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District releases Renaissance SAC monitoring reports

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

The District has released the second quarterly monitoring reports from School Advisory Councils (SACs) at seven existing Renaissance charter schools.

Three of the providers – ASPIRA, Inc, Mastery Charter, and Universal Companies – are vying for additional schools in the second year of the Renaissance Schools initiative.

Some school-by-school highlights:

ASPIRA STETSON

  • Report contains the school’s first publicly released student performance data. "Though there are some mixed results, ASPIRA is encouraged…math proficiency has increased in most grades and reading proficiency has grown in the most critical grades."
  • ASPIRA made good on its promise to add 75 security cameras throughout the school.
  • Report cites a dramatic reduction in suspensions: "There have been no suspensions so far this school year compared to over 200 by this time last school year."

MASTERY HARRITY

  • Report cites strong communication between the SAC and Mastery staff, highlighting the SAC’s role in introducing the school principal to the newly appointed police captain in the region, which "led to resolving some pressing concerns regarding student safety such as crossing guard schedules and the adjusting of the time the signage for reduced speed around the school comes on."
  • Report praises Mastery’s approach to improving school climate ("It’s working"), but raises concerns about the "high level of out-of-school suspensions – 63 in November….reduced to 27 (in December.)" Because of overenrollment and lack of physical space, the report reads, "[Mastery] had no space to hold in-school suspension or alternate disciplinary options. As a result, the school culture team has leaned too heavily on out-of-school suspensions."
  • "In closing, the transformation of Harrity has been remarkable. The teachers work hard and really care. Our kids are happy and actually excited to go to school."

MASTERY MANN

  • "The open communication between the SAC and Mastery continues to be excellent."
  • Though the student performance data is redacted, the SAC commentary is not: "SAC is pleased with the overall improvements but note the challenges and slow progress of 5th grade students. The SAC is concerned that the success of the children, especially the 5th graders, will be stagnated…without the addition of 6th grade."
  • The report indicates that the school is introducing athletic opportunities for students, including a tennis program at the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center and intramural sports slated for late April.

MASTERY SMEDLEY

  • "Our SAC partnered with the Northeast EPIC Stakeholders to host seminars and workshop series for parents to attend," including an informational event on domestic abuse.

UNIVERSAL BLUFORD

  • "The SAC continues to maintain a good working relationship with Universal and the Charter School."
  • The reports for both Universal Bluford and Universal Daroff note concerns about special education students being assigned to Universal schools without proper documentation from the District:
  • "Audits conducted by Universal special education specialists reveal a very significant number of out-of-compliance IEPs that were transferred onto the Universal Bluford student roll as turnaround team contract with the School District of Philadelphia was completed … Many files were not only outdated but it became evident that there were far more students assigned to Bluford than originally identified.
  • A letter and collaborative meeting detailing these and other special education concerns have been articulated with the Office of Specialized Services regarding the need for the School District of Philadelphia to work in conjunction with Universal to resolve the issues.
  • The School District of Philadelphia agreed to pay compensatory damages for any student files where legal ramifications were posed by families or advocate groups."
  • "It is important to note that Universal installed new washing machine and dryer that helps to support parents and students. This contributes to the positive self esteem of the student body and whole school environment."

UNIVERSAL DAROFF

  • Health challenges for the SAC chair "caused some lack of momentum with the Council" and resulted in a leave of absence and the need for "a more effective exchange of communication" between Universal, the SAC, and the Daroff school administration.
  • "The council has concerns about the lack of textbooks, supplies, and additional need for tutoring in students."
  • "The climate has improved with increased discipline being one of the greatest reasons for the change."
  • Report contains the school’s first publicly released student performance data:
  • School wide results of 4Sight benchmarks reveal an increase in proficient and advanced levels of performance in reading indicated by 32.26 percent as compared to 24.2 percent levels of proficiency on PSSA results in 2010.
  • Grade 3, 4, and 7 show a steady increase in proficient and advanced levels of student performance in reading on November 4Sight test as compared to the Baseline test given in October. Grade 6 and 8 fared better on 4Sight October results as compared to November. Grade 5 results flat lined.
  • Grade 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 show a steady increase in proficient and advanced levels of student performance in math on November 4Sight test as compared to Baseline test given in October. All grades made significant growth except in grade 5.

YOUNG SCHOLARS DOUGLASS

  • "The SAC believes it has been an insightful occurrence for Young Scholars. They have come to view the SAC as a resource to call upon. What we need at this juncture is more opportunity to work in partnership on problem solving which could solidify that relationship even further."
  • Praise for Scholar Academies’ new school-within-a-school disciplinary program: "For example, the creation of the Path Academy was a good solution which allowed students to stay within the school building but helping them to succeed without isolating from the school population."
  • "The SAC suggests that the School District provide turnaround teams with counsel /training workshop on how to deal with the SACs (cultural
    competency). This would possibly help us with our working relationship."

Though the reports are intended as a vehicle for parents and community members to provide feedback and oversight on the Renaissance charter providers, District officials acknowledged that much of the text in some of the reports was again written by the providers themselves – a problem that also arose for some of the first quarterly reports.

Members of one SAC have previously said that because the reports contain questions about things like curricula and school-wide student achievement that they are not able to answer on their own, they requested and reviewed information from their turnaround teams.

District officials say they are trying to improve the report’s format to ensure more direct feedback from the SACs themselves.

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