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High expectations for a turnaround at 13 schools

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

The most-watched changes in the District this fall will take place at the seven Renaissance Schools and six Promise Academies representing the first round of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s plan to transform failing schools across the city.

Ackerman chose six low-performing schools last spring to become District-managed Promise Academies. At each, all staff were force-transferred and invited to reapply for their positions, with no more than 50 percent of teachers eligible to be rehired. Promise Academies will offer a longer school day and year, use the Corrective Reading and Math curriculum, expand afterschool and enrichment activities, and have additional support staff.

In May, seven of the eight remaining Renaissance-eligible schools were turned over to local charter school operators. Mastery Charter was awarded three schools, Universal Companies two, and ASPIRA and Young Scholars Charter School one each.

All charter-operated Renaissance Schools will have non-union teaching staff*, longer school days and years, new student uniforms, and upgraded facilities. Some of the charter operators will implement new curricula, new disciplinary policies, new support and enrichment programs, and new parent and community outreach efforts.

At Stetson Middle School, ASPIRA has invested over half a million dollars in new furniture and equipment and is focused on revamping the school’s disciplinary procedures and supports for teachers.

"When [students] walk into the classroom on the first day and they have a new chair, a new desk, a new computer and teachers who want to teach, I think they are going to be shocked,” said Alfredo Calderon, executive director of ASPIRA.

Stetson and the other six Renaissance Schools, as well as four of the six Promise Academies, are among 27 low-performing Philadelphia schools that will split $51.9 million in federal school improvement grant funds.

The only Renaissance-eligible school not paired with a provider was West Philadelphia High, where a contentious matching process was ultimately aborted by the District. That school will still see plenty of change. Thirty-nine percent of teachers are new, and Ackerman replaced Principal Saliyah Cruz with a duo – retired District veteran Ozzie Wright and longtime principal LaVerne Wiley.

West is expected to receive additional supports this year and participate in the second cohort of Renaissance School implementation in 2011.

Turnaround schools 2010: Who’s in charge at…?

Bluford, Daroff: Universal Companies
Douglass: Young Scholars Charter School
Harrity, Mann, Smedley: Mastery Charter Schools
Stetson: ASPIRA of PA
Ethel Allen, Clemente, Dunbar, Potter-Thomas, University City, Vaux: School District Promise Academy program

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