Sunday, March 13, 2005

Ferrick on Philly schools

It is always nice to hear optimism about the Philadelphia public school system. Lately, with many of the moves by CEO Paul Vallas, there seem to be more and more reasons to be optimistic. On that note, Tom Ferrick summarizes some of the more recent attempts to improve the schools, all aimed at keeping the "aspiring class" satisfied, and in Philadelphia.

From the column:

CEO Paul Vallas' announcement last week of an expansion in programs for high-achieving and gifted elementary school students. It will include more classes geared to these kids in existing schools and three new schools to serve gifted kids, which could enroll as many as 1,200 students.

A district plan to expand its magnet high schools. It has 12 today, serving 7,600 students. It plans to open nine more, creating room for 3,600 more students. The plan calls for them to be modeled after similar successful magnets here and elsewhere - another high school for Creative and Performing Arts is one example.
And, just in case you think this is about improving lives for middle-class kids only:

Let me also note that nearly half the students currently enrolled in existing magnet schools come from poor families.

As I said, aspiring parents come in all shapes and sizes.
The reason I like Paul Vallas is that he both demands and expects more from students (for example, even in sports, where the public league is now playing in the state playoffs for the first time) while also providing more to make those demands a reality. And, unlike old school chief David Hornbeck, who was also an incredibly smart man, Vallas has the political skill necessary for this position. (For example, unlike Hornbeck, he probably will not go up to Harrisburg and call legislators racist.)

One good thing about John Kerry losing: He did not take Paul Vallas out of Philadelphia. We need Vallas here as long as possible.


At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a feature story not too long ago on Vallas, probably in the Inky, that pointed out Vallas had learned valuable lessons from his stint as head of Chicago's public schools. The reforms and building Vallas did there have eroded to some extent, but Vallas was able to evaluate objectively what he did and change his approach where needed when he was hired in Philadelphia.

I, too, love the high expectations Vallas sets for ALL public school students and that he's gotten just about every major player in the city to sign on to and promote his "declaration of education" for excellence. He's truly a "keeper".

To be fair, IMO, Jim Nevels deserves
recognition as well. It would have been easy for him to play the role of GOP lackey, but he and the whole SRC have continued to do what's in the best interest of Philadelphia public school students.


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