This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
A hearty congratulation is due to everyone who is responsible for the continuing increase in the Philadelphia School Districts PSSA test scores. The continuing improvements that our students have demonstrated during the last eight years are a result of several different converging factors.
David Hornbeck and his administration deserve some credit for the District’s steadily increasing test scores. Hornbeck initiated full-day kindergarten in all District schools. He was also the first superintendent to direct extra funding for school sites to reduce class size. Over time, these two school reform strategies have surely contributed to student achievement throughout the system.
The Vallas administration is also due recognition. During the Vallas years, a standardized curriculum was created and implemented. Split-grade level classes were almost entirely eliminated, thus expanding the effect of Hornbeck’s reduced class size model. Most importantly, Vallas was able to successfully obtain a significant increase in the amount of funding provided by the state.
Dr. Ackerman’s administration too has benefited from increases in the state’s basic funding formula. They have also received a significant windfall of federal stimulus funds. Ackerman has used some of this much-appreciated money to expand small class sizes in District schools. Her team has also increased the number of counselors and support personnel at schools. They have made available an array of additional supplemental materials and programs.
The efforts of the Hornbeck, Vallas, and Ackerman teams to secure additional resources have helped the children of our District to obtain a more equitable and equal educational experience similar to their peers in more affluent districts.
It is teachers, however, rather than central office administrators or even school principals, who deserve the lion’s share of credit for the consistent increase in the District’s PSSA test scores. Through the funding efforts of previous and current District leaders, teachers have been able to organize and implement strong instructional programs. Along with their students, teachers are the true champions of school reform in our city.
Our continuing success as a district in supporting our students’ academic achievement is mainly attributable to the excellent work of our teachers. They should be among the first to be acknowledged in any celebration of our District’s successes. Credit should be given where credit is due.