Philadelphia Schools are in dire need of reform. In an effort to achieve this goal, two committees, The Right to Education Task Force and The School Reform Commission, have been formed to focus on improving the situation for all Philadelphia Schools students. A new mission statement, a Declaration of Education, an anti-truancy effort, and summer programs have all been implemented within the district of Philadelphia Schools.
The Right to Education Task Force, which focuses on special education and persons with disabilities served by Philadelphia Schools, strives to do the following:
o Review state and national legislation that affects improvements of special education classes
o Participate in active and meaningful discussion about education concerns, and give recommendations to resolve them
o Serve as advisors and advocates to protect the rights of students with disabilities
o Encourage and facilitate cooperation between public and private agencies and their officials to provide services to persons with disabilities
Philadelphia Schools has put a “School Reform Commission” in place in order to continue the improvement of Philadelphia Schools. The commission’s mission statement is as follows: “The mission of …Philadelphia Schools is to provide a high quality education that prepares, ensures, and empowers all students to achieve their full intellectual and social potential in order to become lifelong learners and productive members of society.” The Commission has set several target goals for themselves, teachers, administrators, and staff, which they hope to achieve by June of 2008. These goals include Early Literacy, Academic Achievement, a Safe and Orderly Environment, Community Collaboration, Equity, Efficient and Effective Philadelphia Schools, and improved Support Operations.
Among other efforts, Philadelphia Schools have teamed up with Mayor John F. Street to implement a citywide anti-truancy initiative. The program is designed to ensure that school-aged children and teens are actually present in their Philadelphia Schools, and that their parents are aware of truancy laws. The initiative also intends to assure that parents and students alike are aware that the City, Philadelphia Schools, and the Family Court plan to hold them accountable.
In addition, Philadelphia Schools offer numerous summer programs that both keep kids off the streets, and serve to help students who have fallen behind in their studies. The programs are focused on academic enhancement and enrichment, and are mandatory for any 1st – 8th grader who did not achieve proficiency in a core subject, such as Math or Reading. Eighth graders who need additional help meeting Philadelphia Schools promotion criteria and 12th graders needing additional credits to graduate are eligible.
Mark S. Schweiker, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce sums it up by saying, “The reformation of the Philadelphia public schools serves as a model for the entire nation. As the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce touts the advantages of this region to the world, our rapidly improving public school system is an example that Greater Philadelphia is a progressive place to live and raise a family.”