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February 2010 Vol. 17. No. 4 Focus on School Turnarounds

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Who's applying? Potential turnaround managers

By by Wendy Harris on Feb 2, 2010 02:59 PM

The District is looking for more than a few good “turnaround teams” to lead the work in Renaissance Schools and is recruiting both lead applicants and support applicants.

“We are looking for people who can demonstrate in some quantitative and qualitative way that they could fix one of these schools,” said Benjamin Rayer, who heads the District’s effort. Lead applicants must have a proven track record of successfully operating urban schools.

Here’s a look at a few potential players who’ve expressed interest.

Edison Learning: Formerly Edison Schools Inc., the nation’s largest for-profit manager of public schools operates schools in 25 states, including 15 elementary and middle schools in Philadelphia. Following the state takeover in 2001, Edison was given 20 schools to manage, and later added two more. But two closed due to low enrollment and five were taken back for poor performance, including three that have turned up again on this list. Regional General Manager Todd McIntire said the company is interested in learning more about the conditions for this round of private partnerships.

KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program): A national network of charter schools, KIPP operates 82 schools in 19 states and D.C., including two in Philadelphia. KIPP generally starts its schools from scratch rather than doing turnaround, and wants to review the request for qualifications before deciding whether to apply. Local CEO Marc Manella said KIPP’s “proven track record” includes consistently rising test scores. KIPP operates on five pillars: high expectations, choice and commitment, more time on task, power to lead, and focus on results.

Mastery Charter Schools: Mastery has already taken over three middle schools – Shoemaker, Pickett, and Thomas, all of which have shown marked improvement. CEO Scott Gordon said the charter management organization “absolutely” will apply. Gordon said Mastery’s transformation plan will focus on parent engagement, an achievement-focused school culture, quality teachers, and data-driven instruction and management. 

Universal Companies: As part of the state takeover, Universal, a community development corporation, got contracts to operate one elementary and two middle schools, one of which has since closed. It also runs Universal Institute Charter School. Vice President of Education Lauryn Douthit said school renewals fits Universal’s mission of urban revitalization. She said its instructional models, including its standardized homework program, teaching resource guides, and “smarty card” test preparation, could aid school transformation. 

Victory Schools: Another for-profit manager now operating five schools in Philadelphia, Victory saw one of its schools returned to District management this year for poor performance. The company has also done turnaround work in Baltimore and Chicago. Margaret Harrington, Victory’s COO, said she is a believer that staff restructuring can improve schools and the organization would probably apply both as a lead and support applicant.

Penn Partnership Schools: Penn Partnership Schools (PPS), which now works with Lea and Wilson elementary schools, does not have experience doing turnarounds so may apply only as a support applicant, said director James H. Lytle. PPS could offer programming in literacy, math, positive behavior supports, and principal leadership, among others.

Foundations, Inc: The nonprofit provides after-school education, school services, and community initiatives. Since 2002, Foundations has managed schools in Northwest Philadelphia, including Martin Luther King High. According to spokesman John Henderson, Foundations plans to review the request for qualifications before deciding whether to apply. 

ASPIRA of Pennsylvania: ASPIRA operates two charter schools in North Philadelphia and is interested in expansion. Executive Director Alfredo Calderon said the organization might apply to manage “schools in our targeted area...of Eastern and North Philadelphia. We’re not fishing.”

About the Author

Contact Notebook Managing Editor Wendy Harris at

Comments (2)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 21, 2010 5:20 pm

Why has KIPP already hired a principal for a high school next year? What do they know that everyone else doesn't seem to know?

Submitted by evelyn santiago (not verified) on June 7, 2010 5:04 pm

Kipp believes in there kids even when there no longer going to kipp they still look out for there children its more like a family. Me as a parent that has children at keep would 100% recommend Kipp High School.I hope and pray that they get the chance to continue working with these children I believe the children deserve it,and what ever they know that we dont I have faith in Kipp

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