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October 2011 Vol. 19 No. 2 Focus on School Turnarounds

Keeping it in the neighborhood

Photo: Benjamin Herold

After a positive experience at Universal-Bluford last year, Katrina Dear (right) was excited for her daughter Kristina Holder to begin her 6th grade at the Renaissance charter this September.

By by Benjamin Herold

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.

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More in this edition

Lessons from King

By by Bill Hangley, Jr.

Told that Martin Luther King High's multimillion-dollar charter school deal ran aground on a reef of Philadelphia politics, Jeffrey Henig could only joke: "I'm shocked! Shocked!"

Henig, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College, specializes in urban education reform. He won't say that cronyism and corruption are inevitable where charters and other "turnaround" models are concerned. But the risk is always there, he said, and the antidote is transparent, accountable governance.

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Turnaround: Get it right

We're into the second year of the School District's Renaissance Schools plan. At 22 long-struggling schools, drastic action has been taken to turn things around – clearing out the old staff and either bringing in a charter operator to manage the school or making it a District-run Promise Academy.

At some Renaissance schools, data and personal observation show dramatic improvements. District officials and outside providers are proclaiming success, citing preliminary numbers that show improved attendance, discipline, and test scores. Some charters boast double-digit gains.

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