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City’s New “Portfolio Model” Of School Governance Comes In For Harsh Criticism

(The headquarters of the School District of Philadelphia, on North Broad Street near Spring Garden.  File photo by Mike DeNardo)

(The headquarters of the School District of Philadelphia, on North Broad Street near Spring Garden. File photo by Mike DeNardo)

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s new “portfolio model” of school governance came in for some harsh criticism at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference being held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Opponents of the model far outnumbered its supporters.

The term “portfolio” comes from the investment world, where it refers to a group of stocks. The model’s biggest proponent, Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, says it translates to keeping high-performing schools and closing low-performers.

“Schools shouldn’t have a right to exist,” Gleason says. “The right in America should be that students have a right to an education.”

Gleason spoke on a conference panel on the challenges facing the city’s schools and found himself at odds with just about every other panelist and most of the audience. Panelist Hiram Rivera of Philadelphia student union says the model has no place in education.

“Students aren’t resources,” he says. “They’re human beings with personalities, with goals, with dreams and hopes.”

In the audience, Susan Gobreski of Education Voters agreed. She says treating schools like businesses will create more serious problems than the district has now.

“Just like grocery stores don’t serve some communities, there are food desserts out there,” Gobreski says. “If we do that, we’re going to have school desserts.”

Gobreski says poverty is the core problem in local schools, something the portfolio model doesn’t address.

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