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Empowerment School list grows to 95

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School District released its list of Empowerment Schools Friday, and a quick review indicates that no schools (except for one that closed) were removed from last year’s list of 85 while 11 were added.

That makes 95 such schools, all designated as "low-performing" and targeted for intensive interventions.

Empowerment Schools are so designated because they are in Corrective Action II status under the No Child Left Behind law – meaning they have missed performance targets for five or more years – or else they were in Corrective Action II status but have made their targets for one or two years.

Last year, the District spent some $30 million extra in Empowerment Schools, according to at least one recent press report (although official District documents said that the cost was $18 million). Supports included a social services liaison, parent ombudsman, "response teams" that regularly visited each school, increased nursing services, a full-time sub, instructional specialists and the assistance of a part-time retired principal.

This year, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has promised closer scrutiny of the Empowerment Schools and much more curriculum direction from the central office, including mandated changes to the reading and math curriculum at all the schools.

Twenty-two (20 if you eliminate William Penn HS, which is in a transitional phase, and Gillespie Middle School, which is closing permanently at the end of the year) are designated as Empowerment I schools, meaning that they are in worse shape than the others.

About 10 so-called Renaissance Schools, slated for "turnaround" that could include outsourcing to private management and top-to-bottom reconstitutions, are likely to be chosen from this group.

The 20 Empowerment I schools are Bartram, Edison/Fareira, FitzSimons, Germantown, Roxborough, University City and West Philadelphia high schools; Stetson Middle School; and Blaine, Bryant, Clymer, Cooke, Douglass, Drew, Dunbar, Harrity, Thurgood Marshall, Potter-Thomas, Smedley, and Stearne elementary schools.

Presumably less crisis-ridden schools are in the Empowerment II category, and some of them actually made adequate yearly progress last year under No Child Left Behind but were kept on the list anyway.

The 11 schools added to the list this year are Communications Tech High School and Ethel Allen, Joseph H. Brown, Daroff, Dick, Feltonville Intermediate, Lowell, Penrose, Solis-Cohen, Spruance, and Taylor elementary schools.

The other Empowerment II schools are listed below.

High Schools: Carroll, Dobbins, Fels, Frankford, Ben Franklin, Furness, Gratz, ML King, Lincoln, Mastbaum, Northeast, Overbrook, Rhodes, Sayre, South Philadelphia, Swenson, Vaux. and George Washington.

Middle Schools: Clemente, Feltonville Arts & Sciences, Harding, Jones, Meehan, Penn Treaty, Pepper, Roosevelt, Shaw, and Edwin Vare.

Elementary Schools: Ethan Allen, Anderson, Arthur, Bache-Martin, Bethune, Bluford, Carnell, Cassidy, Cramp (made AYP), DeBurgos, H.R. Edmunds, Ellwood, Ferguson, FitzPatrick (made AYP), L.P. Hill (made AYP), Holme, Hopkinson, Hunter, Jackson, Kenderton, Lamberton, Lea, Locke, Ludlow, Mann, Munoz-Marin, Morrison, Pastorius, Pennell, Southwark, Sullivan, Taggart, Webster (made AYP), and Wister.

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