Philadelphia Story

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Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas--who is leaving the city to take the helm of the troubled school system in New Orleans--exits on a high note. A report from the the Philadelphia-based non-profit Research for Action documents some impressive progress Vallas made on the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers.

Vallas earns praise for bringing in the Teach For America and New Teacher Project programs--but of course, who isn't trying to bring these groups on board these days? While the two organizations used to beg to get superintendents to even meet with them, they now have bidding wars in cities to get them. Perhaps more impressive is the rise in certification rates, a jump of 45 percent in the six years of Vallas's six-year tenure.

On the downside, the report notes that the teacher workforce in Philadelphia is still far from diverse. Eighty-five percent of Philadelphia's students are minority, compared to only 38 percent of their teachers. Given the profile of the profession nationally, a superintendent would have to be pulling rabbits out of hats to solve that problem.

From the national press, Vallas gets high praise as well. Time's May series on How to Fix No Child Left Behind uses Philadelphia as an example of turning failing schools around.

Bon voyage, Paul Vallas. Philly's loss is the Big Easy's gain.