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‘Business model’ has failed schools

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

To the editors:

At the turn of the twentieth century, the purpose of education was widely understood to prepare people for participation as citizens in the United States of America. A new public high school somewhere in this country was being opened each day.

This led to the development of the United States as the wealthiest, most powerful, most educated nation on the planet.

Somewhere along the line our mission for education changed. Instead of developing citizens, we began to develop employees. Instead of focusing on neighborhood schools, we developed the factory model of education – warehousing our students into giant buildings, taking them away from neighborhoods, focusing on cost containment rather than on education.

The SRC recognizes that method has not worked. It now seeks to build smaller neighborhood schools. The Commission is correct, but the cost of failure due to following the business model cannot be calculated.

In the meantime, the SRC is still bent on following the business model, instilling competition and privatizing our schools.

The SRC in staff professional development has insisted we become data-driven. The data over the past three years of privatization in Philadelphia show that District-run schools have generally improved test scores more than privately managed schools, even though the privately managed schools all receive extra funding.

How long will citizens allow this to continue?

Keith Newman

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