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Old Posted Jun 13, 2019, 2:43 PM
mja mja is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2006
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Originally Posted by eixample View Post
I agree it is marketing to an extent and the self-perpetuating, stabilizing nature of having wealthy families, but you are understating how important the Penn subsidy is. I know a teacher at another, decent Philly elementary and her friend at Penn Alexander so here is my take. At other schools, teachers can be tremendously disadvantaged by the big class sizes relative to Penn Alexander. If you have 30 3rd graders rather than 20 in your class, it is like giving another worker in another industry a 50% workload increase (maybe the analogy isn't perfect but I'm guessing not that far off). Plus Penn Alexander teachers have better supplies and facilities. Teachers in other schools struggle for the basic things (ACs, white boards) unlike Penn Alexander.
I'm fully agreed that reduced class size and better infrastructure are contributing factors to PA's success on their own merits, but aside from those things, it's simply not an innovative school. They aren't doing anything different pedagogically. The driving factor is all marketing, and small classes & well-maintained facilities contribute to the marketing push.

Small class size + better facilities & supplies + Ivy League name is mighty attractive to well-educated upper middle class urban parents. The single biggest predictor of educational success is level of education of a child's parents. Penn Alexander's miracle (and any of the other "good" Center City public schools) is not that it has somehow magically solved the urban education problem, it's that it appealed to families that previously sent their children to private schools. That is not a solution you can apply to most Philadelphia neighborhood elementary schools, and what's more, you don't even need Penn to accomplish it (although it sure doesn't hurt). You just need well-educated upper middle class families willing to send their kids to a given school. Look at Meredith, McCall, Greenfield, and increasingly Bache, Jackson, & Arthur. These schools over the last decade have served wealthier and better-educated families, and the first three are fully on par with Penn Alexander, all without Penn's affiliation.
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