Finalize and Extend - Lobbying for Smaller Schools: Educating all of Philadelphia

To ______________,

We were assigned a project for our senior American Government Class which required us to lobby for an issue either Nationally, Statewide, or Locally. Taylor Tomasco, my partner on this project, and I felt strongly about our views on education. So we deemed it necessary to find an issue relevant to the topic of education. We decided on the belief that we need smaller neighborhood schools, and we need to not segregate misbehaved pupils into alternative schools. With this belief we had hope to break down the barriers between pupils who behave vs. pupils that misbehave, so that all may have the opportunity to receive a good education in the 21st Century.

Over the first few months of our lobbying project we have been able to complete a lot of research, ask a lot of questions, make a lot of plans and talk to many different people. However, we have had some difficulty getting proper answers, and talking to the right people. A lot of our questions have gone unanswered, and a lot of our plans were not able to be completed. We are passionate about our lobbying topic and would like to see this taken up by someone else in the future.

Below is a list of contact information, research, ideas and advice we have used so far in our process. We hope you have success in completing our unfinished task. We hope you are able to change the world by giving everyone an equal eduction.

Our Consensus:
What does a "great school" mean?
A great school offers a safe environment and an education for all types of learners.

How does a "great teacher" teach?
A great teacher is understanding and is always willing to explain, assist, and explain again. A great teacher does not talk at the front of the classroom, they engage the students minds and help students make connections not only to the academic side of life but towards life itself, the real world. They teach about the process and not about the facts.

What do we value in that kind of education that can be measured?
We value a students ability to apply the process of what they learn, not the facts and dates. We can measure this by there success in making differences in society, their ability to relate information.

Your Goal & Next Steps:
  • Have at least one SRC representative to report back to. This person will guide you through this process, answer all questions, show support, lead you in the right direction, and help you get the job done so you can reach across to all schools.
  • Visit various schools to see how education is perceived there.
  • Take a survey from students at all different types of schools. Refer back to the survey we created in one of our earlier blog posts.
  • Attend some SRC Meetings so that the public can know what you are lobbying for. You also need the School Reform Commission’s meetings to allow the public to understand your views as attending Student Reform Commission meetings. The officials who conduct these meetings can allow the issues to reach the higher powers above.
  • These are the allies that you need on board in order to allow your points to reach a higher power in the world. These are the people who can help you make that happen:

Bio on Ozzie Wright:
Ozzie Wright began his career with the District as a physical education teacher, and later was assistant principal of Fels High School, principal of the Youth Study Center, and the founding principal of the District’s Philadelphia Military Academy at Leeds. Before being called to active duty in Iraq, Wright served at the helm of West Philadelphia High from 2002 until 2003. He is a graduate of Temple University, a U.S. Army veteran and member of the Army Reserve. Having a huge impact on The School District of Philadelphia, we felt the need to include Ozzie Wright as a person of utter importance as a reference for  this assignment

-Ozzie Wright’s Thoughts:
* In agreement with the idea of breaking down Comprehensive High schools into smaller academies.
* Modified incorporating students from alternative schools into these academies. But rather have dedicated and qualified teachers that those students could rely on to educate those students on their perspective career paths.
* Many schools main motive is to simply make AYP (Annual Yearly Progress), but yet, when that motive becomes the schools entire goal, the students’ paths aren’t thought of anymore, and the educational plan solely becomes about the institution.
*For students who misbehave:
- You only get a certain number of chances.
- Not every student is going to go to college.
* Public institutions are run by the district who can dictate where students may or may not attend. Charter Schools are run also by the district but are “mandated” to have rules that they can send any student anywhere, even back to their neighborhood high school. Private and Parochial Schools are run by private and/or Catholic organizations that require suburban students to pay for their education.

Bach Tong came from South Philly High to Science Leadership Academy. We asked him a few questions about his education thus far:

1.From your experiences as a former pupil of a comprehensive high school,
how do you feel the transition was to an smaller academy?
The transition to a smaller academy to me personally was pretty smoothly. I think it depends heavily on how one could quickly adopt a new environment as well as how open is the environment.
2.Do you feel that your career interests are being met by the various
programs that are offered at Science Leadership Academy? Did you have
that at your old school?
I do feel that my career interests are being met at SLA. However, I have only been at SLA for almost 2 quarters, so I have not experienced various different classes that are offering. My old school is a comprehensive neighborhood school, which provides mandatory curriculum from the School District with more of traditional book-in-contact type of learning with fewer elective courses, instead of project-based with more elective course like SLA. As a result, my career interest was not met fully there.
3.Was your individual needs as a student met by the teacher and or
programs at your old school? Are they met now?
My individual needs as a student was met at my old school, however wasn't as fully as it does here at SLA.
4. What are the biggest differences in the education you received at the comprehensives and that of SLA?
I would say the biggest differences between two school is the curriculum and type of teaching and learning. At the comprehensive high school, teachers get outlined curriculum from school district through their books and teach more of a traditional way through standardize testing. At SLA, teachers create their own curriculum and teach in a
project driven way.
5. How do you think the comprehensives schools can change their mission statement to make their education richer?
I would recommend comprehensive school to give teachers freedom of writing their own curriculum, as well as relying less on standardize test.

From our background research and what we have done so far, we believe that if you take on this lobbying assignment, and are passionate about the education of youth, then we believe that you will have a strong foundation in order to continue this assignment.

Cody Nichols & Taylor Tomasco