(I’ve now added some comments from Chris Lehman, the principal of the Science Leadership Academy)
The PBS News Hour has aired two interesting segments on innovative schools in Philadelphia.
A few intriguing takeaways:
* It sounds like some great teaching and learning is going on in the two schools featured.
* I was surprised to learn that the Science Leadership Academy “rejects nine out of every ten applicants.” Along with exceptional administrators and teachers there — who I respect a lot — that kind of exclusivity does create a lot of possibilities that might not be as readily available in other schools.
* The second segment discusses an admissions policy in another school that it says is open to everyone. I’d be interested in hearing from people more familiar with the situation there to see how open it actually is — in other words, might there be other barriers to any student attending there, like its distance away from certain neighborhoods.
These comments are not meant to take away from any of the exceptional work going on at those schools. I just wondered if the segments might have downplayed some of the challenges of doing those creative projects in challenging environments found at many schools that do indeed take-in any and all students. I’d also be interested in hearing if those two schools receive additional resources — public or private — that are not available to other schools.
Please let me know what you think and what you know — I’d love to hear other views and learn from them! I’m very open to publishing responses from Philadelphia educators in a follow-up post.
Here are comments that Chris Lehman, the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, has now contributed (if I had been a little more patient, I would have waited for his responses before publishing this post):
It’s why we started a second school… because we did not want to be built on exclusivity – and before we started SLA@Beeber, it was getting far too hard to get into SLA.
We did 1100 interviews last year for 250 seats for two campuses. We made around 400-450 offers (I don’t remember exactly off-hand) for those 250 seats, which makes us far less exclusive than the report suggested.
No extra money from SDP. We hustle and raise money with things like EduCon and our Dell partnership, but actually, SLA receives less per pupil than neighborhood schools because of Title I, etc…