Donate today!
view counter

After schools are chosen, District discloses some Promise Academy details

By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 7, 2010 12:46 PM

It has taken a while, but finally, the School District has elaborated somewhat on what a Promise Academy will look like. 

As schools were submitting applications last month indicating whether or not they wanted to be Promise Academies, there was little in writing about the model. When the District announced on March 30 which schools would be turned over to outside providers as Renaissance Schools and which were selected as Promise Academies, the draft press release said a fuller description of the Promise Academy would be attached, but it was not. 

According to a three-page "framework" document released by the District on Wednesday, each of the five chosen schools -- Ethel Allen and Dunbar elementaries, Roberto Clemente middle, and University City and Vaux high schools -- will have a list of common features and a long list of possibilities.

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who said she wants the Promise Academies to "dream," plans to construct a hybrid of sorts -- a set of required elements combined with the ability of the school community to "shape the specific design" of each school.

What had been on the record since a presentation to the School Reform Commission in January about Promise Academies was this: they would all have a longer school day and year, including some Saturday school; site selection of teachers; enrichment activities including a second language; and instructional technology improvements.

In the brief, new written description, the required elements are divided into programs and staffing. All five schools will have a full-time nurse, social worker, psychologist, parent ombudsman, and student advisor "to provide a full service, holistic education for all."

The academic program will be "highly structured," and include the core curriculum and "interventions for reading and math." Ackerman has frequently said that she intends for the schools to use the highly scripted Corrective Reading and Corrective Math programs at the schools, but the written Promise Academy description does not specify that.

Some of the items in the description are already mandated at all schools. For instance, the outline promises "programs to address English Language Learner, Special Education, and mentally gifted students."

Other features -- including parent involvement, programming for "college and work readiness," ongoing assessments of student work, targeted supports for students performing below grade level, teacher professional development, and the incorporation of technology into instruction, are standards for any well-functioning school.

In addition, there will be afterschool and enrichment activities that are broken up into three categories: creative, athletic, and academic.

They can include classes in art, photography, instrumental and vocal music, drama, dance, creative writing with poetry slams and fashion design. Sports might include gymnastics, martial arts, Wii Fitness, yoga, aerobics, exercise and nutrition, and basketball and weight training. There might also be clubs for chess, debating, forensic science, paleontology, public speaking, and "academic decathlon."

Ackerman has said she will appoint a turnaround team of educators among her circle to take charge of these schools, although she has not yet made the names public. Like the outside turnaround providers that will operate the Renaissance Schools, Ackerman will have the ability to hire a whole new staff at the five schools. In fact, under the union contract, Promise Academies are not allowed to rehire more than 50 percent of the current teachers.

The blueprint says the District and union "share a mutual goal: to get the best teachers in the most challenging schools," and it promises professional development starting in the summer.

Ackerman has said that the Promise Academies will not have autonomy -- she has repeatedly said she believes that schools must "earn" their autonomy by producing good results. At the same time, when providing notification of the Promise Academies on March 30, she sent home a letter to parents in the five schools that said "select members" of the school community would "shape the specific design of your Promise Academy." It is not clear what beyond choosing from among the enrichment activities members of the school community will be able to shape.

The letter said parents would have the opportunity to visit high-performing schools in the District, and possibly some charters, beginning on April 12.

As the Promise Academies were being named last month, some expressed concern that there were so few details about the model. Parent Joy Herbert at West Philadelphia High School said she came away from a community meeting before the final selection of schools with no clear sense of the Promise Academy vision. "They gave us no model, no track record, no proof this method works," she said.

During the Renaissance Schools announcement, Ackerman said that the schools chosen for this makeover had shown strong community buy-in to the concept. She said she had asked them to express their "hopes and dreams" about what was possible.

And she reiterated her excitement about the chance to turn them around.

Click Here
view counter

Comments (10)

Submitted by Southwest Philly (not verified) on April 7, 2010 11:44 pm

What an absolute lie! Ackerman's team went into all these buildings and assured them that the schools that are not chosen as Renaissance Schools would remain District Schools. The eight schools that are not Promise Academies are NOT going to be Renaissance Schools. They may become Charter Schools which are no longer district schools. Don't hide the truth or spin it so it sounds positive for you. You don't want to take responsibility for these schools; and with them no longer being district schools - it will appear that the district's scores will increase dramatically - which of course the Superintendent will take credit for.

We have all seen the experiments go wrong when handing schools over to private management organizations. Why is the district doing this again?!?!?!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 8, 2010 11:58 am

We've also seen how these schools have gotten to the place where something drastic has to occur in order for students to learn...and all of this has taken place while being operated by the local school district. The sad thing is that in these largely minority and lower socio-economic communities, people have ALWAYS been the experiment! And the experimenters have not just been private providers...but city, state, and federal bodies as well.

There is clearly evidence that the diverse provider model has worked in many instances. As in any reform method, the challenges must be re-visited, re-organized, and re-worked to become successes. However, this will only work if the success of students, families, and communities is the guide for all who are involved.

And please, let's not forget...THESE SCHOOLS BECAME FAILING SCHOOLS UNDER THE MANAGEMENT AND OPERATION OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA. So I ask you...why are we doing THAT again??? It's clearly time for something new.

