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.
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.