U.S. Sec. Arne Duncan visits The School District of Philadelphia

September 29, 2009                           Fernando A. Gallard





 Philadelphia is the first stop of Secretary Duncan’s nationwide

“Listening and Learning” tour of school districts


PHILADELPHIA—The School District of Philadelphia hosted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and civil rights leader Al Sharpton today as they visited student classrooms at Delaplaine McDaniel Elementary School in South Philadelphia and Mastery Charter School’s Shoemaker Campus in West Philadelphia.  Duncan, Gingrich, and Sharpton and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman also hosted a roundtable discussion on education issues at McDaniel School with Philadelphia parents, teachers, administrators and civic and community leaders.


“With this very important visit, Philadelphia has the opportunity to be engage and have a voice in the nation’s education reform dialogue,” said Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia.”  “Our ongoing reforms in Philadelphia have a shared focus with President Obama’s urgent call for rebuilding the nation’s system of public schools”


The School District of Philadelphia showcased the implementation of phase one of Imagine 2014, a five-year plan designed to transform Philadelphia’s public schools. Imagine 2014’s key priorities are Student Success, Quality Choices, Great Staff, Accountable Adults, and World-Class Operations. During the 2009-10 school year The School District’s back-to-school theme for the 2009-10 school year is "Imagine Greatness."

During the 2009-10 school year, The School District of Philadelphia will invest tens of millions of dollars to implement Phase I of Imagine 2014, which will impact every classroom and school in Philadelphia.


Among the investments parents have seen since schools opened on September 8 includes:


  • The most dramatic single year reductions of District wide class sizes in recent history. The average class size in grades kindergarten through third will be one teacher for no more than 26 students.
  • Providing additional counseling staff to reduce the current student-counselor ratio of one counselor for every 500 students down to one counselor for every 250 students in the District’s middle schools and down to one counselor for every 300 students in District high schools.
  • Revising the high school roster in the District’s comprehensive high schools to allow for more electives and an improved curriculum.  
  • Expanded social service supports for the parents and caregivers of Philadelphia students so medical, psychological, economic and social problems do not become barriers to learning.
    • Expansion of early child hood programs.


The School District of Philadelphia enters the 2009-10 school year with District students continue their rising scores on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) reading and math tests for the seventh consecutive year. The School District of Philadelphia is the largest school District in Pennsylvania and the eighth largest school district in the United States with nearly 161,000 students in 293 schools for the 2009-10 school year.  Philadelphia also has 67 charter schools with 34,000 students for the 2009-10 school year.


McDaniel Elementary School teachers and administrators have worked hard in recent years to improve the academic achievement of students. Today, 52.1 percent of all students are achieving proficiency in reading in the PSSA’s and 51.2 percent of all students are achieving proficiency in math in the PSSA’s. In 2006, only 15.9 percent of students reached proficiency in reading and 19.1 percent reached proficiency in math. McDaniels has achieved Adequate Yearly Progress two of the past three years.


McDaniel Elementary School has 732 students in grades kindergarten to sixth grade (95 percent of students are African-American, two percent Hispanic, 1.3 percent white, and 0.4 percent Asian).  The school will add a grade every year until it is eventually a kindergarten through eighth grade school.


Several years ago, the School District of Philadelphia invested millions of dollars to renovate the main building at 22nd and Moore Streets, which now houses the school’s grade third through sixth grade students.  The renovations resulted in a state-of-the-art computer tech lab, new Music and Art Suites, new library and the installation of so-called “smart boards” in every classroom.  The students this school year have music and arts classes and classes targeted for mentally gifted and high achieving students. McDaniel students also have access to after-school programs, after school tutoring and the school has started a technology club and desktop publisher writers club for students.


Nationally recognized, Mastery Charter Schools is a growing network of middle and high schools that serves 2,100 students in grades 7 through 12.  Through a unique partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, three of Mastery’s schools are turnarounds of low performing District schools: Shoemaker in West Philadelphia, Thomas in South Philadelphia and Pickett in Germantown. Since Mastery assumed management of these schools, test scores increased an average of 52 percentage points per subject in every grade and violence and student mobility dropped 80%. Simultaneously, student retention has increased dramatically. All of Mastery’s turnaround schools have closed the achievement gap in 8th grade math and two have closed the gap in reading. Shoemaker was converted from a District school into a Mastery Charter in the fall of 2006. Shoemaker has 568 students in grades 7-11 this year.  

      Mastery Charter Schools Shoemaker Campus was recognized by New Leaders for New Schools’ Effective Practice Incentive Community (EPIC) program for its significant student achievement gain on the PSSAs for the 2007-08 school year.  Awarded for dramatic gains in student achievement, Mastery Charter Schools is among the 21 highest ranked charter schools in the EPIC National Charter School Consortium.
      Philadelphia was the first stop on Education Secretary Duncan’s nationwide “Listening and Learning” tour. The nationwide tour is highlighting President Barack Obama administration’s efforts to reform public education, spur innovation and discuss challenges facing America’s school systems. The goal of the nationwide tour is to stimulate discussion and community engagement around issues of education reform.




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