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More Renaissance charter schools planned for the fall

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 11, 2014 11:54 AM

Updated | 2:40 p.m.

The Philadelphia School District plans to designate two additional schools, likely K-6 or K-8 elementaries, for conversion to charter schools in September, Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said Tuesday, making this the fifth straight year of the so-called Renaissance Charter Schools Initiative.

But the process will be significantly different this time. In the past, the District has chosen the schools to be converted and approved a set of providers, each of which made pitches to the school communities. Each School Advisory Council (SAC) then voted on which provider to accept.

For this round, the District will match a provider with a school, and the "school communities" will then vote on whether to accept the choice or remain under District control. Athough the schools will have SACs, the goal is to have all parents at a designated school participate in the vote, Kihn said.

In a call with reporters, Kihn said that the changes in procedure were made in response to feedback from parents and community members involved in past Renaissance conversions.

"We heard it was difficult for them to draw fine distinctions among the operators, and the more meaningful choice for them was whether or not to be a Renaissance charter conversion," Kihn said. Now, "the school community will have a choice of a particular operator or remaining a District-run school."

If the community votes down the conversion, "it will remain a District-managed school, but that's not to say the school is going to be the same, or business as usual," he said.

The District has asked charter school operators to submit their Request for Qualifications by March 24 and said the affected communities would vote in April. The exact procedure for the voting is still to be worked out, he said.

The District has not yet named the schools, but expects to do so within the next two weeks. "We are in the process of reviewing the lowest-performing schools," Kihn said. Because of the way the finances work, only schools with at least 550 to 600 students will be considered. 

The School Reform Commission will vote on the matches and the charters at its May 15 meeting, Kihn said. 

The community will have at least two opportunities to interact with the designated operators and will also be able to visit other schools run by the same operator. He said that anyone can apply, but only those operators "with a proven track record of success" will be considered.

Kihn acknowledged that because the process this year is getting off to a late start, "at this point in the year, we are not sure which operators have the capacity and the willingness to engage" in the process.

Since 2010, when the initiative was launched, 20 District schools enrolling about 15,000 students have been converted to charters.

In a statement, Superintendent William Hite said the Renaissance initiative has worked, providing "good neighborhood options to students and families in some of our lowest-performing neighborhood schools." 

report evaluating the Renaissance initiative that was released late last year determined that only two providers, Mastery and ASPIRA, seemed "to be on track for achieving substantial improvements in reading and math proficiency."

The report showed that since 2010, when the program started, all 20 schools have improved climate indicators, increasing attendance while reducing serious incidents and student suspension rates.

Eleven of the 17 schools in the first three cohorts have achieved double-digit increases in math proficiency on state tests, the District said, but the first cohort has been the most successful. Those schools have average increases in proficiency of 13 percent in reading and 19 percent in math.

David Limm contributed to this report.

