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Parents in North Philly hear pitches for and against charter conversion

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 04/16/2014 - 18:35 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

The stump speeches have begun, and the opinions are divided.

Parents at two North Philly elementary schools are fast approaching a vote that could forever alter the academic trajectory of their children.

Here the distrinction is not Democratic or Republican, but "District-run" or "charter."

New report finds gains at Renaissance schools -- but not across the board

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Thu, 01/02/2014 - 23:29 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Schools turned over to charter operators -- and to a lesser extent, District-run Promise Academies -- have shown improvements in academics and climate under the three-year-old Renaissance schools turnaround initiative, a new report has found, although big first- and second-year gains have started to slow down or reverse. 

According to the study, conducted by the District's Office of Research and Evaluation, most Renaissance charters continue to have higher proficiency rates than those schools did pre-turnaround, despite the leveling-off of earlier gains.

The reported improvements occurred during a time when overall proficiency rates for District-run schools were declining after years of increases; the downslide began after strict test protocols were put in place in District schools in the wake of a statewide cheating scandal.

District again postpones votes to renew two charters

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Fri, 12/20/2013 - 00:22 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission postponed scheduled votes on two charter schools Thursday, pulling one at the last minute for reasons related to an investigation of test cheating.

Philadelphia Electrical & Technology Charter High School was one of three city charters flagged by the state for potential cheating after analyses of test results for 2009, 2010, and 2011 showed statistical irregularities. The charter was directed by the state to conduct an investigation, which resulted in the dismissal of an assistant principal and the imposition of stricter testing protocols. 

The renewal vote on PE&T was delayed, officials said, not because of problems with the school's own probe, but because the District is not yet ready to release its investigations into possible cheating at more than a dozen District-run schools.

No shortage of counselors at Promise Academies

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Thu, 09/26/2013 - 17:11 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Due to the District's fiscal crisis, most schools in Philadelphia are suffering a counselor drought. But Promise Academies are not among them.

In fact, the 12 Promise Academies -- the District's in-house turnaround schools -- have 19 counselors, which amounts to 15 percent of the 126 counselors available to all 220 or so District-run schools.

More than half the District's schools -- 115 of them, with a population of more than 48,000 students -- are sharing 16 "itinerant" counselors who travel from school to school and have caseloads averaging about 3,000 students each.

In the Promise Academies, which have a combined enrollment of about 8,000, the average caseload works out to one counselor per about 420 students, much closer to the recommendations of the American School Counselor Association.

SRC approves Renaissance conversions and grants to expand three District schools

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Fri, 07/26/2013 - 18:11 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission approved the Renaissance charter agreements for three schools on Friday, officially turning Pastorius over to Mastery Charter Schools, Kenderton to Scholar Academies, and Alcorn to Universal Companies.

At a tense, four-hour meeting, the SRC also accepted $1.1 million in grant money from the Philadelphia School Partnership to expand three high-performing District schools: converting the experimental Sustainability Workshop into the Workshop School; creating a second campus of Science Leadership Academy; and expanding the middle school Hill-Freedman to include high school grades.

But it did so over the persistent objections of Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky, who did a financial analysis showing that the District will be absorbing considerable extra cost for these schools after this year -- a move he called financially irresponsible given the District's shaky budget picture. Earlier in the meeting, the District had announced that it only had enough funding to rehire a few hundred of the 3,800 staff laid off this summer.

SRC delays Renaissance conversions, renews charters for five schools

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 00:34 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Connie Langland

Strong-armed into agreeing to enrollment caps, five charter schools won five-year operating renewals in votes Wednesday night by the School Reform Commission, but five others still have not come to terms with District officials determined to contain costs in the midst of its fiscal crisis.

Funding uncertainties also spurred a decision by Superintendent William Hite to delay the conversion of three low-performing elementary schools — Alcorn, Kenderton and Pastorius — into Renaissance charters under the District’s school turnaround initiative. The SRC had been scheduled to approve assignment of Alcorn to Universal Companies, Kenderton to Scholar Academies and Pastorius to Mastery Charter Schools.

Hite said that the turnovers were tabled “because of the unpredictability of the budget situation” but that the plan would proceed apace “once we have a clearer picture of our revenue and our funding.”

SRC matches Alcorn with Universal, but it's not over yet

Submitted by thenotebook on Fri, 05/31/2013 - 11:47 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Connie Langland

By a 4-1 vote of the School Reform Commission, Universal Companies last night came one step closer to winning the charter to run Alcorn Elementary School under the District’s Renaissance turnaround program.

But there’s one big "if."

The granting of the charter is still not official, and Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn emphasized last night that the handover remained contingent on Universal coming to new terms with the District for the use of Audenried High School and Vare Middle School, both in South Philadelphia.

Charter-school operators take their pitches directly to Pastorius Elementary

Submitted by thenotebook on Tue, 04/09/2013 - 15:07 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks

In a week, Pastorius Elementary's School Advisory Council will make an important recommendation: which charter school operator it would prefer to turn around the struggling East Germantown school next year.

In advance of that decision, the three organizations selected by the School District of Philadelphia as Renaissance School finalists — Universal Companies, Scholar Academies and Mastery Charter Schools — each made pitches at the East Chelten Avenue school Monday night as they vie to be chosen.

District promises to get tough with new Renaissance charter operators

Submitted by thenotebook on Tue, 04/02/2013 - 18:24 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner

The Philadelphia School District is vowing to take a hard line on two issues that have caused confusion when charter operators take over traditional public schools: special education and facilities costs.

Even as the District tries to convert three more of its schools into charters, officials and parents alike are wading through confusion over “exceptions” that past administrations granted to outside managers in previous years of the District’s Renaissance school turnaround initiative.

Head of District's Charter Schools Office resigns

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 04/01/2013 - 12:02 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner

For the second time in less than a year, the head of the Philadelphia School District's Charter Schools Office is stepping down.

Doresah Ford-Bey, the District's executive director of charter schools, will resign effective this Friday. In an email to colleagues, Ford-Bey wrote that she has taken a position with Chicago Public Schools.

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