Bravo to Dr. Ackerman for taking a stand for children in Philadelphia.

Submitted by dkbog (not verified) on April 8, 2010 2:22 pm

Bravo to Dr. Ackerman??? You can't be serious!! I guess you want to blame the teachers for the low scores too. How about parents show up for Parent Teacher Conferences and how about parents work at home with their child so that it will help better themselves. Reality is is that these same charter schools will have the same students in that school---Result? Nothing will change.
Oh yeah, why didn't any of these plans work in Chicago and San Franciso??? You need to do some research before jumping on the Dr. Ackerman bandwagon. One more thing, I hope all of these teachers they plan to hire for the charter schools are CERTIFIED. Someone ought to look into that as well.

Submitted by Southwest Philly (not verified) on April 8, 2010 4:57 pm

Dr. Ackerman is not helping the students by giving away schools.

Do you even realize what will happen with a school that becomes a Charter School. Yes, the scores WILL go up but for a few specific reasons. 1. They have the right to get rid of students that are of serious concerns (and the money that is given to the Charter School remains there even if the student only stays one month). 2. Special Education will be destroyed and those students will either not be serviced or the students will be sent to "schools that have the appropriate programs," i.e. school district schools.

Our teachers can only do so much! We cannot go home with the students, make sure they do their homework, feed them dinner, bath them, read a bedtime story, put them to bed at an appropriate time, wake them up, feed them breakfast, and get them to school on time. Schools only have students for about 30% of the day.

When will people realize that there are many stakeholders!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 8, 2010 9:59 pm

You are truly clueless. Name one thing that Ackerman has done differently. Turning schools into charters has been going on for years. At a time when people are catching onto what a sham charters are she wants to pimp out even more schools. We've been told for years that "kill and drill" was wrong only to have Ackerman dump Corrective Reading and Math which is exactly that, but duller. Her lack of sensitivity to the victims of black bigotry down at South Philly High is nothing new. This has been going on for years in Philadelphia. They just couldn't hide it this time. Hiring a bunch of her pals is something Hornbeck and Vallas did as well. So what exactly is she doing new? I agree me need something new, but hiring a CEO who was fired from her last school district was one of the dumbest moves (and it was done by the very management you want to blame for the failing schools) the 440 crew ever did. Ackerman hides her own self-centered agenda behind the children of Philadelphia. Even her propaganda on the district site is leftover from her days in San Francisco. The only new thing I can give her credit for is how quickly she has managed to alienate an entire school district in such little time. Too bad Philadelphian don't have the backbone people in Washington DC and San Francisco did and fire her.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 8, 2010 7:05 pm

The press release said the description was attached, but it wasn't. So typical of Ackerman's office. Dose anyone there know how to do a job right? Then when they finally release the details of the "Promise Academy" there is no difference from the Empowerment status these schools are currently in except a full time nurse, psychologist and social worker! Schools already have access to clubs, athletics and the arts. So I guess the students in the promise schools need a full time nurse more than the other students in this district? Most schools only have a nurse three days a week. Why the social worker? Ackerman should know that its not about the student's environment,right? All schools could use a full-time psychologist since most share one with several schools. Is she expecting more IEP"s in promise schools? There is nothing new or innovative here. Where are the instructional resources, expert staff to coach and support teachers and specialist in reading,math and content areas? Where is the support staff and paraprofessionals that will improve climate? Where is the curriculum changes that will move students forward? I don't see anything promising here just twindow dressing.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 8, 2010 10:08 pm

Bravo, kudos, marvelous, fantastic...

These are the buzz words we say on this web site...

Even though we are dealing with a sow's ear...we still pretend that everything is bravo...

Submitted by Southwest Philly (not verified) on April 9, 2010 11:34 pm

Here is an interesting article to review:

Voucher students are on par with public-school peers in Milwaukee
Students who use vouchers to attend private schools in Milwaukee are scoring about the same academically as their peers in the city's public schools, new data shows. Critics of the district's 20-year-old voucher program -- the first and oldest in the country -- say if it were working, the voucher students would be outperforming those in public schools. A five-year review of Milwaukee's voucher program is under way and about 50% complete. (

Vouchers and Charter Schools are ultimately the same thing. Money is removed from the public schools and placed in private (most of the time FOR profit) agencies.

Has anyone read the absolute abuse that is going on in Charter School in Philadelphia right now. And you want to make more of them?!?!?!
Butkovitz’s Charter School Report
Press Release:
Full Report:

Submitted by Bro. Asili (not verified) on January 25, 2011 1:09 pm

Stop this planet... I want to get off.

Submitted by Consultoria RH (not verified) on January 24, 2012 7:33 pm

Este blog é uma representação exata de competências. Eu gosto da sua recomendação. Um grande conceito que reflete os pensamentos do escritor. Consultoria RH

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. We reserve the right to delete or remove any material deemed to be in violation of this rule, and to ban anyone who violates this rule. Please see our "Terms of Usage" for more detail concerning your obligations as a user of this service. Reader comments are limited to 500 words. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

Follow Us On

Read the latest print issue

Philly Ed Feed

Recent Comments


Public School Notebook

699 Ranstead St.
Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 839-0082
Fax: (215) 238-2300

© Copyright 2013 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Usage and Privacy Policy