Next year Philadelphia will see the first wave of Promise Academies, turnaround schools that will be directed by Superintendent Arlene Ackerman herself.
Ackerman’s conception of a turnaround school with a longer school day, a centrally prescribed set of curricula, interventions and programs, and a contract with parents is not new. She did it before in San Francisco. In 2004, she introduced the first three Dream Schools; 10 schools would become Dream Schools.
In addition, the District plans to convert Potter-Thomas into a Promise Academy (managed by the superintendent's office).
The resolution on the seven schools to become charters was introduced today, enthusiastically endorsed by several speakers from the affected schools and ultimately approved by a 3-0 vote.
The Daroff School Advisory Council (SAC) unanimously rejected on Monday the District’s invitation to submit a revised application to become a Promise Academy, opting instead to focus on its deliberations to select an outside turnaround team to assume management of the troubled K-8 school as part of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative.
Mastery Charter has the most experience in turnaround, after taking over three District middle schools and boosting test scores by focusing on school climate and skill-building. Its first charter high school, Mastery at Lenfest, opened in 2001.
Universal Companies runs a charter school, founded in 1998, and operates two other South Philadelphia schools as an education management organization (EMO). The schools are part of a broader community development strategy for South Philadelphia.
Erica Hall remembers attending Shoemaker Middle School in the days before it converted to a high school under Mastery Charter three years ago.
Students ran the halls, even burning bulletin boards. They disrespected teachers, who in turn seemed not to care whether the students learned anything.
“It was the type of school that you would just be there to be there, and you would pass without even doing anything,” said Erica, now an 11th grader.