This page focuses on education and is written by seven eager Rutgers students presenting an unbiased, thoroughly researched, and current profile on urban school districts in the region. Our concentration is on current policy and practices affecting students in our districts. Specifically, we focus on: the Camden District Takeover; charter schools vs. public schools vs. magnet schools; standardized test scores; public funding for education; graduation rates; and college preparation programs. Using a multitude of sources we have produced a comprehensive and informative site on urban education throughout Camden and other local communities.

Camden Education Association also provides information/data, current articles and interesting resources in effort to inform the public on the city's education system. Their website can be found at and their twitter username is @CamdenEANJ



Camden is one of the largest school districts in New Jersey. The community is characterized by high rates of poverty rates, crime and violence. Our schools have traditionally low-achieving student populations. During the 2011-2012 school year, graduation rates plummeted by 7 percentage points. In 2011 the graduation rate stood at 56.9%, but come 2012 had dropped to 49.3% (Peterson, 2013). As of 2013 the graduation rate was 53.4%. According to the Department of Education database of graduation rates for New Jersey high schools in 2014 the current statewide graduation rate is 88.6%. Camden City is home to 20 of the lowest-performing schools in the state, and it has an on-time high school graduation rate fewer than 50 percent (Zubrzycki, 2013, p. 1-27).

Today, Camden serves a K-12 district of approximately 15,000 students attending two traditional high schools, two magnet schools, one nontraditional high school, one middle school, and 20 elementary/family schools (Camden, 2015). In Camden, there are 18 elementary schools, two middle schools, not including elementary schools that go through grade 8, and five high schools. Names of each school type are listed below.

Elementary Schools
Bonsall Elementary
Octavius V. Catto Community School
Cooper’s Poynt School
Cramer Elementary
R.T. Cream Family
Davis Elementary
Thomas H. Dudley Elementary
Forrest Hill Elementary
Hatch Family School
McGraw Elementary
R. C. Molina Elementary
H.C. Sharp Elementary
Sumner Elementary
Veterans Memorial Family School
J. G. Whittier Elementary
U.S. Wiggins Elementary
H.B. Wilson Elementary
Yorkship Elementary

Middle Schools
East Camden Middle and Pyne Poynt Middle School

High Schools
Camden High
Brimm Medical Arts High
Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy
Woodrow Wilson High
MetEast High

The Camden School district is also comprised of two alternative education schools, such as the Early Childhood Development Center and Jerrothis Riggs Adult Education Center, four private schools that operate under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden as well as several charter schools.

A charter school is an independently run public school granted greater flexibility in its operations, in return for greater accountability for performance. The "charter" establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment (UncommonSchools, 2014).

Charter Schools
Camden Community Charter School
LEAP Academy University Charter School
Freedom Prep Charter School
Environment Community Opportunity Charter School
D.U.E. Season Charter School
Camden's Charter School Network

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While the statistics mentioned above (regarding the graduation rate in Camden schools) fall way below nationwide averages, charter schools such as LEAP Academy and Camden Academy are setting and breaking records of their own. As of 2014 LEAP Academy had a 100% graduation rate as well as 100% of alumni college acceptance. Camden Academy currently has a 4-year graduation rate of 98% and a 5-year graduation rate of 100%. LEAP Academy first opened its doors in 1997, with the opening of Camden Academy following in 1998. Both schools serve children of Camden as well as surrounding areas. (LEAP, 2015) (PromiseAcademy,2015)

Private Schools
Holy Name School
Sacred Heart Grade School
St. Anthony of Padua School
St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral School

Educational and Recreational Programs
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Recently, The Salvation Army opened a KROC Center in the Cramer Hill section of Camden which provides high quality educational and enrichment programs for students ages 6-12. The program offers students' academic enrichment, visual and performing arts classes, swimming lessons, recreation and STEM studies. Though there is a membership fee to become a KROC Center member, there are options for students who wish to join as well as for families that are as low as $25 a month for a family of 4. Like the KROC Center, Camden has other programs and organizations that serve the city's youth such as The Boys & Girls club which has two locations in Camden including a location in the Parkside section and in East Camden.

In the United States almost 50% of school funding comes from state taxes on income, corporations, sales, lottery and tobacco money. 42% of New Jersey’s funding for schools comes from such taxes. Another 53% of school funding in New Jersey comes from local districts through property taxes. And finally the remainder of the funding is, 4%, is from the Federal Level, mostly through programs like Title 1 (Coe, 2013). As noted, property taxes make up a large percentage of the total state funding. Because local revenue for education is dependent on said property taxes, different districts have great differences in the amount of revenue available to them.

One of the most significant moments in Camden Educational History was in 1982 when Marilyn Morheuser of Rutgers Education Law Center filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 28 of the poorest school districts in the state. After nine years, the State Supreme Court ruled on the case, Abbott v. Burke, and maintained that the system was unconstitutional (Gewetz, 2005). The 1988 ruling found that urban schools were underfunded, and that there was a connection between school achievement and school funding. In 1998, ten years later, the State Supreme Court ruled that New Jersey must pay to build or renovate schools in the poorest, largely urban districts. These districts are now referred to as Abbot districts or SDA districts.

For many years, Camden’s public school system has been criticized for its inadequate results, including: low graduation rates, and poor state exam scores. Moreover, “A substantial part of Camden’s ‘inefficiency”, therefore can be attributed to its students’ socioeconomic status, which is beyond Camden district’s control” (McCarth & Yaisawarng, 1993). However, recently Governor Chris Christie has intervened with a turnaround solution with the hopes to build up Camden’s public school system.

On March 25, 2013, Gov. Chris Christie proposed a state takeover of the Camden school district (Zezima, 2013). The takeover proposed a way to fix, what is known as a “broken system that allows thousands of students in one of the nation's poorest cities to fail each year” (Zezima, 2013).

In Christie’s proposal, while at Camden’s Woodrow Wilson High School, he announced that he’d be appointing a new superintendent. He also announced that the state would ensure every student has books, as well as technology (CBSNews, 2013).

