by Christopher Paslay
On Thursday, October 2nd, two dozen members of the Philadelphia Student Union gathered on the steps of Masterman High School to voice their displeasure over the perceived lack of attention being paid to students’ concerns during contract negotiations between the School Reform Commission and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (“Phila. students voice concerns on teacher pact,” Inquirer, Friday, 10/3).
Candace Carter, a senior at Sayre High School, stated, “Although we have a lot at stake in the teachers’ contract, there is no way for us to know whether or not our concerns are being addressed.”
A major concern for members of the Student Union is teacher equity, and the fact that some of Philadelphia’s lowest performing schools lack educators who meet No Child Left Behind’s standard of “highly qualified”.
“I’ve seen students cut class and come to my classroom to avoid bad teachers,” said Finesse Davis, a senior at Overbrook High. “The system of teacher distribution in Philadelphia is broken.”
It’s wonderful to see our city’s students fighting for a stake in their own education. If these same teens approach their future careers with as much gusto and fervor, I’m sure they’ll all be extremely successful; I look forward to hearing good things from them.
To address their main concern, teacher equity, I’d like to state that I agree with them whole heartedly. Philadelphia’s lowest performing schools desperately need highly qualified educators. Teachers and the school district must come together to find ways to attract highly qualified teachers to failing schools, as well as retain the ones they already have.
With that said, failing schools also need help from parents and the community, as well as from the students themselves.
Members of the Student Union must raise their voices and bring public awareness to other issues as well.
Student truancy is a great place to start. According to the Department of Human Services, more than 12,000 Philadelphia public school children are absent from school on any given day. Student Union members must put pressure on their peers not to skip school or cut classes; Finesse Davis might want to suggest to her friends that cutting class is a bad idea, no matter what her friends’ opinions of their teachers might be.
The Philadelphia Student Union must also put pressure on their own parents (and parents of their peers), to get more involved in their educations. Parental involvement in the Philadelphia School District is tragically low.
I wish members of the Student Union much success with their fight to bring teacher equity to Philadelphia public schools. If they can rally to get their peers (as well as their own moms and dads) to take their educations more seriously, I’m sure a more equal distribution of teachers in low performing schools will soon follow.