The Education Election

UPDATE:  Election season!

A few updates:

1.  Both McCord and Schwartz responded to our report card.  The Schwartz response was published here, while McCord’s objections were in email form.  Kudos to the McCord campaign for a sustained, well-thought stream of objections.

2.   There have been very few reasons to update the report card (except, sadly, to remove Hanger).  All 4 remaining Democractic candidates have continued to support more funds to education and abolishing the SRC.  McCord gets a gold star for his explicit support of teachers in the current Supreme Court petition.

And, despite contacting Governor Corbett and his sympathizers, there has been no response to our survey from Harrisburgh.

3.  There are, however, red flags for McCord, and Wolf.  Feel free to read and comment.

If you’re still reading, here’s what matters:  Tell people to vote.  Give information and your opinion, but mostly we need to get people in the habit of going to the polls.  When Philadelphians come to vote, good things happen.


The the biggest issues in Philadelphia’s upcoming elections must be education.  Education is at the heart of our tax collection, our population base, our future economy.  The city’s resurgence depends on strong schools.  And the first step to any discussion is figuring out exactly what all sides believe.

Part of the problem with this discussion is that if you didn’t look too closely you might believe that all of our politicians1 believe the same thing.  Children first, improve learning, support schools.  Disastrous.  Behind the platitudes we face real differences; beneath the banal statements are deep and serious implications for our families and our city.  We have to talk about it and we have to be honest.

What’s the problem?  Our Education Mayor gets a shot on national television to promote fair funding and instead calls the whole debate “esoteric“.  No, Mr. Mayor.  The conversation about what schools should look is difficult.  It’s nuanced.  It requires telling people things they might not want to hear and having the moral courage to stand it by it. 2

That’s why I’m proud to be part of the team within Philly’s Teacher Action Group that has created a Candidates’ Final Exam.  We are pushing candidates to establish base positions, to firm up the ground on which we walk.  It’s not perfect.  It’s simply a point where we can discover what is is we are actually talking about.

Look, maybe you think schools should be run by networks of quasi-private enterprises.  Maybe you think test scores should be used to measure teachers, evaluate students, and close schools.  Maybe you think replacing teachers and guidance counselors with electronic resources is a fine way to educate children3 .  Be honest and stand by it.  And the hope is that when parents, teachers, and taxpayers walk into the voting booth they will understand what is actually being discussed.

If you have connections or just want to bother some candidates, please share it.  If you have a better idea for the next one, tell us.  Help us make the governors’ race the first in a long series of a elections where we call can agree that education is on the ballot.

(As of 11/21, 3 candidates have expressed interest in the survey.  I will update this as needed)

(As of 12/12, we have commitments from 6 Democratic candidates and surveys from 5.  Will Corbett take our test?)

  1. short of Daryl “SEPTA is the same as welfare” Metcalfe 

  2. But I’m really excited for your next rant about how the kids need to pull those pants up.  Really 

  3. Not your children, oh no.  But somebody’s children. 

Teacher’s Voice II – Weaponization

A couple weeks back, the refomers in Philadelphia were in full “sell” mode on hiring issues – full site select and mutual consent.  Jon Cetel, of the advocacy group PennCan, took to Twitter:


Whoa!  Look at all these diverse groups who support this reform.  I’m sure they will respond thanking Mr. Cetel for uniting them on on this issue.


Yeah…no.  Turns out that most of the groups do not support Full Site Select as Cetel lays it out and even the groups who do find his tactics, a polite golf clap as the governor starves our schools, as absolutely horrific.  While he was writing Op-Eds, they were marching and going on hunger strikes against PennCan’s actions.  Advocacy, indeed.1

And this wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t so utterly common.  I’m starting to worry that being part of the conversation means being part of the problem.

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  1. And just FYI:  Count me among those who support real site select. This isn’t a policy issue, it’s a process one 

#Engchat Challenge

A while back I stumbled upon this:  100 Best Opening Lines in Literature. 

Once I stopped squealing and dancing, I decided it could make a good lesson.  I sent this to the formidable #engchat collective:

So, in the spirit of “I don’t make my kids do anything that I don’t do”, here’s what I did:

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Teacher’s Voice part 1 – Let me in

I wrote a letter to a few of the education reform groups here.  I got some great responses. What follows is part one of my reflections. 

Over the summer, Philadelphia School Partnership head Mark Gleason was nice enough to ask me to coffee.  He had no reason to do so and, in fact, I’m kinda a jerk to his organization.  He even bought the coffee1 and avoided the PSP’s usual arsenal of weaponized cliches2.  To add to the pleasantries, we spend most of our time agreeing.

Gleason started off with a pretty damning criticism:  Was teacher voice and agency, my biggest complain with PSP’s agenda, taken seriously in my school and my union?   Nothing to say there but agree.  And hey!  He’s not in love with test scores and teachers should decide a lot of things.  But, every time I brought up ideas like “and I think we should have a well payed building engineer” things got awkward

It’s tempting to end this with “good talk, agree to disagree”.  It was a good talk, and I like agreeing.  But I can’t.  I don’t need or want people to agree with me 100% of the time.  I’m not angry because people don’t agree with me.  I’m angry because the same people calling for “more teacher input” are equally committed to making sure we have no input on what’s most important.  Offering a false choice and calling it “input” is recklessly disingenuous.

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  1. However!  He ordered water for himself.  At 7:30am, on a Monday.  Cyborg-Vampire CONFIRMED 

  2. “Why are you chasing an anti-union agenda” “The only agenda WE are chasing is for great schools.” “Ok but you have a sketchy funders” “The ONLY sketchy thing here is why schools only graduate 50% of their kids.” “But what about peer reviewed research saying the schools you support are shams” “The only peers WE are interested are the peers of children who used to be in failing schools and are now going to college.” Make it stop.