Despite encouraging signs of progress in their first cohort of 13 Renaissance Schools, District officials are not yet sure if they will attempt to turn around more low-performing public schools next year.
Thomas Darden, the District's deputy chief of strategic programs, said that “no decision has been made yet” about whether to hand more struggling public schools over to outside managers for conversion to charters.
Pennsylvania has released overall and school-by-school results for last spring's PSSA tests.
Statewide, there was a slight increase in the overall percentage of students scoring proficient or above on the test, and about two-thirds of schools were declared to have met their federal learning targets, or "adequate yearly progress" (AYP).
For the Notebook’s October print edition on school turnarounds, we took a comprehensive look at the city's initial group of seven Renaissance charter schools. This article looks at test score gains at the schools . You can also read more about the extent to which the schools remained neighborhood schools.
For the Notebook’s October print edition on school turnarounds, we took a comprehensive look at the city's initial group of seven Renaissance charter schools.This article looks at the extent to which the schools remained neighorhood schools . You can also read more about test score gains at the schools.
On her daughter's first day of 5th grade last year, Katrina Dear was nervous.
Since her chatty little girl was in kindergarten, Dear had sent her to a charter school with strong academics, a structured environment, and motivated families.
But after learning that the charter planned to hold her daughter back for the 2010-11 school year, Dear transferred her into the public school in her West Philadelphia neighborhood, Guion S. Bluford Elementary.
With turnarounds proceeding rapidly in Philadelphia and established providers eager to continue taking over low-performing schools, it is likely that the School District will look very different in five years.
In 2010 and 2011, 13 District schools have been converted to charters, including three high schools. Another nine have become Promise Academies, remaining within the District, but receiving mostly new leadership and staff, as well as expensive new programs. In the first two years of the Renaissance Schools program, the District is averaging 11 turnaround attempts per year.
The Notebook asked several officials, activists and educators to discuss their reform vision and also their predictions, considering what will be financially feasible and politically palatable.
Three of the District's Renaissance charter operators are taking on their biggest challenge yet: transforming a neighborhood high school.
Audenried High in South Philadelphia is now managed by Universal Companies. Olney East and Olney West have been re-merged into one school under ASPIRA of Pennsylvania. Simon Gratz High in Nicetown is now run by Mastery Charter Schools.
Jerome King has a knack for avoiding negativity.
"I squash trouble really quickly," he said.
That's part of why King had a good experience and positive relationships last year at Gratz, despite the school's troubled reputation. "Teachers were willing to help if students needed it," he said.
King found out early on that Gratz was being awarded to Mastery Charter as part of the Renaissance Schools initiative.
School turnaround is about the need to make drastic changes and achieve dramatic improvements in chronically low-performing schools. The approach has been championed by the Obama administration, which over the past three years has awarded $3.5 billion in grants to schools willing to adopt one of four models:
Avvonya Payne was so determined this summer to get her daughter Alicia into a good, safe school that if need be, "I'd have sold my house and gone into a shelter."
But she was confident that wouldn't be necessary when neighborhood recruiters from Simon Gratz High School spotted Alicia on the street and convinced her this was where she belonged. "Mom," she said when she got home. "This is the school I want to go to."
Avvonya Payne estaba tan determinada este verano a matricular a su hija Alicia en una escuela buena y segura que, de ser necesario, "Hubiese vendido la casa para irme a un refugio."
Sin embargo, se sintió confiada de que eso no sería necesario cuando los reclutadores de la Escuela Superior Simon Gratz vieron a Alicia en la calle y la convencieron de que allí es que pertenece. "Mami," dijo cuando llegó a la casa. "Esta es la escuela a la que quiero ir."