Teacher Town Halls: Real Talk on Education Reform

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We were thrilled to see each of our town halls packed with a capacity crowd, and we want to thank every teacher, parent, student and concerned citizen who showed up for a candid, lively and informative debate about the future of our schools. In fact, so many great questions were submitted by audience members that the panelists did not have time to answer them all at the events. However, George Parker, Michelle Rhee and Dr. Steve Perry have posted video responses to each and every unanswered question below.

Direct Panelist Questions

For Michelle: Would you and StudentsFirst ask the governor to release the $45M from the federal government to fund Philly schools? If you want to keep highly qualified teachers here don't you think they should fund the schools?

Maureen F. | Philadelphia, PA


You support the firing of "ineffective" teachers. Don't you think there is a bigger issue: that our higher educational institutions are producing such ineffective teachers? Or are these teachers only ineffective because they don't earn high test scores? Could it be that the testing system, not the teachers, are ineffective? Are we simply holding teachers to impossible standards?

Samantha H., Future Educator | Philadelphia, PA


Overall Policy Improvements

If 3 major leaders in DC (Rhee, Fenty, Parker) were on the same page with education reform but were politically forced out of office, what element are we missing in communicating the message effectively to communities?

Ashley M., Teacher, All subjects | Philadelphia, PA


What role does poverty play in student preparation? My concern is that we fail to understand the role poverty, poor housing, healthcare, & hunger play? We lay often every ill at the feet of education? Do we need a national, state, & local engagement in changing the neighborhoods, (ie: many poor communities do not have grocery stores)

Charles R., Professor of Religious Studies, Philosophy & Religion | Philadelphia, PA


How can schools situate and empower teachers to lead without leaving the classroom? Valuing classroom practice in leadership?

Chris A., Teacher, English | Philadelphia, PA


How do you plan on rating/marking a teacher as effective in a fair manner across high and low performing schools? Will a teacher at a neighborhood school have an equal chance compared to magnet school teachers?

Dave L., Teacher, Math | Philadelphia, PA


How do you evaluate, measure or assess an effective teacher?

Denise N., Executive, Director of TEEI | Philadelphia, PA

How do we ensure teacher performance evaluation is unbiased?

Lindsey C., Teacher, All subjects | Philadelphia, PA


Since there are no more band-aids, how would you start from the ground up to reform education?

Ellen H., School Administrator | Philadelphia, PA


To best transform our students lives we must entertain a diversity of perspectives on what is to be done in education. I was just kicked out of TFA because of my beliefs about education and standing in solidarity with the Philly community standing up for their schools. How do we really put students first and not dissent last?

Jay S., Future Educator | Philadelphia, PA


Where do you see early childhood education fitting into education of public school reform?

Jessica S., ECE Dir | Philadelphia, PA


How can a college teacher and his students get involved to help public school education?

Jim B., Teacher, Business | Philadelphia, PA


1) Please address the lack of accountability on the part of the administration to hold teachers performance to an acceptable level. 2) The importance of teaching children that are high risk before they are lost.

Katrina J. | Philadelphia, PA


How can we help children strengthen their resiliency and stay engaged with the challenges they face?

Kelley F., Sunshine Hope Founder, Charter ED | Philadelphia, PA


How do we get more black males employed in the field of education? As you know, the effect of positive role models is crucial.

Leroy H., Assistant Principal | Philadelphia, PA


Making sense of spending vs. student achievement; What is missing in the current dialogue on improving the quality of education?

Lois K., Legislative Aide/City Council Member | Philadelphia, PA


How can schools better reduce suspensions/expulsions without sacrificing educational quality?

Phil H., Professor, Criminal Justice | Philadelphia, PA


What is the role of cultural diversity for teachers in education?

Raymond J., Teacher, Reading | Philadelphia, PA


How do you propose to attract the best and brightest teachers to our schools and retain them? How about principals? How shall we select them and retain them?

Rich M., Educator | Philadelphia, PA


It may be the case that you all don't blame teachers, but perception matters, and that perception comes from somewhere (like posing with a broomstick). How do you change that perception and how do we make teaching a more respected profession?