On June 5th, 2013, the state board of education voted solidly in approval of Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to take over Camden’s public schools starting June 25. (Calefati, 2013). This has resulted in Camden’s school board being controlled by the state in its entirety. All decisions are made by the state education officials. In the summer of 2013, Christopher Cerf, Education Commissioner, signed a resolution that was approved by the state board. Thereafter, state officials replaced a large amount of Camden’s administrators. Including the superintendent, who has been replaced by Paymon Rouhanifard (Calefati, 2013).

Recent Policy

Recent District Policies post State Takeover:

Magnet/Charter Schools/Renaissance Schools
When a state takeover occurs, the state takes control of the district for five years. The state can remove the district superintendent and appoint one; Christie appointed current superintendent Payon Rouhanifard in August 2013. State governments assume authority over local school districts in one of several ways. The most common way is by replacing local administrators and elected school boards with state appointed personnel who gain control over the management of the entire district (Burns, 2003, p.289).

Both Christie and Rouhanifard have come out in support of charter and renaissance schools. The district already has successful magnet schools in the district.

Renaissance Schools are public schools that the district offers to an education management company. They are a variation on conventional charter schools. Renaissance Schools have fiscal autonomy, but have stricter requirements from the state than original charter schools. Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard has announced his encouragement of Renaissance schools in this state-run district.

Charter schools are public schools that are granted a specific amount of autonomy, determined by state law or the specific charter, to make decisions concerning the organizational structure, curriculum, and educational emphasis of their school. Charter schools are granted waivers from certain regulations that bind public schools.

According to Magnet Schools of America, magnet schools are “free public and secondary public schools of choice that are operated by school districts or a consortium of districts. Magnet schools have a focused theme and aligned curriculum to themes like Science, Technology, and Engineering (STEM)” (MSOA, 2013). Magnet schools are more hands-on and focus on primarily on the theme in which the child enrolled for. Just like every other school, magnet schools still have to follow the common core curriculum, but they are taught within the overall theme of that particular school. According to the Camden County School District, today there are two magnet high schools located in Camden, NJ, which are the Charles E. Brimm Medical Arts High School and The Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy. According to the Charles E. Brimm website, “students must apply for enrollment at the eighth grade level and they must be a resident of Camden. The selection process requires students to write an essay during the time of their interview” ( Students must also have a 2.5 average in both science and math, as well as no infractions with both their attendance and behaviors.

Standardized Testing
Another situation that has impacted our public schools is standardized testing. The earliest recorded history of the implementation of a standardized test is found in China during the Han Dynasty from 206 BC to AD 220. The exam was called the imperial examination and was used as a recruiting tool as emperors sought for prospective candidates to serve as administrative officials. Since then the exam has expanded and had extensive influence throughout East Asia and the world (Elman, 2000).

In previous generations many American students were subject to examinations and test. These tests were utilized and administered to make decisions such as student placement for differentiated instruction and to examine what materiel students were not able to grasps. The results of these tests were not published to the media and only served as a guide to school administrators (Khan, 2000).

Currently in the American school system places much emphasis in examinations. Never before has standardized testing played such a pivotal role in education. Recently, throughout the nation and especially in the City of Camden the scores of these tests have been used to justify school closers, teacher effectiveness, and student learning. These standardized tests have become entrenched in our society. The American public school system uses a test as the basis for approving a diploma or denying a diploma. The results of these tests play a prominent role in deciding where and how Federal and State education dollars should be spent (Kohn, 2000).

In Governor Christie's 2014 State of the State address the governor stated that “In the entire public school system in Camden last year, only three student’s graduated college ready.” Governor Christie in his comments used data from testing to support American author and educational leader Alfie Kohn’s statement that, “Tests have lately become a mechanism by which public officials can impose their will on schools, and they are doing so with a vengeance.” Govenor Christie used the term “college ready” based on broad guidelines set by a private entity that administers the SAT’s. A more precise calculation would include examining the graduation rates for all the High Schools within the city and those that still remain in college. “The graduates of Camden’s five high schools, four public schools and a public charter school have enormous college attendance rates,” (Madden, 2014) However, out of the students that did graduate from schools within Camden City and are now successfully in college an overwhelming majority of those did not produce a score of 1550 or higher that would label them as college ready (Madden, 2014).


Critique of State Takeover as a policy:
Cities rely on the state to finance their school systems. States allocate more money to urban education than localities. Many argue that the state government lacks the capacity to implement education policy. State takeovers provide for “a good opportunity for state and local decision-makers to combine resources and knowledge to improve children’s learning” (Camden, 2012).

The Institute on Education and Law Policy released a 50-State Report on Accountability, State Intervention and Takeover (Camden, 2012) and included a thorough list of pros and cons of State Takeover. Below are highlights from each section:

Abridged List of Pros of State Takeover:
1. Provides a good opportunity for state and local decision-makers to combine resources and knowledge to improve children’s learning
2. Allow a competent executive staff to guide an uninterrupted and effective implementation of school improvement efforts.
3. Allow for more radical, and necessary, changes in low-performing districts

Abridged List of Cons of State Takeover:
1. Place poorly prepared state-selected officials in charge, with little possibility of any meaningful change occurring within classrooms.
2. Use narrow learning measures (i.e., standardized test scores) as the primary criterion for takeover decisions
3. Usually focus on cleaning up petty corruption and incumbent administration and do not go to the root of social problems facing disadvantaged students in urban school districts.
4. Foster negative connotations and impressions that hindered the self-esteem of school board members, administrators, teachers, students and parents.

Critique of State-mandated Standardized Tests as a policy:
In terms of examinations, there are many critiques to using testing as a basis of understanding student achievement. Many have noted that very few countries test students under the age of 16, nevertheless standardized testing in America can start as young as age six (Monahan, 2013). In early childhood skills are rapidly developing and enhancing at different rates. These tests cannot possibly examine intellectual capabilities. Until fourth grade many scholars believe that the only information the test produces is the ability for students to sit for a long period of time (Kohn, 2000).

