PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Families in the School District of Philadelphia heard from Superintendent Tony Watlington on Tuesday as he delivered the "State of Schools" report.
The report outlines Watlington's plan to overcome challenges and to achieve the goals he's laid out for both the district and its students.
Ahead of his first State of Public Education Address as the superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, Dr. Tony Watlington Sr. sat down with Action News to discuss the work taking place during the first year of the district's five-year strategic plan called "Accelerate Philly."
"We've got a long way to go and a lot of work to do, but we are clearly accelerating in the School District of Philadelphia," he said.
Attendance levels are up, as are graduation rates, and the district has seen improvements in test scores.
"In 13 out of 17 tested areas, our test scores went up last school year," Watlington said. "Not only did the test scores go up, the number of students scoring at the lowest levels on these tests went down across the board."
Watlington highlighted investments in facilities, safety enhancements and other initiatives.
"We've increased the number of Safe Pass Programs or initiatives in a number of school communities. We originally had around six or seven this year -- that number has gone up to 22," Watlington said.
Watlington noted that the average age of school buildings is 73 years old, with a number of schools older than 100 years. A project team will be built to address how to modernize all school facilities as asbestos remediation continues.
"We've developed a swing space plan that is working really, really well. We were able to move our young people fairly quickly," Watlington said. "We were able to remediate asbestos and get kids back to their home school for learning)
Funding continues to be a challenge, with work underway to create a new formula to fund Pennsylvania's public schools.
"We really look forward to helping the community understand how they can get involved in funding Accelerate Philly and be a part of creating the future we want to see for our students," said Kathryn Epps Roberson, president and CEO of the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.