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Five Philly schools make Pa. ‘high progress’ list for low-income schools

Photo: Bas Slabbers / NewsWorks WHYY

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

Five schools in Philadelphia made the cut for a "high progress" designation, based on increases in achievement in math and reading assessments across all students in the schools.

Four Philadelphia District schools – Lankenau High School, Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson, Juniata Park Academy and Eliza B. Kirkbride School – earned spots along with one charter school, Freire Charter School in Center City. Across the state, 16 schools made the "high progress" list.

School leaders attribute that progress to a variety of factors, from a rebooted school day to getting better equipment.

Juniata Park Academy principal Jean Richey said kids enter her K-8 school with reading abilities all over the map. So the school has carved out special periods at the beginning and end of the school day to focus on building skills such as reading.

"If we take two minutes out of every class, we have 40 minutes extra" to help bring kids up to speed, said Richey.

"In the last couple of years, we’ve really helped catch up technology," said Herb Soll, a social sciences teacher at Lankenau High School in Northwest Philadelphia. After the school got new computers in the last few years, it’s started using computer-based reading software, called Achieve 3000, that matches lessons to students’ reading levels.

Freire’s head of academics, Nicholas Fels, attributed his school’s high progress to "familiarity with the test itself." Two years ago, in the Keystone exams, the school’s percentile for math results was in the mid-50s, Fels said. "Last year. we jumped up to the 70th percentile."

Understanding the test also meant changing what’s taught and connecting kids with nonfiction writing they find "authentic," said Fels. For example, he said, that means more social science reading instead of "reading a manual on how to use your new lawnmower."

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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