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Philly’s community schools initiative a mixed bag so far, report says

The analysis shows some success in the first year of the project and some high-level issues that need to be addressed.

Students arriving for class at South Philadelphia High School. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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

When Philadelphia designated nine community schools in 2016, officials didn’t announce any numerical goals for the high-profile initiative funded by Mayor Kenney’s controversial tax on sweetened beverages. They did, however, promise an outside evaluation.

That evaluation came down Thursday — 100 pages of analysis from the nonprofit Research for Action that suggest some success in the first year of the project and some high-level issues that need to be addressed.

The positives came mostly at the school level, where analysts found high buy-in from principals and promising inroads made by community school coordinators.

In the big picture, though, the report’s authors worry that city and School District officials haven’t worked well enough together to ensure the success of the ambitious programs meant to help students overcome barriers associated with poverty. The Research for Action analysts are urging the project’s leaders to develop clearer goals that can be measured and tracked.

“A strong relationship at the highest levels of the Mayor’s Office of Education and the School District of Philadelphia did not develop during the first two years of the initiative,” the report states.

That relationship has improved notably this year, officials said in response to the report, and they’re working together on a new plan that will better define how they measure success.

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