Another critique of standardized testing is that when schools make an effort to improve test scores this has little to do with the quality of teaching or upgrading the curriculum. Many improvements to test scores reflect school’s simply becoming more familiar with the state assessments and targeting test-taking skills as part of daily instruction. Most importantly, Standardized test fail to quantify creativity, abstract thinking, judgment, inquisitiveness, commitment, or many other appreciated skills. These test however measure specific facts and utilities the non-interesting and minuscule features of learning (Kohn, 2000).

College Prep Programs as a Policy:
An extension of standardized testing is college prep courses within the district.
The high schools in the City of Camden offer guidance in assisting students to be “college ready”. Many resources are put in place to make sure students pursue higher education. These resources range from the staff to the different courses that are in place. Post- Secondary Readiness and Career Technical Education courses are offered in schools such as Camden High and Woodrow Wilson High School. These programs are designed to provide knowledge and skill sets of certain occupations, which one may want to take up at a much higher level. These programs range from hotel restaurant management to automotive technology. At other high schools such as Creative Arts and Medical Arts High School, similar courses are put into play to prepare students for college. AP courses are a main focus on Camden City schools that develop college level academic skills. According to U.S. News, the college readiness is based on the percentage of 12th graders who were tested and passed AP exams. This then boils down to the actual number of students who participate in an AP course (Best High Schools, 2014).

Post-Secondary Education

Currently the city of Camden hosts 3 post-secondary education establishments, which are Rutgers University, Rowan University, and Camden County College.

Camden County College- The College’s presence in the City of Camden began in 1969, when a diploma-completion program was begun to help students prepare to pass their GED tests. In 1991, a five-story Camden City Campus building became the Camden campus. The eight-story academic, retail and parking facility known as the Camden Technology Center was added in 2004. Today, the Camden City Campus focuses on an urban mission to support the economic development of the City of Camden and Camden County through associate degree studies and workforce training.

Rowan University- In the fall of 1969, Glassboro State College opened the Camden Urban Center at 534 Cooper Street. In 1970, regular college courses started being offered in response to the city’s teacher certification need. In 1972, courses were expanded and 55 students were admitted through the Equal Opportunity Fund as full time students. Most of the students were Hispanic so courses were taught in both English and Spanish until the students’ English speaking and writing skills were developed to the point that they could carry a full load in English. In the fall of 1974, the first English-speaking freshmen were admitted for study at the Urban Center. In 1984, the Chancellor of Higher Education gave branch status to the Urban Center. Thereafter, the college’s presence in the city would be known as Glassboro State College’s Camden campus, and enrollment grew to 500 students. In 1991, Glassboro State College Camden Campus was united with Camden County College in a newly constructed facility. Afterward, both the main campus at Glassboro and the urban campus in Camden were renamed Rowan College of New Jersey. In March 1997, Rowan College of New Jersey became Rowan University.

Rutgers University- Rutgers University Camden began in the 1920s as the South Jersey Law School and the College of South Jersey. In 1950, the two schools became the Camden campus when it merged with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. In 1981, Rutgers Camden began to offer its first master’s degree programs and in 1989 the School of Business was established. In 2007, Rutgers Camden launched its first PhD program in childhood studies. Today, Rutgers Camden offers two additional PhD programs, and it recently opened the School of Nursing in 2011.

Civic Engagement
Rutgers Camden students have the opportunity to give back to the community and promote education through different programs.

Jumpstart is a national early education organization that recruits and trains college students to work with preschool children in low-income neighborhoods. 50% of children in low-income neighborhoods start school up to two years behind their peers. When children start school behind, they are more likely to stay behind for the rest of their lives, and this gap only widens over time. 50 college students each academic year make a commitment with Jumpstart to devote 300 hours of their time and work with preschools in Camden to help the children develop their reading and writing skills.

Civic Scholars
Rutgers–Camden Civic Scholars is a learning community of select students who make a substantial commitment to civic engagement in their host city and region. Civic Scholars participate in special learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom, leadership development, and hands-on service.

Camden Ignite
Camden Ignite’s mission is to spark student discovery through STEM, art, athletics, and literacy enrichment, mentoring, and college exposure for North Camden students in grade 4–8 after school and during the summer.

Hill Family Center for College Access
The Hill Center provides college preparation workshops in high schools and on campus for students in grades 11 and 12, students we call Strivers. Trained undergraduate and graduate students serve as Ambassadors, assisting the Strivers and their families in understanding higher education options, exploring career and academic interests, and securing financial aid through scholarships and FAFSA completion.


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This section discusses the education system in Camden’s neighboring city of Philadelphia.


  • Philadelphia has the eighth largest school district in the nation. Excluding Early Childhood schools, Alternative Education Programs and Charter Schools, the district has 149 elementary schools, 16 middle schools, and 53 high schools, as of December 2014 (PhiladelphiaSchoolDistrict,2014).

  • Statements from the Philadelphia School District has shown a growth of high schools from December 2013 to December 2014 by four schools.

  • There are nine regions of the district: Center City, Center East, East, North, Northwest, South, Southwest, and West.

  • Separate from the district, there are 86 charter schools, making for 64,301 charter school students in the district (PhiladelphiaSchoolDistrict,2014).

  • The Philadelphia School District also stated on their "A Snapshot of the District" form that the total number of students throughout all Philadelphia schools is 142,266. The number of K-12 students is 129,573. Pre-K students make up 8,697 of the grand total.

  • The Superintendent of the Philadelphia School District is William R. Hite, and he has been serving as Superintendent since he was hired in June of 2012. Paul Kihn currently serves as the Deputy Superintendent.

  • For the last ten years the K-12 enrollment trends in Philadelphia have been remarkable consistent.

  • The number of students in district-run schools has fallen while enrollment in catholic schools and charter schools have grown.

  • Since 2003, district-run schools have lost 26 percent of enrollment. Also, catholic schools have lost 48 percent of enrollment. Charter Schools on the other hand are up 219 percent of enrollment. (Gewertz, 2002).
  • Philadelphia is home to roughly 90 colleges and universities providing secondary education. ("Welcome to Greater Philadelphia")

A deeper look into the Philadelphia School District

Charter Schools

  • What is a Charter School?

  • Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children.
  • Charter Schools are independently operated public schools that are funded with federal, state and local tax dollars. These schools are established to provide families with more educational alternatives for their children(Palmer, 2014).
  • Charter Schools are independent, and operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are are placed on school district schools.
  • Charter schools are accountable for academic results and for upholding the promises made in their charters.(UncommonSchools, 2014).
  • Charter Schools must also show performance in the areas of academic achievement, financial management, and organizational stability. If a charter school does not meet performance goals, it may be closed.(UncommonSchools, 2014).

Currently there are 86 Charter Schools in the Philadelphia School District.

Charter Schools found throughout Philadelphia

  • KIPP Public Charter School
  • KIPP is a national network of free, open- enrolled, college-preparatory public schools dedicated for preparing students in undeserving communities for success in college and life. (KIPP Foundation, 2014).
  • KIPP currently has:
    • 162 schools in the country
    • 59,000 students in the country
    • 6,000 alumni enrolled in college
  • KIPP Public Charter Schools in Philadelphia:
    • High :KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy
    • Middle: KIPP Philadelphia Charter School
    • Elementary: KIPP Philadelphia Elementary Academy
    • Middle: KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory


  • Mastery Charter Schools form a non- profit school network in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ serving over 10,500 students in grade K-12.(Mastery Charter School, 2014).
  • The schools mission is to ensure that all students learn the academic and personal skills they need to succeed in higher education, compete in the global economy, and pursue their dreams.
  • Mastery Charter Schools currently has:
    • 15 schools
    • 10,500 students
    • A percent rate of 96% of the Mastery Graduating class of 2014 have earned college/ post secondary acceptance
  • Mastery Charter Schools in Philadelphia currently have:
    • 8 Elementary Schools
    • 7 Middle/ High Schools

State Takeover
After the takeover the district added a School Reform Commission to govern and handle the daily operation within school district schools. The School District of Philadelphia has released a statement about the authority of the School Reform Commission. It is as follows:

“The policies adopted by the School Reform Commission establish the general parameters within which the daily operations of the school district are to be governed. Administrative procedures for carrying out and implementing School Reform Commission policies are developed and implemented by the administration, under the direction of the Superintendent. As applicable, all members of the school community are expected to comply with both School Reform Commission policy and administrative procedures, subject to stated limitations and exceptions.
However, failure of the School Reform Commission or the administration to comply with policy or administrative procedures shall not invalidate any lawful action taken.”

On December 22, 2001, Gov. Mark S. Schweiker assumed responsibility “for the city's long-troubled public school system” (Steinberg, 2011). This arrangement was made expecting that it would “lead to the hiring of Edison Schools, a private company, as a system wide consultant and manager of several dozen schools” (Steinberg, 2011). “Gov. Mark S. Schweiker, who took the lead in executing the takeover, said it was motivated by concerns both academic and financial” (Steinberg, 2011). He announced that the takeover was necessary because “more than half of the city's students failed to achieve a basic level of comprehension on state reading and math tests. Mr. Street echoed those concerns tonight, saying: ''We don't believe we can have a world-class city with a second-class public education system” (Steinberg, 2011).

Recent Policy

Recent District Policies post State Takeover:

Magnet/Charter Schools/Renaissance Schools
In Philadelphia alone there are 17 Magnet Schools, 51 Charter Schools and several charter schools turned into Renaissance schools. Magnet schools, according to Magnet Schools of America are “free public and secondary public schools of choice that are operated by school districts or a consortium of districts” (MSOA, 2013). These schools are hands on and focus primarily on the theme in which the school was brought on for. According to USA News, Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School is the best in Philadelphia. Nationally ranked they are number 76, but nationally ranked as a magnet school, they are number 26.

In Philadelphia there is a such thing called the Renaissance Schools Imitative Policy, which according to The School District of Philadelphia’s website the Renaissance School initiative is a part of the school districts “’Imagine 2014’ strategic plan and is predicated on the belief that the School District has chronically under-performing schools that are not serving the needs of the students and families and have not made adequate yearly progress as defined by state and federal laws, and that these schools need fundamental change to facilitate a transformation of the learning environment” (The School District of Philadelphia, 2014). Furthermore, there are three types of Renaissance schools in this initiative policy, which are innovation schools, contract schools and charter schools. An article entitled “Under New Management Renaissance Schools Show Growth” on reported that parents support the initiative. The article states that three parents testified to “encourage the district to continue to use the model to help its most dysfunctional schools and vulnerable students” (Pennington, 2014). This year the schools that will become renaissance schools are still being voted upon.

This year, Philadelphia has updated its charter schools policy according to the article from The article entitled “Phila. Revamps its Charter School Policy” states the Charter School office “developed the revised policy over the last 14 months as part of an initiative to improve the oversight of Charter Schools and bring more clarity and consistency to its monitoring”(Woodall, 2014). One of the best policy changes they made is that instead of checking in and giving feedback to the Charter Schools every 5 years, they are now doing it every year. This will allow the struggling Charter Schools to know that they are struggling and what they need to improve on before another non-profit takes over.

Standardized Testing
Standardized test are something that children as young as grade 3 are taking in almost every school. The stakes are high, but the pressure is higher. In Philadelphia, children grades 3-8 have to take the PSSA exams, which are the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams. According to “The Notebook,” which is an independent voice for everyone in the Philadelphia school district, the results are used to “determine if schools and districts are meeting federally mandated performance targets. Consistently poor showings can result in a school being closed, converted to a charter, or receiving other interventions” (Herold, 2013). Parents in the Philadelphia area are concerned that these mandatory state tests are going to affect the mental state of their children. According to The Notebook, the state of Pennsylvania allows for the opting out of the standardized testing for religious reasons. In 2011, 16 students were opted out of the PSSA.

