Posted on January 30, 2024
Categories: News from SDP

Today, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Tony B. Watlington, Sr., Ed.D., delivered the first State of Public Education address. Dr. Watlington was joined by Board President Reginald Streater, Esq., Mayor Cherelle Parker and Kathryn Epps Roberson, President & CEO of The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.

“This morning was a testament to the work we are doing to unite as one school district, as Mayor Parker has charged us to be One Philly, a united city,” said Superintendent Tony B. Watlington, Sr., Ed.D. “We are proud of the work our students, staff, families, and partners are doing to collectively Accelerate Philly.”

Superintendent Watlington shared the meaningful work taking place during the first-year implementation of the District’s five-year strategic plan, Accelerate Philly while also sharing academic successes and challenges. Beyond the academic highlights, he described the investments in facilities to create 21st century learning environments and enhancements in safety measures for our students. 

The development of the District’s new five year strategic plan – Accelerate Philly – began in earnest in 2022, when thousands of Philadelphians participated in listening and learning sessions, and leant their valuable expertise, to lay its foundation. The District yielded much progress during its year one implementation including: 

  • Improving school safety through expanding its Safe Pathways program from seven to more than 13 new sites;
  • Building a partnership with families through Let’s Talk — a cloud-based, AI-powered customer service platform by K12 Insight. During its pilot, the District received nearly 3,000 messages and will now look to implement this more District-wide; and,
  • Investing $20 million dollars in our new core instructional resources for math.

The District also accelerated Philadelphia academically during the 2022-23:

  • Student academic achievement increased in 13 out of 17 areas, including 6 percentage points in Grade 3 Math and and 11th Grade Literature
  • Teacher attendance in the District improved 7 percentage points 
  • Student attendance in the District improved 3 percentage points 
  • Student dropouts decreased by nearly 300
  • Graduation Rate (4-Year Cohort) increased 3 percentage points 

“Our goal in the Parker administration is to provide a world-class education for Philadelphia students of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Mayor Cherelle L. Parker. “I am convinced that by working collaboratively with Dr. Watlington, President Streater and the entire School District, we can and will achieve our goals for the betterment of every student in our great city.” 

The Inaugural State of Public Education address brought together various stakeholders such as state dignitaries, students, school leaders, educators and community partners, who share a united goal of investing in the District’s students so they may imagine and realize any future they desire. There were performances by Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts Jazz Ensemble, 12th grade CAPA student Felicia Pierre-Louis and accompanist: Mrs. Thomas-Moyett, and the Cook-Wissahickon Trailblazers Drumline directed by Nicholas D’Orsaneo IV.“Research shows we all benefit from the improved social and economic conditions that result from an educated population,” said School District of Philadelphia Board of Education President Reginald L. Streater, Esq. “As such, we look forward to deepening our relationship with all sectors of the community to support public education in Philadelphia. You can get involved by being aware of the good things happening in our School District, sharing those positive stories, getting involved in our school communities, and financially supporting our mission.”

Despite facing decades of chronic underfunding, as declared by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court last February, the District has taken steps to improve its budget health and continues to be good stewards of local, state, federal, and philanthropic funding. The District will continue to work with its key stakeholders to collectively Accelerate Philly. 

“Never before have we seen such an audacious approach to public education in Philadelphia – an approach that is positioned to positively change the trajectory for an entire generation of children. But plans as ambitious as Accelerate Philly cannot come to fruition without significant investment,” said Epps Roberson. “Today, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia announced that over the next four and a half years, we will secure $40 million in philanthropic dollars to propel Accelerate Philly forward. Beginning today, The Fund’s focus as the sole fiscal intermediary between the private sector and the Philadelphia public education system is clear: all roads lead back to Accelerate Philly, and therefore, every single investment we make over the next 4 and a half years will lead back to the strategic actions outlined in this plan.” 

From reducing the student dropout rate, increasing the number of students passing state tests while decreasing the number of students scoring at the lowest levels, and increasing student and teacher attendance — the District is Accelerating Philly! To follow the District as it Accelerates Philly, please head over to

Watch the address in its entirety here.