Phila. schools get poor marks in new survey

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Parents are giving Philadelphia's public schools some pretty poor marks, and their opinions are reflected in a new survey conducted by the Pew Charitable Trust.

A new survey from the Pew Charitable Trust, the culmination of a yearlong effort to get parents' perspectives, finds the city is undergoing going a sweeping shift. Families are no longer reliant on the school down the street, but instead seeking out what they see as a safer, higher quality education.

It's something 72 percent of parents say is sorely lacking in the city's public school system.

"Parents want good schools, and they don't really care where it comes from," said Larry Eichel of the Pew Charitable Trust.

The problem, according to the report, is that 60 percent of parents rate the Philadelphia School District's performance as fair or poor, and just 31 percent say their child's school handles safety well.

Those are two perceptions Superintendent Arlene Ackerman acknowledges, even while she insists progress is being made.

"We're moving in the right direction, there's always room for improvement, but I think there's nowhere to go but up," Ackerman said.

One of the report's findings, though, suggests that uphill climb will be steep with many students already gone.

Over the last 10 years, enrollment in public schools has dropped 19 percent, while enrollment in tax-payer funded charter schools has shot up, sky-rocketing 170 percent. It's a dynamic the report calls a "slow motion stampede."

"There is quite a change, and the charter school numbers are projected go up even more," said Eichel.

For the first time, charter schools are ranked above Catholic schools as the city largest education alternative. It's a fact the district is well aware of and, they say, working to change.

"To develop quality programs, quality schools in every neighborhood, and parents will stop that stampede," said Ackerman.

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