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Philadelphia (The School District of Philadelphia)

District Partner 2007-2009, 2014-2015

ERS is partnering with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) to conduct an analysis of resource use in the central office. In the past, we reviewed and analyzed SDP’s professional development (PD) and resource allocation.

"Our partner districts show us what's really happening on the ground—the data reveal where resources are going and our relationships with district leadership teams refine our best thinking about solutions."
- Karen Hawley Miles, Executive Director, ERS

District Facts

With about 140,000 students, the School District of Philadelphia is the 8th largest in the country. Recently it has experienced several challenges, from declining enrollment and charter growth, to low student achievement results, to a severely limited budget. The SDP would like to take a hard look at where all its resources are currently allocated to ensure it is using every dollar, minute, and ounce of talent to help students meet high standards.

Work Focus


  • Professional Development Spending: Conduct a review of the district’s staffing and PD systems; help them create a coherent and comprehensive professional development strategy tied to system-wide an school-specific performance goals, plans, and needs

  • Resource Use: Analyze the district's budget and resource allocation process and the equity implications of how that funding system distributes dollars to schools


  • Central Office Assessment: Conduct a review of resource use within the central office to determine opportunities to use funds more strategically
  • Targeted Analyses of Central Office: Conduct “deep dives” into certain central office functions (such as professional development, or curriculum development) to determine further opportunities for strategic alignment

Findings and Outcomes


  • Professional Development: We presented SDP with a comprehensive final report that included a series of recommendations to strengthen PD and improve instruction. Philadelphia’s Education First Compact and Cross City Campaign have led the development of a teaching quality and equity platform that suggests the district adopt several of our recommendations:
    • Distribute experienced and effective teachers equitably across district schools
    • Create performance standards for teachers and principals that are aligned with student success
    • Create an effective PD strategy
    • Give school leaders tools and resources to hire and create teams of effective teachers

  • Funding: Philadelphia responded swiftly and directly to several of the findings from our analysis of the funding system, for example:
    • District leadership increased the transparency of the budgeting process and revised the chart of accounts to more clearly show how district resources are used in schools and centrally
    • They also used our findings to build awareness of the need to increase funding equity district-wide and to improve the ability of school leaders to use resources strategically


  • Financial Analysis: Our financial review revealed that SDP is spending less to educate students than it did in 2008, and that costs are high and rising:
    • SDP has cut their spending across the board, including significant reductions to the central office; SDP currently spends $12,724 per pupil compared to $15,369 in 2011, a 17% decrease after adjusting for inflation
    • Teacher compensation costs are high relative to peer districts, mainly due to increasing costs in benefits; SDP's contribution to teacher benefits has increased 32% since FY 11
    • At the same time, spending on resources designed to support teachers has declined by as much as 80% from 2008 to 2014; teacher professional development is limited, and the lack of an integrated growth strategy is making it more challenging to direct additional grant funds in a deliberate and efficient way; similarly, school leader roles are more complex with fewer resources and less central office support: principals have about half the school administrator staff they did in FY 11, and area superintendents must manage 28 schools, the highest of any comparison districts

In other words, while teachers have experienced minimal changes in inflation-adjusted salary and fewer supporting resources for them and their managers (school leaders), SDP continues to spend thousands more per teacher per year to cover rising benefits costs

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