The School District of Philadelphia recently announced the newest schools that will be transformed this fall into Renaissance Schools, a two-pronged turnaround initiative aimed at chronically low-performing schools.
James Alcorn, Kenderton and Pastorius elementary schools will move forward as Renaissance Charter Schools, run by organizations with a proven track record in both turning around low-performing schools and operating high-achieving schools. Edison and Strawberry Mansion high schools, and Barry, Bryant, Cayuga and McMichael elementary schools will implement the Promise Academy model, working alongside District educators to improve student success.
“When examining schools that continually fall short on a variety of performance measures, it was clear that these nine schools needed interventions and additional support,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent. “We believe that we have the capacity to support certain schools through the Promise Academy model and will engage our external partners with successful track records to advance others. Ultimately, our goal is to get the best outcomes for all students.”
Prospective schools were analyzed using key academic performance and climate measures, including:
• PSSA math performance
• PSSA reading performance
• Annual academic growth
• Average daily attendance
• Truancy rate
• Out-of-school suspensions rate
• Violent incidents rate
For high schools, on-track to on-time graduation progress, and graduation and college matriculation rates were also analyzed.
Renaissance Charter Schools
In exchange for a high degree of accountability, Renaissance Charter Schools have greater degrees of autonomy in school management with the goal of enhancing academic achievement in neighborhood schools, consistent with the goals of the District’s Action Plan.
The District focused this year on kindergarten through eighth grade schools, where there is greater opportunity to have a more lasting impact on student outcomes.
The new Renaissance Charter Schools were not only among the lowest-performing District schools as of last school year, but they have been under-performing for years, suggesting that a more dramatic intervention was needed.
All Renaissance Charter Schools are held to rigorous performance standards, including specific targets for improved for academic performance, school climate and neighborhood attendance rate. The District periodically reviews how each Renaissance Charter School is performing against its school-specific targets throughout the five-year charter term, and each charter agreement sets forth consequences for failure to meet performance targets.
Since 2010, 17 low-performing schools have been converted to Renaissance Charter Schools and now enroll more than 12,000 students. The Year I and Year II Renaissance Charter Schools have already shown significant gains in academic achievement, important school climate indicators, and enrollment within the neighborhood attendance zone:
Nine of 13 (more than two-thirds) schools increased by double-digits the number of students scoring proficient or advanced on state assessments in math and/or reading.
All schools have increased average daily attendance, reduced the out-of-school suspension rate, and/or reduced the serious incident rate. 10 of 13 (more than three-quarters) schools have increased the enrollment of students who live within the school’s neighborhood attendance zone, with three schools increasing neighborhood attendance by more than 20 percent.
Earlier this month, the District released the Request for Proposals (RFP), the first step in a competitive procurement process for Turnaround Teams to operate the new schools. Evaluation committees will review proposals from RFP respondents and select finalists by March 22. Only finalists will be eligible to advance to the next stage of the matching process – meeting with the School Advisory Council (SAC) at each of the schools designated for turnaround. The Office of Charter, Partnership and New Schools is scheduled to recommend matches to the Superintendent on April 19, and the School Reform Commission (SRC) will vote on the matches in late April or early May.
The Promise Academy model is the District’s own turnaround program, which uses evidence-based strategies to improve student achievement.
In selecting schools for Promise Academy turnaround, the District focused on those that were among the lowest performing, demonstrating signs of stable leadership or other success under District management, and likely to be impacted by the Facilities Master Plan process, such as becoming a receiving school or located near a Promise Academy recommended for closure.
For the first time, the District is implementing a planning year – “incubation period” – for high schools to improve the effectiveness of the Promise Academy model. High schools will have one year to build support among students, families and community members, hire staff and develop the vision and instructional program. Principals will have some flexibility in developing their model based on specific student needs.
Promise Academies have an extended school day, intensive supports for struggling students, as well as increased professional development opportunities and hires new teachers through the site-selection process. Since 2010, nine schools have been converted to Promise Academies. Over that time, the kindergarten through eighth grade Promise Academies have outperformed comparison District schools in average daily attendance and state proficiency targets in math and reading.
The SRC is expected to approve the Promise Academy designations in late April or early May.