PSP invests $3.4 million in growth of high-quality public charter schools

The Great Schools Fund to award grants to Scholar Academies and KIPP Philadelphia to serve 1,500 more students

The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) announced today that it plans to invest $3.4 million in two school operators with track records of providing high-quality education to students in underserved Philadelphia communities. The grants from the Great Schools Fund will support the growth of high-performing schools operated by Scholar Academies and KIPP Philadelphia Schools. These grants are among a series of investments PSP plans to make in 2013 to expand or create high-quality District, charter, and private schools serving students from low-income neighborhoods throughout the City.

“These school leadership teams are among the best in Philadelphia with strong track-records of preparing kids for success in college,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of PSP. “We are making this investment with the expectation that KIPP and Scholar Academies will partner with the School District to create and facilitate growth plans that serve families in North and West Philadelphia. These grants will help thousands more students in Philadelphia have access to a high-quality school and, ultimately, to college.”

The Great Schools Fund awarded a $1.8 million growth grant to Scholar Academies to serve an estimated 600 to 900 additional students through a pending expansion plan. Scholar Academies currently operates Young Scholars Charter School – one of the city’s highest performing middle schools – and Young Scholars Frederick Douglass Charter School, a high-performing neighborhood school (part of the Renaissance initiative) located in North Philadelphia. Both schools have waiting lists of parents hoping to enroll their children in the school.

Parents at Douglass, a previously low-performing District school, selected Scholar Academies to run the school as part of the Renaissance initiative two years ago. Since Scholar Academies assumed management of the school, students at Douglass have seen a transformation of the school’s culture and climate and significant gains in academic outcomes, including doubling the number of students proficient in math. In just two years, student enrollment at Douglass increased 44 percent. See this fact sheet for additional data and information on Scholar Academies.

“We are grateful for PSP’s support of Scholar Academies’ continued commitment to turning around Philadelphia’s lowest performing schools,” said Lars Beck, CEO of Scholar Academies. “We’re applying for another Renaissance School because we see the positive impact that Young Scholars Frederick Douglass has made on our students and families. Scholar Academies is rooted in the belief that zip code should not determine destiny, and through a partnership with parents and the community we are providing a high quality education that changes the trajectory of our students’ lives.”

The Great Schools Fund also awarded a $1.6 million growth grant to KIPP Philadelphia to serve an estimated 700 to 800 additional students through a pending expansion plan. KIPP Philadelphia currently operates four charter schools as part of a national network focused on preparing students in low-income communities for success in college and life. During KIPP’s current open enrollment period, parents have submitted more than 1,100 enrollment forms for only 255 spots across KIPP Philadelphia’s high school, 2 middle schools, and elementary school. Of all 8th grade students who graduated from KIPP at least five years ago, 94% graduated from high school and 84% entered college. Last month, a national study from Mathematica Policy Research found that students attending KIPP schools made substantially more gains in core academic subjects than students attending a local public school. See this fact sheet for additional data and information on KIPP Philadelphia.

“PSP’s support is an important building block in meeting the needs of families in our North and West Philadelphia communities,” said Marc Mannella, CEO and Founder of KIPP Philadelphia. “Because of incredibly high parent interest and demand, we are ready to immediately serve more families in North and West Philadelphia. Over the next three years, we plan to serve over 2,500 additional students through the creation of new schools and expansion of our existing schools. Our goal – in partnership with our students’ families – is to dramatically increase the number of low-income students in Philadelphia attending and completing college.”

The grants from the Great Schools Fund will support growth costs including leadership and teacher training, technology, facilities and equipment. In both cases, the funding will be distributed over a 12-18 month period.

“We vet all our investments according to two criteria: the ability to provide a high-quality education to children from underserved communities and the capacity required to strategically grow,” said Jessica Peña, Director of the Great Schools Fund. “KIPP and Scholar Academies have demonstrated sustainable models that can successfully put thousands more students on the path to college. These would be great schools in any city in the country and we are eager to see them grow here in Philadelphia. Our funding is dependent on their ability to work with the school district to create responsible expansion plans.”

About the Great Schools Fund

PSP’s Great Schools Fund pools philanthropic dollars from a diverse group of funders to strategically invest in the incubation, startup and expansion of high-performing schools across Philadelphia. PSP has raised over $53 million toward the $100 million Fund goal. This round of grants brings PSP’s total investments in schools to $13.2 million for the cumulative creation of over 8,900 seats.

The Fund invests in K-12 schools of any type with the capacity to deliver outstanding educational outcomes for children in the city, including traditional district, charter, and private schools. The goal of the Fund is to replace the 35,000 lowest performing seats in Philadelphia by 2016-17 with higher performing ones by turning around low-performing schools, expanding high performing schools, or creating new high-quality schools. PSP’s investment team conducts a rigorous screening process for grant applicants to evaluate their capacity for delivering strong educational outcomes; its recommendations are vetted by an investment committee before being presented to the PSP Board of Directors for approval.

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