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Speculating on likely Renaissance Schools

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

Which low-performing schools will be slated for turnaround in round two of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative?

While there is still no official word from the District, recently posted School Performance Index (SPI) data provide some possible clues.

If the District were to use the same criteria this year as it used in the first round of the Renaissance process, the following 13 schools would designated as “Renaissance-eligible”:

  • Alcorn (K-8)
  • Barry (K-8)
  • Fairhill (K-8)
  • Harrison (K-8)
  • Hill (K-8)
  • W.D. Kelley (K-8)
  • M.H. Stanton (K-8)
  • Jones (5-8)
  • FitzSimons (7-12)
  • Germantown (9-12)
  • Kensington Business (9-12)
  • Olney West (9-12)
  • South Philadelphia (9-12)

Each of these schools was given the lowest possible “overall” SPI rating of 10 and has already been receiving extra supports as an Empowerment School.

Six additional schools (Clemente, Dunbar, Ethel Allen, Potter-Thomas, University City, and Vaux) received an overall rating of 10, but are already Renaissance Schools.

Last year, there were 14 Empowerment Schools rated 10 on the index, all of which were designated as Renaissance-eligible. Of those, all but West Philadelphia High School were ultimately designated for overhaul as either Renaissance charters run by outside providers or as District-run Promise Academies. Twelve additional schools were rated 10 but were not yet Empowerment Schools; these were put on a list of “Renaissance-alert schools” and given the resources and supports of Empowerment Schools during the second half of the school year.

Seven of last year’s Renaissance-alert schools (Alcorn, Barry, Fairhill, W.D. Kelley, Kensington Business, Olney West, and M.H. Stanton) again have SPI ratings of 10 this year.

At this point, any Renaissance School list for 2011 is purely speculative; the District has not yet made public the criteria that will be used to determine Renaissance-eligible schools this year, and District spokesperson Elizabeth Childs indicated that the criteria might change this year.

Other considerations, including the ongoing facilities master planning process and requests by existing Renaissance providers to create feeder patterns, may come into play.

If the District were to extend the Renaissance list to include schools with a score of 9, the next worst SPI rating, there would be five additional comprehensive neighborhood high schools in the mix, including West – along with Gratz, King, Olney East, and Roxborough High Schools. Twenty-one elementary and middle schools were also rated 9.

One change from last year is that there were 26 schools last year with a score of 10, because that score represented the schools that finished in the bottom tenth of schools districtwide on the index. This year, only 19 schools have a score of 10. The online document describing the performance index does not explain the change.

The District had previously indicated that round two turnaround teams would be selected by January 17 and that a public matching process for Renaissance-eligible schools would begin immediately after.

That date has passed, and there is currently no word on when either announcement will be made or how the timeline for the matching process between schools and providers will be affected.

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