PSP Makes First Investment in District Neighborhood School

Grant from the Great Schools Fund supports the expansion of a K-4 school and the creation of a 6-8 middle school in West Philadelphia

The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) announced today that it has awarded $215,000 to a collaboration among Samuel Powel Elementary School (Powel), Science Leadership Academy (SLA), and Drexel University. The investment from the Great Schools Fund will support planning for the expansion of Powel, a K-4 district school near Drexel in West Philadelphia, and the creation of a new middle school to serve the same neighborhood.

“We are excited to help grow another high-performing school, in this case through our first investment in a district neighborhood school,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of PSP. “Powel Elementary puts young, mostly economically disadvantaged students on the path to college readiness. Seventy percent of third graders there are reading at or above grade level. We are looking for this investment to help put more students in a great school, and to give them a great middle-school option for when they leave Powel.”

Gleason added that PSP continues to seek out schools of all types—district, charter, and private—that can leverage growth investments to expand the number of great school seats in Philadelphia. More investments will be announced soon.

“The cornerstone of Drexel’s community revitalization effort is education and a commitment to improving public school options for families in the neighborhood,” said Lucy Kerman, Vice Provost for University and Community Partnerships at Drexel University. “We look forward to working with our key partners on a more comprehensive approach to school improvement and the development of high-performing public schools.”

The grant will be used to plan for adding a fifth grade and expanding enrollment at Powel (which currently offers K-4) and start a middle school (grades 6-8) serving the Powelton and West Powelton neighborhoods in West Philadelphia. The Franklin Institute and its partner Science Leadership Academy, an innovative district magnet school, will collaborate on creating the middle school, while Drexel University assists with planning and development. The team will work with the surrounding community and others to design a plan for presentation to the School Reform Commission. The goal is to serve 500 additional students with this expansion.

“The Powel community has long imagined an expansion of our current program to include fifth grade, and the opportunity for our students to attend a high-quality middle school in our neighborhood,” said Kimberly Ellerbee, principal of Powel Elementary School. “We know that serving more students in high-performing schools is critical, and we are excited to be a part of the overall effort to provide high quality education for every child in Philadelphia. We look forward to our continued partnership with Drexel University, and are grateful for the support of the Philadelphia School Partnership to help to make this dream a reality.”

Pending the completion of a strong plan and continued results at Powel, PSP expects to consider an application for a full growth grant to fund the Powel expansion and middle-school startup. PSP is actively soliciting applications for funding from other district schools that are high-performing or in a turnaround process. Interested principals should contact PSP to learn more about the investment aims and parameters of the Great Schools Fund.

PSP also announced today that it awarded a $75,000 planning grant to Wissahickon Charter School, a K-8 elementary school in Northwest Philadelphia where students consistently score above average in reading and math. Wissahickon recently won approval from the SRC to open a second campus serving more than 500 students, and it will use the grant to develop a strategic plan for essentially doubling the organization’s size as it prepares to launch the second school in 2014.

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 recently announced it has raised over $50 million toward the $100 million Fund goal. This round of grants brings PSP’s total investments in schools to $7.3 million, with a cumulative impact on more than 7,000 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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