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.
by Bill Hangley, Jr.
As Philadelphia digests the scathing report prepared for Mayor Michael Nutter on the political pressure surrounding Martin Luther King’s ill-fated charter, the question becomes what to do with the troubling findings?
The report, written by Nutter’s Chief Integrity Officer, Joan Markman, concluded that last spring, former School Reform Commission Chair Robert Archie helped state Rep. Dwight Evans mount a “sustained back-channel effort” to secure King’s charter, worth a possible $12 million a year, for Evans’ longtime associates at Foundations, Inc.
[Updated 6:00 pm] Former School Reform Commission Chairman Robert Archie has fired back with a statement in which he "emphatically" rejects Markman's findings, and state Rep. Dwight Evans has also slammed the report. The District has offered a brief statement.
[Updated 2:26 pm] The mayor's chief integrity officer has come down hard on state Rep. Dwight Evans and recently resigned School Reform Commission chairman Robert Archie in a long awaited fact-finding report released Thursday afternoon.
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.
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.
UPDATE: The District is planning to develop a proposal to start School Advisory Councils at 115 of the lowest-performing schools.
The problem – students being bullied going to and from school – wasn't that unusual, but the school community's response was.
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.
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:
A hallmark of the Renaissance Schools initiative, the School Advisory Councils (SACs) created recently in Philadelphia distinguish the School District's turnaround efforts from others around the country.
Studies of school turnaround nationally are largely silent on the role of parents and community, and the turnaround models promoted by the U.S. Department of Education make scant mention of parent and community engagement.
After a summer filled with rumor and speculation, the District announced on August 22 that Arlene Ackerman was stepping down as superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia. Leroy Nunery was immediately named acting superintendent.
Under the separation agreement, Ackerman received a controversial $905,000 payout. Her contract had just been extended months earlier by the School Reform Commission, and so she may have been owed as much as $1.5 million under those terms.