By Meredith Broussard
Thriving schools depend on collaboration between schools and communities. As a community member, you can make a difference at your local school. Here, we present three ideas for helping your neighborhood school ensure that it has all the materials it needs.
1. Talk to your principal.
Get a realistic picture of what your local school has, and what it needs. It's hard to tell what's true. "Every school, for the last four years, has opened up with the materials they need," claimed District spokesman Fernando Gallard. On the other hand, community members report that kids are not allowed to take textbooks home lest they disappear, and a teachers' union survey suggests that teachers are spending hundreds of dollars of their own money every year for educational supplies.The District has promised to remedy what it can: "As a district, when we hear concerns about our educational environment, we will investigate and address them," said administrator Steve Spence, who oversees instructional and non-instructional materials. "We try to maximize instructional environments in our schools. If we hear that there are needs for instructional materials, we work hard to provide that for those who are identifying that need. We are not trying to skirt around the issue. If an issue is brought to us, we will put supports to it." Gallard echoed that point: "We want to know if kids are missing books. If classrooms are missing books, please tell us. It’s not because we want to correct it in the record for you guys, it’s because he [Steve Spence] needs to go out there and get those books. Same thing when people tell me kids are in danger in our schools: I want to know who these kids are if they’re being mistreated, attacked, or whatever, because you know what? My number one job is to get someone out there to fix it." He said that the public should contact the principal first and can escalate to the assistant superintendent if needed. If you do talk to your principal, let us know. We'd love to hear how it goes.
2. Improve the information in our app.
Stacked Up reflects the best available information on what books are and are not in Philadelphia schools. If you are a principal and you know that your school is using a different math curriculum in third grade, let us know — we'll update our app immediately. If you are a parent and you know the name of your child's math textbook, and you don't see it in the app, tell us. Better data is better for everyone.
3. Join the public conversation about books and materials.
"When we look at outcomes as measured by standardized tests, children in many of the poorest neighborhoods of the city are usually the ones who are the most likely not to have textbooks and other services that they need to be successful," said PFT President Jerry Jordan. What do you think about this? Join the public conversation on Twitter using hashtag #phillyeducation or participate in the lively conversation in the comments on The Notebook. Follow education issues on NewsWorks, the Philadelphia Inquirer, or the Daily News. Talk to your elected representative. Talking about books is a great way of talking about the issues that matter in the complex and controversial world of education today.