Robert B., Teacher, Literary Specialist | Philadelphia, PA


How important do you see guidance counseling in education? I am a counselor in Philly with a passion to help my students and am blessed to have an opportunity to continue my counseling work. I presently am an "Itinerant Counselor" with 8 schools, 4 high schools, 4 Elementary. How do you see SC doing their jobs under these conditions?

Ruth G., School Counselor, Guidance Counseling | Philadelphia, PA


Real talk happens between parents, students and teachers. What do you think about school led turnarounds led by parents, students and teachers?

Sam R., Teacher, Reading, Writing | Philadelphia, PA


What are some of the best practices you've observed regarding the business community's role in contributing to effective education reform? (e.g. pressuring government funding of future workforce)

Sarah R., HR | Philadelphia, PA


What specific policy prescription can help communities of color?

Wallace W., Student, Student Writer | Philadelphia, PA


School Choice

With "alternative" education on the rise, why can't "traditional" education change (can we blow it up?!) to be come the individualized experience that it should be?

Nancy C., School Counselor/AP | Philadelphia, PA


School Funding

Why doesn't StudentsFirst PA ask Gov. Corbett for full funding of Philly schools?

Derrick H., Teacher, Math | Philadelphia, PA


What is your opinion about the current state of the Philly Public School System and the current budget crisis? Do you believe in the promise and importance of Public Education? Do you believe that all children deserve an equal opportunity to an excellent education? I do. I also believe that the only way to ensure that is to strengthen Public Education - not to privatize it.

Erin K., Teacher, Elementary | Philadelphia, PA


If student accountability methods remain controversial at best, and ED funding in PA is being cut, why implement a teacher eval system? Education is already underfunded, it seems the wrong time for a new initiative.

Janene H., Teacher, Science | Philadelphia, PA


Not sure about the other states but in PA, our schools are funded thru local property taxes. There is great inequity amongst our 501 school districts. Should we be talking about a new funding stream? Particularly because charters, like the public schools, are not all reaching their goals in reading and teaching our children. Additionally, the charters take $ from the public schools making it a continued battle to educate in already underfunded public schools. Missing from the discussion? How has our education changed at the collegiate level? Are we inspiring and guiding kids who want to become teachers to be great teachers?

Leza P., Former Educator | Philadelphia, PA


Standardized Testing

What can be done to move away from test based academics? Can we teach children how to learn, not what to learn?

Alicia B., Assistant Director of Learning, Reading and Math | Philadelphia, PA


How do we convince our politicians that testing is not the only indicator of success?

AnnMarie R., Teacher, Spanish | Philadelphia, PA


With schools already operating on meager budgets how do you propose remedial services required to pass keystone exams will be provided. Key stone passing is 1/3 of grade and requirement for diploma.

Denise N., Executive Director - Remedial/Afterschool Programming), Eng | Philadelphia, PA


Teachers level (or lack thereof) of education; Why such an emphasis on standardized testing? How to achieve true equity - fairness for students?

Maria K. | Philadelphia, PA


Besides standardized test scores is there an "X" factor that can reveal or promote the best in students?

Nathan M. | Philadelphia, PA


One reason given for CC is that US students don't compete well on international tests. If you adjust for poverty (internationally, low SES students do worse - US simply has more impoverished students), US is doing rather well. How do you explain that?

Sarah C., Teacher, Social Studies | Philadelphia, PA


What standardized test did the US International Education Ranking use to determine USA rankings in the world - and what population of each of these countries that reported such results prove that their entire student population (in/out of school) took the test?

Steve L., Teacher, Biology | Philadelphia, PA


Students with Disabilities

How come when you talk about education reform students w/ disabilities aren't part of the conversation? For example, when you rate the schools students with disabilities who go onto post-secondary education aren't included.

Maureen A., Special Education Advocate | Philadelphia, PA


Teacher Preparation

The Economist recently published information about TFA's corp member effectiveness. To what extent is the effectiveness related to people selected and teacher training or support? How is StudentsFirst addressing the issue of this type of support?

Jacqueline P., Teacher, AP & World Literature | Philadelphia, PA


Union Involvement

Since you have no real positive solution for the crisis in Philly, how dare you rip into the very fabric of our city. Give me one positive pro union solution!

Peggy S., Teacher, All subjects | Philadelphia, PA