Philadelphia School Partnership Awards $2.4M in Grants to Renaissance Schools

Philadelphia School Partnership Announces $2.4 Million in Grants as the organization’s first round of investments

Determined to fulfill its promise to city schools that show promise, the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) celebrated its one-year anniversary this week by announcing $2.4 million in grants to three charter school operators that registered strong performance gains at turnaround schools in 2010-2011.

PSP Executive Director Mark Gleason announced today that the Partnership selected the following charters for its initial series of investments: Mastery Charter Schools, which took over management of two district schools under the School District of Philadelphia’s Renaissance Schools Initiative, plus one existing charter school for 2011-12, giving it nine turnaround schools in Philadelphia; ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania, which took over management of two District high schools this year; and Universal Companies, which took over one middle school and one high school this year under the district’s “Promise Neighborhood” initiative, giving it four turnarounds in all.

In total, the School District has put charters in control of 14 schools since 2010 under the Renaissance and Promise initiatives aimed at turning around chronically underperforming schools. Preliminary results from the state’s 2011 PSSA testing shows that student academic performance improved at all seven schools that entered the Renaissance program in 2010, with several seeing double-digit growth in math scores. (The accompanying charts highlight the 2010-2011 performance of Renaissance schools managed by Mastery, ASPIRA and Universal.)

“A year ago we said the Partnership would encourage and support proven leadership teams to expand the number of great schools in this city, and that’s what today’s announcement is all about,” Gleason said. “The Renaissance schools were among the poorest performing in the city, and these charters have demonstrated real progress in turning them around. Their continued success is vital if we are going to meet the challenge of offering high quality school choices to every Philadelphia family.”

Launched in October 2010, PSP is a nonprofit organization that invests philanthropic dollars in operators of high performing schools of all types – District, charter, and private – to help achieve the goal of every child in Philadelphia attending a great school. Specifically, PSP’s objective is to facilitate the addition of 34,000 high quality, K-12 “seats” to the array of choices available to Philadelphia families by 2016. These seats may come from new schools, expansions of high performing schools or the transformation of underperforming schools

These first PSP investments support the transformation of approximately 5,000 seats. To date, PSP has raised $3.5 million in support of its mission.

“We made these investments on the basis of careful performance review,” said Gleason. “Our belief is that resources should follow results, and be aimed at the greatest needs. We applaud the School District for bringing in proven operators and matching them to schools that most needed their experience.”

The PSP grants were awarded as follows:

$1.5 million to Mastery Charter (for Renaissance schools George Clymer Elementary and Simon Gratz H.S., for turnaround charter Hardy Williams Academy, and for organizational capacity building to support Mastery’s rapid growth);

$450,000 to ASPIRA (Olney East and Olney West high schools, now Olney H.S.); and

$450,000 to Universal Companies (Vare Middle and Audenried H.S.).
PSP received applications earlier this year from seven charter operators who were vying for contracts from the School District under the Renaissance Initiative. Following a rigorous due diligence process — PSP evaluates potential grant recipients on academic achievement, leadership and operating capacity, as well as the quality of financial and strategic plans —PSP funded the three organizations who were awarded Renaissance charters for 2011. Under the terms of the Renaissance program, the three operators took managerial control of the schools July 1. Unlike traditional charters, which enroll students via a lottery, Renaissance charters enroll the same students as were enrolled when under District management.

“Education is the single most important issue of our time,” said PSP Board Chairman Michael O’Neill. “It poses the greatest risk to our future as a city and region, and it’s also the single greatest opportunity.”

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