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Comments (18)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 1:59 pm
At least the school community will get to vote on whether this happens or not.
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on March 11, 2014 2:24 pm
How will the SDP define "school community?" Who gets to vote? When? How? Is it like the Phila. City Council election? We don't need more rigged elections in Philadelphia.
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on March 11, 2014 1:15 pm
Just as the Phila. School Dictatorship - I'm sure they have already made the decision.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 11, 2014 3:15 pm
Dear Dr. Hite and Paul: This is interesting. How we define the "school community" and have the "school community" vote is a crucial decision. May I make a suggestion to Dr. Hite, Paul and the SRC? Back when I was at Furness, one year (2002-2003), we voted as to whether we wanted a school council or not. There was a School District procedure which was collaboratively devised and we had to follow it. This is it -- Each "family" had one vote. A "family" was defined as the family of one or more students enrolled in the school. So if a family had two or more students, they still only had one vote. One parent had to send in the ballot and sign it as the representative for the family. We never had any arguments between Mom and Pop. If the parents and teachers both voted for a school council, it was implemented. Yes, the teachers had to vote on whether to have a school council, too. A school council was voted in and we did start one up. The bylaws were very well written by Harry Gafne, who was an assistant superintendent at the time. It only lasted a short while though, because Paul Vallas was the CEO and he did whatever he pleased anyway. So after a while, nobody wanted to waste their time anymore. I certainly applaud any effort to include 'the school community" in the decision-making processes of their schools. It has been sorely lacking in the last decade. Thanks. Sincerely, Rich Migliore
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 11, 2014 3:15 pm
Just a clarification. Both the teachers and families voted separately and both Groups had to vote for it. Also, the ballots were returned in envelopes which were signed. The actual ballot had no name on it. That way nobody knows how anyone votes.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on March 11, 2014 6:35 pm
teachers? teachers?? hah! you don't get no stinkin' vote! markie
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 8:25 pm
..And here we go again.. let's pretend it's on the up and up.. let's pretend the school community will have a say.. reality.. the schools have already been picked.. the charters already chosen and the votes will be FIXED!!!!!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 10:56 pm
Jerry Jordan personally is responsible for many lost SDP union jobs by his lack knowing what a union leader does -represent his members and being a wimp to the District leaders for years. All the jobs Jordan lost by not getting it in writing to make sure all Renaissance schools were union jobs. PFT would have had no layoffs if Jordan didn't give up Renaissance schools to non-union jobs. One of the article's stating this below. April 15, 2010 | Filed under: Latest News | Posted by: editor @pr BY TONY WEST/ The Renaissance Schools plan Jerry Jordan got isn’t the plan he was expecting. "The president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was notified last summer of the School District’s campaign to shake up several poorly-rated schools. However, he said, when Superintendent Arlene Ackerman announced the official fate of 14 schools on Mar. 30, it was far more drastic than he had been led to believe. “We were told all along that 14 schools would be ‘Renaissance-eligible,’ but that the School District intended to take on only three or four schools the first time around,” Jordan said. “We were told all these schools would follow the ‘Promise Academy’ model, administered by the School District, and none would become charter schools just yet.” In fact, Ackerman chose to take over all 14 schools. Five of them will be made into Promise Academies, with new administrations and staffs, and special flexibility in programming – but staying under Ackerman’s control, with PFT’s teachers. But the other nine will be outsourced to “turnaround teams” – outside managers, some who have made public-school interventions in other cities and some who have started charter schools here in Philadelphia. All those teaching jobs will fall out of PFT’s jurisdiction now. If Jordan had known his union would take such a big hit, he stated, he would never have negotiated the labor agreement in January 2010 which permitted it." Email Jordan and let him know to wake up and stop the hemorrhaging with union jobs in the SDP.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 12, 2014 5:37 am
The real issue is the short turn around time for charter operators to submit Request for Qualifications by March 24. Kihn states in the article that many charter operators will not have the capacity or desire to participate. That means that the operators the district has already chosen will be the operators who respond or are provided the opportunity to participate. It really isn't a vote if only one or two options are available for two schools.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on March 12, 2014 6:47 am
uh, gee. think mastery will get one? two?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 12, 2014 10:55 am
Good work by you, comrade !! Some pigs are more equal than other pigs to paraphrase Orwell. There is NO democracy in any of this. Back in the day, The USSR had a voting system too and everybody who wanted to remain alive or not in Siberia, voted the party line. It's here in Philly now or damn close to it.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 12, 2014 7:28 am
Is water wet?
Submitted by Headstart Teacher (not verified) on March 12, 2014 8:42 am
my bet - mastery 1 and ASPIRA the other
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 12, 2014 11:13 am
watch your back, Edison High
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 12, 2014 5:58 pm
If you have any doubt that this is by design, look at the PSP Twitter account. They say: PSP @PhilaSchoolPart Philly parents wait for charter lottery results; underscores the need for more high-performing schools: Starve the public schools to make the charters attractive to parents, that's the scam. Diane Ravitch told her thousands of readers all about it today. Read the comments.
Submitted by Veteran of the WPHS "Renaissance" (not verified) on March 12, 2014 5:57 pm
If history offers any lessons in this, some of the potential providers will lobby, bribe, intimidate, or otherwise try to influence some parents. Thus, the decision will have nothing to do with a rational choice between options. Would the SDP itself try to persuade parents that it can do the job? Is that in under consideration? Can a group of parents who have faith that the school can improve or serve their needs as a public school participate on an even footing with the potential providers in the PR effort? See Diane Ravitch's take -- the SDP is laying down and playing dead. Citizens are the only hope. Defining the "community" must include parents, teachers, and local residents -- whose neighborhoods will be affected. Take it from one who lived through a "renaissance" that was a debacle, in reality.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 12, 2014 5:23 pm
Diane Ravitch spelled it all out in an interview on Salon today. Say goodbye to public schools: Diane Ravitch warns Salon some cities will soon have none
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 16, 2014 10:17 pm
Hey, There is no way a Philly public school can compete with a charter, the playing field is slanted heavily in favor of the character school. First and most importantly, the character can choose the students that it wants and discard the ones it sees as potentially ruining its vital keystone scores. Second, most if not all philly public school have to make accommodations for special needs students, which can cut heavily into a budget. How many of the charter schools mentioned in this article have a special needs population, not counting mentally gifted. I've been teaching in a philly school now for twelve years and I love it. Its a shame that the charters can come in, operate under different rules and win the day. I guess I better update my resume. Philly Teacher

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