that every student has access to an academically rigorous curriculum that is enriched, well-rounded, engaging and culturally relevant.
- Improved Instruction: Build collective instructional capacity in the district through enhanced professional development, equitable staffing, career advancement opportunities for teachers and internal leadership development.
- Performance Assessments: Develop a comprehensive local assessment system that provides more meaningful information, and supports improved teaching and learning.
- Authentic Accountability: Create an accountability system that promotes school improvement through community involvement and comprehensive school-quality review.
- Support for Struggling Schools: Develop the systemic infrastructure to provide assistance to schools in need of improvement.
- Truly Safe Schools: Adopt a new understanding of school safety and discipline that focuses on improving school climate.
- Citywide Collaboration: Convene multiple stakeholders to identify strategies for improving opportunities and outcomes for Philadelphia’s children and youth.
- Democratic Representation: Restore Philadelphia’s local school board.
Inevitably, we will be asked how the district is supposed to pay for our vision for great public schools. While our plan makes some recommendations on funding priorities for the city and the state, we will be coming out with an addendum that specifically addresses the fiscal realities of creating high quality schools.
Since the school district announced the closing of nearly 40 Philadelphia neighborhood schools, there has been a huge public backlash and no shortage of confrontation at hastily arranged public forums. The PCAPS plan presents a fantastic opportunity to move from confrontation to collaboration. We look forward to presenting our plan to Superintendent Hite, City Council, the mayor and other stakeholders in the city.
Let the real discussion on the future of our schools begin!