PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia lawmakers have introduced a new series of standardized tests for ninth-grade students in order to determine which public high schools are performing adequately and which would better serve the city as private prisons.
Countless studies conclusively find a direct correlation between neighborhoods with lower-performing schools and higher rates of imprisonment. Students without adequate support from their schools and families are more likely to end up in prison, but funding continues to favor incarceration. In 2009, taxpayers paid nearly $300 million to imprison Philadelphia residents, while the city’s public school district received less than half that sum.
Still, measuring the effectiveness of teachers and administrators in a complex system of schools is a challenging task, particularly when it comes to the criteria used to quantify student engagement and learning. For this reason, the Philadelphia legislative body, which is almost entirely comprised of people with absolutely no background in education, has determined that facilities housing ineffective schools would better serve the community as prisons. If the average score for a ninth-grade class falls below the citywide average, management of the school will be awarded to proprietors of private prison systems. Before long, students in need of additional support and services will likely return to these facilities to live out extensive sentences devoid of freedom, peace of mind, and the satisfaction of basic needs that many of us take for granted.
Even if a school performs satisfactorily, many Philadelphians are concerned that teachers will spend an undesirably large amount of classroom time “teaching to the test,” rather than preparing students for college, future careers, and an intellectually fulfilling life. Legislators have attempted to allay these fears by introducing a concurrent piece of legislation that requires teachers to undergo additional and extensive examinations. These assessments ensure that teachers are offering opportunities for rich discussion and in-depth understanding of core concepts, while simultaneously robbing them of the time to do so. Those teachers that do not meet the proficiency standard will be converted into people without jobs.