Mark Gleason, the executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, has been named one of four "education reformers to watch" nationwide by the Walton Family Foundation.
Walton, which has given some $1 billion to its education causes, is one of the country's leading backers of parental choice in education, including vouchers and the expansion of charter schools. It believes that choice is the best path to equal opportunity for low-income students.
The School Reform Commission held one of its in-the-round monthly strategy meetings Monday evening, looking at District academic performance and Renaissance Schools. It was the first such meeting for new Superintendent William Hite, who praised the format.
The Accountability Review Council (ARC), which has tracked student performance in District and charter schools since the state takeover and creation of the SRC in 2002, reported on its findings for the year.
By Benjamin Herold
for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) made its first grant to a traditional public school Monday, giving a team of partners $215,000 to map out a dramatic transformation of the neighborhood schools in West Philadelphia's Powelton Village neighborhood.
This guest commentary comes from Christine Carlson. She is a public school parent, a member of the Philadelphia School Partnership advisory committee on Great Philly Schools, and a founder of the Greater Center City Neighborhood Schools Coalition.The Notebook invites guest blog posts on current topics in Philadelphia education from its readers. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make a submission.
Last month, the Philadelphia School Partnership announced that it had received significant new funding, propelling it closer to its goal of raising $100 million so that it can award grants to increase the number of “high-performing seats” in Philadelphia schools.
PSP’s stated mission is to contribute to the expansion of all high-performing schools, whether private, charter, or District-run. So far, however, the only schools that have been awarded PSP grants have been private and charter schools.
Seeking to create a “pipeline” of principals and teachers who are better equipped to deal with the real-world challenges found in Philadelphia’s toughest schools, city education leaders submitted a three-year, $2.5 million grant proposal this week to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Even as federal investigators were finalizing a massive fraud indictment against one of Philadelphia’s most prominent charter school operators, the School Reform Commission was moving thousands of students and hundreds of millions of dollars into the city's publicly funded charter sector.
It’s a massive gamble, made riskier by the meager staffing in the School District’s Office of Charter Schools. Currently, 80 independently managed Philadelphia charters serving more than 50,000 students are monitored by just six people – a number that observers on all sides of the heated charter school debate agree is woefully inadequate.
The William Penn Foundation has paid more than $160,000 for work being done by two private communications firms to support the School Reform Commission’s much-debated “transformation blueprint.”
It's just one of several efforts undertaken by the city's civic leaders on behalf of the cash-strapped District that was revealed by a review of William Penn's recent grants.
The organizations doing the communications work, Sage Communications and the Bravo Group, are being paid through William Penn funds that have been passed through the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, respectively. Each grant was for $82,500, the maximum allowable without the approval of William Penn’s board, which meets three times a year.
Jeremy Nowak believes that Philadelphia is at a crossroads.
“There’s a scenario where this becomes one of the great cities in America, and there’s a scenario where we keep going in decline,” said Nowak.
“I think this is a critical time for us to decide which direction we want to go.”
Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission renewed all five charters up for consideration Friday, but not before a sometimes brusque debate among the commissioners about the growing cost to the District of expanding charter enrollment.
Friday’s renewals and modifications added more than 1,600 charter seats to the District at a projected cost of $40 million over five years. District officials were not immediately able to provide an overview of the total number of charter seats added during this year’s renewal and modification process or how much those new seats are projected to cost.
High-profile charters including Mastery-Pickett, KIPP West Philadelphia, and Boys' Latin were among those renewed on Friday.
Hoping to dramatically reduce the number of Philadelphia students in failing schools, a coalition of education leaders representing Philadelphia’s District, charter and Catholic schools last month submitted a $7 million grant proposal to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Their “Philadelphia Great Schools Compact” proposal calls for a coordinated effort to close or turn around failing schools and expand successful schools, as well as the launch of new initiatives ranging from a universal student enrollment system to a low-interest loan program to help charter schools re-use empty District and Archdiocesan school buildings.