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Sept. 20, 2018 – Michael Imburgia’s Testimony Before the Philadelphia Board of Education

Posted 09.20.2018

Good Evening Dr. Hite and Board Members,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this evening. At Excellent Schools PA we believe that a high-quality education will equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful adults. In my role with the organization I am often analyzing data from various sources and first want to thank the District for its dedication to “promote greater transparency and community engagement” through its open data initiative and easy access to school profiles.

Over the past several years, Philadelphia has seen improvements on several key indicators including increases in reading and math proficiency on the PSSA. In fact, Philadelphia led all LEAs in the state on the Math PSSA Average Growth Index, and was sixth in the state for English Language Arts. This leads me to believe that the resources and efforts dedicated to early literacy and math are beginning to yield results.

While there is a great deal of promise in the improvements happening in the elementary grades, the story for those in high school is not nearly as promising. In 2016-17, only 34 percent of 11th grade students passed the Algebra 1 Keystone Exam and 44 percent passed the Literature Keystone Exam. The growth measures that looked so great in lower grades were nearly reversed. Philadelphia was last among all LEAs in the state in Algebra 1 growth and outperformed only nine of the 563 reporting LEAs in Literature.

I bring these numbers to your attention because there is a clear link between educational attainment and poverty across the state, and especially in Philadelphia. In a paper from Drexel’s Center for Labor Markets and Policy, the authors found that “in Philadelphia, three out of four deep poor working-age (aged 16-64) residents…did not have any schooling beyond high school.” In Philadelphia, 12.6 percent of residents with a high school diploma earn less than 50 percent of the poverty level and are considered deeply poor. However, this number is nearly cut in half when an individual has some college experience and is even lower when a degree is earned.

In Philadelphia, only 73 percent of students are graduating on time and nearly 60 percent of graduates are continuing with post-secondary education the year after graduation. While these numbers are meaningful and will help to determine if education in the city is on the right track, it is also important to analyze what it means to have a high school degree. We must also look at whether or not students are prepared to not only get into college but also to persist and be successful. In Philadelphia, the large number of high school graduates living in poverty indicate that there is a disconnect between education and today’s labor market.

Michael Imburgia, Director of Research, Data & Analytics

Average Growth Index (District Reports):

Fogg, N., Harrington, P., & Khatiwada, I. (2018). Philadelphia’s Detached: The Disconnection between the Poor and the Labor Market in Philadelphia(Rep.).

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