Parents United for Public Education Newsletter
November 2009
Test vs. teach 
Middle school parents:  New
graduation exams need watchful eye
In disappointing news, the state Board of Education this month approved mandatory graduation exams for all high school students in Pennsylvania. The "Keystone Exams" had been rejected year after year by an overwhelming majority of school boards, education organizations and school advocates.
Beginning in 2014, every high school student will take a total of ten exams. The exams cover basic high school subjects like algebra, reading, and science. Students must pass the exams every year in order to pass their class and must pass six out of ten exams in order to graduate. Students who don't will be denied a high school diploma.
Parents United for Public Education opposed the exams because of their punitive nature towards children. In other states, graduation exams appeared to have contributed to an increase in high school drop out rates. Groups such as Education Law Center have also raised concerns about accommodations for English language learners and special needs students.
As we know, high stakes testing has as much to do with money and contracts as it does with education. The state will spend $176 million to develop the ten exams, and local districts will share the $31 million a year cost to administer them. Last spring, the State Board of Education signed a $201 million, seven-year contract with a Minnesota company to develop the exams, even though they hadn't been approved at the time. The Minnesota company has donated over $200,000 to Harrisburg politicians in the past two years.
Currently the state board decision is under review by the Attorney General's office. We'll keep a close eye on the issue. You can learn more about the issue here:
  • Read the Inquirer's coverage about the issue.
  • Read Parents United's January 2008 statement opposing exit exams here.
  • Read this op-ed by a Delaware County School Board official from last month about why many school boards oppose the exam.
  • Read about the financial scandal involving the Minnesota company that received a $200 million contract to design the exams.


The District has promised that class sizes would be lowered to no more than 25 in grades K-3. We want to know if that's happening at your school. Let us know!
BRT Update: 100+ petitions delivered, City still wants schools to pay BRT moneyNo Patronage
We want to thank the dozens of parents and concerned citizens who delivered over 100 petitions to City and District leaders last week demanding an end to the practice of putting 80 employees of the Bureau of Revision of Taxes on the school payroll. The practice costs city schools more than $4.5 million a year.
The petition effort came from parents, teachers, staff and concerned supporters all over Philadelphia who wrote in personal comments about how $4.5 million can be better used.
To sign the petition, click here
Meanwhile at a City Council hearing last week, City Budget Director Rob DuBow testified that the City wanted all employees on the city payroll but still expected the School District to pay roughly the same amount to cover a share of the BRT payment. Councilman Bill Green also defended the effort to force the District to pay for BRT services.
School advocates held firm. Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia noted that no other district in the state pays such a fee and said state law made clear that assessments were not the responsibility of the District. Sheila Simmons of Pennsylvania Citizens for Children and Youth and Helen Gym of Parents United also emphasized the call to use school money for school purposes, adding that the City needs to improve its long-term funding effort for public schools.
Parents United is continuing the petition campaign to remove the BRT workers from the schools payroll. The appeals are going to every single City Council member, the School Reform Commission and the Mayor's office. We will be seeking visits to Council members in November on the issue as well. If you can join us in City Hall on a weekday late morning let us know by clicking here.
Thank you for your work in signing the petition and spreading the word. We need to continue to push the issue so that our kids don't pay the price for funding one more thing besides their education.
Issue: 2
In This Issue
New H.S. exams: what parents need to know
Class Size Poll
BRT update
Profile: Gerald Wright
Take Action on the BRT 
Tell City leaders: School funds are for our kids - not your politics! Take the 80 BRT employees off the School District payroll and put the $4.5 million to use in classrooms.
Join Our Mailing List
Get to know us: Parent Gerald Wright

Gerald Wright profile

(First in a series of profiles celebrating parent advocacy in the District)

Don't plan to tell J.S. Jenks parent Gerald Wright "no" unless you have a better answer than "because." Gerald has been a founding member of Parents United and remains one of its most passionate voices around teacher quality, contracts and 
accountability, and strong parent input into school reform.
He became an active member of Parents United after a series of revolving door substitutes in his child's classroom left him wondering how schools could avoid such problems when teachers
took sabbaticals. He raised attention to the issue and hasn't stopped since.
He was front and center in ParentsUnited's successful campaign to get the Philadelphia Parking Authority to deliver promised funds to schools. He was part of a group of supporters who saved Pickett swimming pool from closing last spring. He's a member of Jenks school council and a founder of the Father's Day Rally Committee which is hosting education rallies in neighborhoods across the city all year.
For Gerald Wright, Parents United's strength comes from its independence and from its focus on setting education priorities and investment efforts at the city, state and even federal levels.
"It's easy to demonize the parent and silence parent voices," Wright says. "That's why independent groups like Parents United for Public Education are so important. Parents United advocates so that parent voices are heard and improvements in educational quality continue." 
Fund Our Schools
Bring Parents United to your next meeting. 
Call us at
Parents United for Public Education
5800 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19144 
Parents United for Public Education is an independent citywide collective of Philadelphia public school parents focused on creating an open and transparent budget process that reflects the real input of parent voices and places a fiscal priority on academic achievement and accountability in the classroom. We are committed to mobilizing parents to take an active role in school budget issues and lobbying civic and elected officials to improve public school funding and to prioritize academic achievement, accountability and public engagement.