House bill 1177

House Bill 1177 is an amendment to Title 53 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues. The amendment provides, “for local option cigarette tax in school districts of the first class and for local sales tax revenues in cities of the first class”("2014 Special Session -1 Act -1."). The bill authorizes the city to raise the cigarette tax to 2 dollars per pack from the previous $1.60 a pack tax. Philadelphia desperately needed these new funds, projected to raise $49 million in 2014-2015. Without the new taxes, there would have been an $81 million deficit in place. If this was true, the Philadelphia school districts would have been forced to lay off over 1,000 people. Despite the tax increase, schools still face deficits and can barely maintain a full rooster of full-time staff (leach 2014). In addition to the increase, an amendment was added to House Bill 1177 that allows for organizations to appeal to state boards in order to open new charter schools if they were denied by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (McCorry 2014). This is problematic because it further exacerbates the problem of funding between charter and public schools. Furthermore, there is debate over whether it is ethical to fund schools with a cigarette tax (Wright 2014). Director of the Adolescent Communication Institute of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Dan Romer has said that in the case of New York, a high cigarette tax has led to a reduction in smoking (Wright 2014). The passing of House Bill 1177 was not without complications. First, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives withheld from voting on the bill by opting for summer recess. Because of this, many public schools in Philadelphia had to consider delay starting classes or layoffs. This crisis was only averted when Governor Corbett advanced $265 million of the budget alongside with budget reductions in services and vendors (Wright 2014).

Economics and Budget

Often, many people witness that schools in upper socio-economic environments have better success rates in terms of SAT rates, Graduation Rates, College Acceptance and retention rates when compared to schools in lower socio-economic environments. Many attribute these differences to money. How schools are funded and the percentage of the budget that actually impact student learning. Schools typically receive their funding through a percentage of local property taxes. However, what happens in areas where property tax delinquencies are high or property values are so low they cannot adequately fund schools? (Kenyon)

Schools then apply for aide from the state, the federal government, or private grants. But aide is not a steady. Depending on politics, assistance from outside sources can be dwindled quickly. Philadelphia was well known for taking aide it was receiving from the state, federal government and grants and utilizes that money to secure loans, when the aide was cut off during the recession or due to political maneuverings Philadelphia is now stuck with outrageous debt.

After paying for instruction, which includes teachers, staff the next largest use for the district monies goes to debt payments. The 2014 Philadelphia School Budget highlights $264 million in debt payments and interest on that debt. That is more money than the school pays for transportation, utilities, and cafeteria services combined. (Pennington)

The Philadelphia School district is not broke, their previous leaders made many mistakes when it came to securing loans for the district. According to, the district’s debt payment can hire 2,400 new teachers with a salary of $70,000 and a $40,000 benefit package. Philadelphia school’s make up more than half the failing schools on the Pennsylvania State Department of Education‘s list. This is why Philadelphia cannot hire needed “resource staff” such as school counselors, nurses, therapist, social workers, and special education teachers. The debt crisis is the reason why Philadelphia has seen such a decline in their public school system. (Pennington)

Philadelphia Funding

Philadelphia Schools get funding from three sources, the State, the Federal Government, and city and local contributors. In 2014, the city of Philadelphia funded almost half of the $2.8 billion budget while the State and the federal government funded the rest (Claudio 2014). However, funding to Philadelphia’s public schools has been decreasing because of an increase in enrollment to Charter Schools. Funding decreases because Philadelphia is required to fund character schools the same amount it funds public schools per student. This means public schools lose more money in the long run and the capacity to increase teacher pay and maintain operating expenses. This effect is multiplied by the fact that enrollment in public schools has dropped from 212,000 enrolled students in 2003 to under 200,000 enrolled students, severely undercutting public school funding from the district (Caskey, Kuperberg, 2014). $727 million of the $2.8 billion budget goes to charter schools in Philadelphia, forcing charter schools and public schools to compete for resources (Claudio 2014). In addition, Governor Corbett’s reduction of the basic education subsidy by 7 percent and the loss of one billion dollars in Federal stimulus money has forced Philadelphia schools to look for funding elsewhere, such as the city of Philadelphia itself (Caskey, Kuperberg, 2014).


Critique of State Takeover as Policy
“In 2002, the state of Pennsylvania, frustrated by years of low achievement and a decade of budget crises in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), took charge of the city’s 200,000- pupil system. The state replaced Philadelphia’s nine-member school board with an appointed School Reform Commission (SRC) composed of three members appointed by the governor and two appointed by the city’s mayor. The SRC then hired a new CEO who immediately instituted sweeping changes, including the implementation of district wide common curricula and a system of frequent benchmark assessments to be used for diagnostic purposes. More controversially, the SRC adopted a “diverse provider” model as it turned over management of 45 of the district’s lowest-performing elementary and middle schools to seven for-profit and nonprofit organizations, including two local universities; the private managers were given additional per-pupil funding to support their work” (Zimmer, Christman, & Blanc, 2007).

Critique of State-mandated Standardized Tests as a policy
A critique of standardized testing comes from Diane Ravitch, a New York University education professor who formerly supported standardized testing, but now believes that these test scores are being overused. According to “News Works,” and the article called “Education scholar Diane Ravitch critiques charters, standardized tests in Philly,” Diane was quoted saying “all test scores will tell you is who’s teaching the most affluent kids and who’s teaching the poorest kids. And somehow the ‘best’ teachers are the ones who are in the most affluent districts, and have the easiest classes” (Otterbein, 2013). Ravitch also believes that Philadelphia is one of the most troubles school systems in the country because of its “combination of poverty and segregation and desperate underfunding” (Otterbein, 2013)

College Prep Programs as a Policy
The high schools in the City of Philadelphia offer a division of college readiness. The Division of College Readiness mission is to recognize every child’s potential for post-secondary success, work to provide resources to students, school staff, parents and the community, to raise expectations and motivate each student to pursue dreams, realize talents, and achieve academic and career success. (School District of Philadelphia, 2014) Their vision is surrounded by four principles, which are awareness, readiness, access and success. The programs and services are put in play to ensure all students and parents have the resources they need for post-secondary education. Some of these services include, but are not limited to college awareness, scholarship clearinghouse, citywide student government association, and PA state gear up. The School District of Philadelphia provides these resources alongside Philadelphia College Fund, The College Board and Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable, just to name a few. All these programs are available for students in order for them to be college ready. According to U.S. News, the level of college readiness ranges from 1.5% to 81.4%. Magnet schools are ranging in the higher numbers while public schools have the lowest ranges of college readiness. Many students are not taking AP courses, which leave them out of the statistics of being college ready.

