Arrividerci, Paul

Paul Vallas is quitting. The Philadelphia School District CEO said claims he made a five year commitment, and now his time is up. Rumor has it he may be headed to New Orleans to rebuild their school system, as he spent four days touring the schools and offering free advice.

Before coming to Philadelphia, Vallas was the superintendent of Chicago Schools which were widely considered the worst in the nation before his six years there. His accomplishments, according to Education Next:

The budget was quickly put in order. Vallas rehabbed old schools and built attractive new ones. Test scores reported to the public rose nearly every year, two union contracts were negotiated without any strikes, and a host of new programs–summer school, afterschool programs, alternative schools, new magnet programs–were all created, Most important, for perhaps the first time in Chicago’s history, low-performing schools were pressured to do better, and students and their parents encountered a system that did not just pass everyone through regardless of what they learned.

Why, then, the lack of similar impact in Philadelphia? According to The Inquirer, the last five years have seen “a substantial rise in standardized test scores, a proliferation of smaller, theme-based high schools, and a more cohesive, standardized curriculum. But a majority of students fail to meet proficiency levels in reading and math, students fail or drop out in alarming numbers, an ambitious capital building program has hit snags, and a rise in teacher assaults this year has exasperated educators.”

He has experienced high tension with the School Reform Commission recently, when he pointed out a $73.3 million deficit in the budget and called for cutbacks. The commission did not like this, so they took some of his power away and turned the budget over to their own people.

In light of that, I would quit too if I were Vallas. It seems to tried to address a huge issue holding back our current system and instead of cooperation, he had his hands tied. I think New Orleans may represent a fresh start, and hope they’re able to make a better team.

From what I’ve heard and experienced myself with the district, this is no surprise. In my opinion, they need to hire an outside consulting firm to come in and slough off about 1/3 of district employees and contractors. It’s a ridiculously outdated, slow and corrupt bureaucracy.

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