The deficit of qualified teachers, inadequate funding and resource shortages are challenges that plague public school systems in urban environments.
In Philadelphia, these inequities attracted hundreds of parents who are concerned about their children’s academic successes to the 2008 High School Expo on Sept. 28.
Nearly 500 parents and middle-school students crowded the Liacouras Center in hopes of finding a high school for the 2009-2010 school year. Representatives from more than 70 high schools and charter schools from the School District of Philadelphia provided information regarding their programs to families.
For Rodney Cherry’s eighth-grade son, attending a public school will be a major adjustment.
“My kids were home schooled. My wife and I have a lot of concerns about what’s going on with the kids in [public] schools,” Cherry said.
Cherry resides in Fern Rock and does not want to send his son to the neighborhood high school.
“I’m not too crazy about the neighborhood school [Martin L. King High School], so it would [have to] be a special admission or charter school,” Cherry said. “Kids are just caught up in a whole lot of things other than learning.”
According to the district’s profile for Martin L. King High School, in the 2006-2007 school year, 1,132 students were suspended, with 315 students being suspended more than three times.
The expo featured neighborhood, citywide admission and special admission high schools.
Citywide admission schools require prospective students to attend an on-site interview, have no more than 10 absences and no disciplinary reports.
As a neighborhood school, Horace Howard Furness High School promotes an interactive curriculum for its students.
The school’s program is supplemented by electives and activities that expose students to opportunities in higher education and careers in the field of education.
Patrice Massaro said a hands-on approach is beneficial for students because it deters the chances of their dropping out.
“Students need to have things to do,” Massaro said. “They need to see there’s a career strand, too, and that they’re actively involved in planning for their futures.”
As a parent of an eighth grader, Kim Cruz worries about the violence that occurs in some of the city’s public schools.
“[My daughter] is not into a whole lot of other stuff, so it’s really the safety I’m worried about,” Cruz said.
Cruz’s daughter would like to attend Philadelphia High School for Girls, where only eight students were suspended for first-time offenses during the 2006-2007 school year.
Sharon Newman Ehrlich, a teacher at Thomas A. Edison/John C. Fareira High School, said the city’s school district has a lot to offer its students.
“I don’t have any concern for the public school system. I think now with Dr. Arlene Ackerman, the system is going to see a lot of changes,” Ehrlich said.
Ehrlich encourages parents to be more involved in their child’s education to develop strategies for building effective schools.
“I would encourage parents to find out about the schools,” she said. “If the child focuses on their education and the parent supports them in their education, they’ll do fine wherever they are.”
Brittany Diggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.