Philadelphia Universities and Colleges

Four-year colleges and universities

Art Institute of Philadelphia

Chestnut Hill College

The Curtis Institute of Music

Devry University, Center City

Drexel University

Holy Family University

La Salle University

Moore College of Art and Design

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Peirce College

Philadelphia University

The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College

Saint Joseph's University

Strayer University, Center City Campus

Temple University

Thomas Jefferson University

University of the Arts

University of Pennsylvania

University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

Two-year institutions and technical schools

Community College of Philadelphia

Delaware Valley Academy of Medical and Dental Assistants

Harrison Career Institute

Hussian School of Art

Lincoln Technical Institute - Center City and Northeast Philadelphia

Orleans Technical Institute

Pennsylvania Institute of Technology - Center City and Media

Star Technical Institute

Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia

Thompson Institute

Graduate institutions

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine

Westminster Theological Seminary

Approximately 90 colleges and universities in Greater Philadelphia provide education for 368,000 full- and part-time students. 66,000 students graduate each year and these institutions offer job opportunities to thousands of people. Greater Philadelphia has two Ivy League universities, six law schools and six medical schools in dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary sciences, optometry, podiatry and osteopathy. The region has eight seminaries and eight schools devoted for to arts or music. (“Welcome to Greater Philadelphia”)

Philadelphia Education Statistics
For the entire city of Philadelphia, approx. 1,544,547 people, 64,488 (9.9%) have no high school education, 143,502(22.1%) have some high school education, 163,175(25.2%) have some college education, 54,158(8.4%) have earned an associate’s degree, 129,991(20%) have earned a bachelor’s degree, and 93,244(14. %) have earned a graduates degree.(“Philadelphia Demographics”)

Other Cities

Upper St. Clair School District (PA)
Allegheny County
According to Philadelphia Business Journal, the Upper St. Clair School District is considered the number one school district in Pennsylvania. The Upper St. Clair School District provides the latest educational advancements for a student population of approximately 4,100. This district includes “six public schools in the Upper St. Clair School District. Three are K-4 elementary schools - Baker Elementary School, Eisenhower Elementary School and Streams Elementary School, two are middle schools - Boyce Middle School (5-6) and Fort Couch Middle School (7-8), and one is a high school, Upper St. Clair High School (9-12)” (Upper St. Clair School District).

The nine board members who lead the school district take great pride in the district for the many academic, artistic and athletic accomplishments. This district has earned a lot of recognition ranging from The United States Department of Education and New American High School national recognition. In addition to recognizing the schools as a whole “It may be of interest for you to know that 98% of the students who graduate from Upper St. Clair High School go on to further their education at a college, university or junior college. The District's professional staff numbers well over 300 educators, 73% of whom hold Masters Degrees or above, and a support staff of close to 200 including custodians, nutrition center workers, aides, secretaries, maintenance and transportation personnel” (Upper St. Clair School District).

Upper St. Clair’s district has curriculum programs that are uniquely developed by the classroom teachers with the district reviewing them annually. “Each year a district-wide curriculum panel reviews curriculum recommendations that may be formulated by teachers, parents, students or community members that revise, modify or improve the educational program. This guarantees that every year each area of the curriculum will be studied, analyzed and modified if necessary” (Upper St. Clair School District). Many services are offered to students along with these specially formulated curriculum programs. Some of these services include after school and extended day programs, bullying prevention and school safety programs, leadership academies and special education needs. In addition to special services each school comes with a list of extracurricular activities such as choirs, bands, intramurals, language clubs, martial art clubs and many more.

Legal Matters

In 2008, a special education student claimed that one of her classmates has been touching her inappropriately. Attorney David Barton said “that same boy had already been the subject of numerous sexual harassment claims and was accused at least once of sexual assault” (Winter, 2010). This has been seen staff has tried giving him detention and sexual harassment pamphlets to read. The District faced a lawsuit claiming that the teachers and administrative staff knew the girls were in danger but ignored the proper consequences. Apparently the principal set up a plan to use students as “bait” to catch students who were engaging in sexual activities in the facility. With evidence from text messages it proved that there was no rape. The district filed a motion for summary judgment. There has been no current updates on this case.

Upper Darby School District (PA)

Upper Darby School District is located in the suburbs directly outside of Philadelphia. The district educates approximately 12,593 children grades Pre-Kindergarten through High School. There is one Early Childhood Center, ten elementary schools, two middle schools and two high

Upper Darby employs 850 students with a student teacher ratio of 14.The Upper Darby 2013-2014 school budget is $165,547,060 spending $13,146 on average per student and $8,315,441 on busing students to and from school. School tax is about 33.815 mills. The District has an Comprehensive Plan for years 2014-2017. The plan covers a wide variety of topics from Personal Care Assistant replacement to utilizing Pennsylvania’s Bullying Tool Kit into curriculum and discipline action.

Upper Darby has a multitude of special services for students. These services include media, technology, special education, safety, transportation, food services amongst many more. Specialist and Programs include, Nursing at each school, Guidance Counseling which includes, individual and small group counseling, Consultation and Coordination, School Psychologist, Response to Intervention and Instruction and Social workers.

Pennsauken School District (NJ)
Camden County
The Pennsauken School District provides education to approximately 6,000 students in grades Pre-k through 12. Pennsauken’s school district includes a “four-year high school, a middle school, an intermediate school, seven elementary schools, one preschool, and one alternative school located strategically throughout the Township” (Pennsauken Public Schools).

The leaders of the Pennsauken School District mentions that they take pride in their schools as well as their achievements – many of which are due to numerous factor, such as: “the efforts of an experienced and dedicated staff, conscientious leadership, a board of education supportive of programs to improve education, and an active PTA/community who get involved with schools” (Pennsauken Public Schools).

Pennsauken’s school district offers many programs and services to their students, and “the district has five child study teams consisting of psychologists, counselors, learning disabilities specialists, and social workers” (Pennsauken Public Schools). Some of the services offered to students include: speech therapy, D.A.R.E, Student Assistance Program, After School Child Care, Gifted and Talented Programs, School to Work/ Co-op programs, Academic Improvement Through Mentoring (AIM), Alternative school, experienced staff and active PTA’s, 24 hour “message board” cable TV, (Pennsauken Public Schools), and many more.

Legal Matters

In late 2013, The Pennsauken School district faced a lawsuit which accused the district of anti-gay discrimination. The federal lawsuit alleged “New Jersey’s Pennsauken School District failed to provide adequate education to an autistic student, then retaliated against the student’s family with discriminatory and false anti-gay claims in an attempt to intimidate them from continuing to advocate for the child” (Wigglesworth, 2013). There has been no recent news on this matter.

Cherry Hill School District (NJ)

The Cherry Hill School District educates approximately 22,000 students from Pre-k to 12th grade. Cherry Hill has a total of 19 schools in their district that serve the children. These schools consist of 1 Early Childhood Center, 12 Elementary Schools, 3 Middle schools, 2 High Schools and 1 Alternative High School. According to their website “The Cherry Hill School District is one of the largest employers in the region”(Cherry Hill Public Schools, 2013). They go on to say that “Cherry Hill is the 12th largest school district in the region”(Cherry Hill Public Schools, 2013).

Cherry Hill is known to be one of the most prestigious school districts in the region and their results prove just that. In 2012 the average SAT scores were at least 35-40 points higher than the rest of the region. With their high SAT scores it is no wonder than their percentage of continued education is at 93%. They are considered a high-performing district, which means they have high achievement levels and graduation rates for all students. Also included is that “high-performing districts would also have high rates of postsecondary enrollment and completion, employment and voter participations. High-Performing systems are responsive, transparent, and efficient” (High-performing school districts, 2005).

Recent News

In more recent news, Cherry Hill was mention in an article about character building. The article, called “Character-building is part of the curriculum,” states “the Cherry Hill Alternative High School and Gibbsboro were the only schools in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties selected as finalists by the Character Education Partnership, a national advocate for character education” (Burney, 2014). Cherry Hill has been recognized considerably for their character education. They are trying to help the children in the classroom be more confident in themselves. Being more confident will in turn make them more successful in and out of the classroom.

West Deptford, Camden and District Factor Grouping
District Factor Groups (DFG) and the process of assigning district factor groupings is a controversial component of education funding. The purpose of DFG is to compare students’ performance on statewide assessments across demographically similar school districts. In order to establish and link schools as demographically similar there are extensive protocols. The factors produce an appropriate measure of a community’s relative socioeconomic status.
There are six variables that are considered before determining a districts level: percentage of adults with no high school diploma, percent of adults with some college education, occupational status, unemployment rate, percent of individuals in poverty and median family income. Based on the decennial census of 1990 and 2000, New Jersey districts are categorically assigned. From the lowest socioeconomic status to the highest, districts are assigned a letter on an A to J scale. Camden School District was noted in both 1990 and 2000 as an A district, highlighting a very needy district. West Deptford Township of Gloucester County, comparatively, has remained a CD level district from 1990 through 2000 (DFG). To ensure our Wiki fairly represents all districts in the Camden, Philadelphia and the greater region, West Deptford School District will be highlighted here.
West Deptford School District is not the most affluent district in this area, and does receive substantial state aid, but the district functions very differently from Camden’s district. West Deptford has 2,526 pupils on roll full-time. It has a total operating budget, which includes funds from federal sources; state revenue, tuition and the local tax levy of $42, 587, 516. State revenue alone amounts to almost $11, 531, 659 (NJ Dept. of Ed). There is one preschool, two elementary schools, a private kindergarten academy, one middle school with over one thousand student’s grades 5-8 and one high school, West Deptford High School. Total budgetary comparative per pupil cost for the 2012-213 Revised budget is $12,224 per pupil (NJ Dept. of Ed).

Again, the district is not comparable to Camden in every sense, but there are some consistencies between the two. Camden has been designated to an A category through the District Factor Groups and thus has received additional benefits and state aid. The tentative school budget for Camden for the 2014-2015 school year is $360 million. Camden per pupil spending has soared to $27,500 per pupil, more than $9,000 more than the state average (Terruso). These districts are different, and have different struggled. But their DFGs are not too far from one another. Camden is spending more than West Deptford per pupil, and yet there are massive inconsistencies and discrepancies in the level of education students will receive.

Recent Policy

Act 141

Passed on July 12, 2013, Act 141 is primarily concerned with financially distressed school districts in Pennsylvania. It does not affect chapter schools however. Act 141 does not provide funds to the school districts but allows for the school districts to apply for loans. Under Act 141, a school is classified to be in a Financial Recovery State by the State Secretary of Education. The Secretary of Education does this only when the school district has acquired the basic education subsidy, has more than 7, 500 daily students, and declared financially distressed under 24 P.S. 6-691. In addition to being declared financially distressed, a school district may also qualify if it is pursuing lawsuits concerning its financial assistance (Schaeffe).

Act 142 establishes the Early Warning System where the State Department of Education ( PDE ) can monitor the financial situation of all Pennsylvania. Districts that are failing to meet a certain standard in finances will be offered assistance or will be determined for financial watch status. The Secretary can declare a limit of 9 school districts to be in FRS at one time (Schaeffe). At the moment, York, Chester-Upland, Duquesne, and Harrisburg are the only districts in financial recovery status (Mezzacappa 2015).

After a school district is considered to be in financial recovery status, a chief recovery officer will be appointed by the secretary to oversee the district’s finances and develop a financial recovery plan within 90 days of appointment. If the plan is approved by the school board and the secretary, the school district can then request an interest free loan through the financial Recovery Transitional Loan program (Schaeffe).

In addition to the CRO, a receiver can be appointed when the school board fails to approve of any plans. The receiver assumes responsibilities from both the CRO and the school board except for the school board’s monetary powers for 3 years (Schaeffe).


2014 Class Task Force

1. Restructure standardized testing as force behind curriculum. Testing takes up over 25% of school year, not to mention the amount of time it takes from teacher prep time. Reevaluate the way standardize testing affects larger school community. [Mass. Testing Format, History of Standardizes Testing]
2. Community Connection: Leap demands 40 hours of volunteering/engagement per parent each year. We propose a contract of sorts to ensure that parents are engaged in student learning, the school community and the future of their child’s education. [Future Scholars]
3. After-school programs: Summer programs and after school programs to keep children connected to the school year round.
4. Education in the classroom should be focused on skill-based learning. 21st century learning incorporates technology.
5. School Buildings: Create clean, productive and safe learning environments.

Works Cited_Camden

Best High Schools in Camden City. (n.d.). Retrieved February 4, 2014, from U.S. News and World Report website:

Calefati, Jessica. June 5th, 2013. “State to seize control of Camden public schools this month. .

Camden, New Jersey, A Re-emerging City. (04 February 2014). Retrieved from Camden City School District website. .

CBS News. March 25th, 2013. “N.J. takes over troubled Camden schools” .

Coe, Cati. School Funding [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from Sociology of Education Syllabus Website:

Gewertz, C. (2005). A Level Playing Field. Education Week. 24(17), 40-48.

McCarthy, T.A., & Yaisawarng, S. (1993). Technical efficiency in New Jersey school districts. The measurement of productive efficiency: Techniques and applications, 271-287.

Peterson, 1. (2000, April). State Warns of Takeover in Camden. New York Times. p. B1.

Zezima, Katie. March 25th, 2013. “Chris Christie Announced New Jersey State Take-Over Of Troubled Camden Schools”. .

Zubrzycki, J. (2013). N.J Preparing To Seize Control of Fourth District. Education Week. 32(33), 1-27.

Works Cited_Philadelphia

Caskey, John, and Mark Kuperberg. "The Philadelphia School District's Ongoing Financial Crisis - Education Next." Education Next. 28 Sept. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Bulkley, K. E. (2007). Bringing the Private Into the Public-Changing the Rules of the Game and New Regime Politics in Philadelphia Public Education. Educational Policy, 21(1), 155-184. doi:10.1177/0895904806297192

Gill, B., Zimmer, R., Christman, J., & Blanc, S. (2007). State takeover, school restructuring, private management, and student achievement in Philadelphia.

Herold, B. (2013, April 9). Philly mom talks about 'opting out' of state standardized tests. Retrieved from‘opting-out’-state-standardized-tests

KILKENNY, A. (2013). THE FIGHT FOR PHILLY'S SCHOOLS:. Nation, 296(7), 5.

Leach, Soloman. "Pa. House OKs Phila. Cigarette Tax." Philly-archives. 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.

"2014 Special Session -1 Act -1." The Official Website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

"List of Colleges and Universities in Philadelphia." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 5 Mar. 2015. <>.

Magnet Schools of America. (2013). What are Magnet Schools?

McCorry, Kevin. "Pa. House Authorizes Philly to Tax Cigarettes for School Funding." Public School Notebook. 2 July 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.

Otterbein, H. (2013, September). Education scholar Diane Ravitch critiques charters, standardized tests in Philly. Retrieved from

Pennington, M. (2014, January 9). Under new management renaissance schools show growth. Retrieved from

"Philadelphia Demographics." Point2homes. Web. 5 Mar. 2015. <>.

Puente, K. (2012). Philadelphia's "Servant-Leader" Superintendent. District Administration, 48(10), 49-52.

Sanchez, Claudio. "Philadelphia Schools: Another Year, Another Budget Crisis." NPR. NPR, 4 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

Steinberg, Jacques. December 22, 2001. “In Largest Schools Takeover, State Will Run Philadelphia's”

"Welcome to Greater Philadelphia." Colleges & Universities -. Web. 5 Mar. 2015. <>.

Wright, Jennifer. "PA House Passes Cigarette Bill to Fund Philly Schools." The Daily Pennsylvanian. 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.

Woodall, M. (2014, February 23). Phila. Revamps its charter school policy. Retrieved from

Zubrzycki, J. (2013). Fiscal Clouds Swirl Around Philadelphia Schools. Education Week, 33(1), 1-17.

Work Cited_Other Cities

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “High-Performing School districts: Challenge, Support, Alignment and choice. “June 2005

Burney, M. (2014, April 1). Character building is part of the curriculum. Retrieved from

Cherry Hill Public Schools, Our Schools. Copyright 2013.

Pennsauken Public Schools, About the District. Copyright 2013.

Philadelphia Business Journal, April 5, 2013. “Top 25 school districts in Pennsylvania”

Upper Darby School District, District Information. Copyright 2014

Upper St. Clair School District, General Information. Copyright 2002-2014

Wigglesworth, Alex. September, 16th, 2013. “Lawsuit accuses Pennsauken School District of anti-gay discrimination”

Winter, Jana. August 10, 2010. “Prestigious School Rocked by Claims It Turned Its Back on Sex Assaults”

Data for the West Deptford Public Schools, National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed April 22, 2014.

Mezzacappa, Dale. "New Education Secretary Outlines Priorities, Obstacles."TheNotebook. 3 Feb. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.

NJ Department of Education District Factor Groups (DFG) for School Districts, New Jersey Department of Education. Accessed April 22, 2014.

Terruso, Julia (March 26, 2014). ‘Difficult Descisions’ not made Camden schools face budget gap, board is told. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved from

Schaeffe, Brett. "The School District Financial Recovery Law (Act 141) and Basic Education Funding Formulas." Web. 24 Mar. 2015.

School Directory - KIPP Public Charter Schools | Knowledge Is Power Program. (2014, January 1). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from

(2014, January 1). Retrieved March 4, 2015, from

About Us. (2014, December 1). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from

Frequently Asked Questions About Public, Charter Schools. (2014, January 1). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from

Making A Difference. (2015, December 1). Retrieved from

LEAP Academy University charter school

Camden's Charter School Network