This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Steel and Rhoads Elementary Schools will enter the District’s Turnaround Network in the next school year, undergoing a makeover that includes having the principal and the teaching staff reapply for their jobs and providing up to $1 million in additional resources.
Four other schools, Gideon Elementary, Feltonville Arts & Sciences and Wagner Middle Schools, and Penn Treaty, which serves grades 6-12, will develop school-based improvement plans while also receiving additional resources.
The District designated the six schools in September 2017 as needing intervention without being specific about what form that intervention would take. At the same time, it made clear that none of the schools would be closed or converted to a charter under the Renaissance schools initiative.
The announcement comes in the same week that the District held a celebration for schools that scored well or made progress under its evaluation system, the School Progress Report. Several schools in the Turnaround Network were among those that made the most progress, including Potter-Thomas Elementary, where the event was held.
However, these six schools show the flip side: schools with low scores that are not improving.
The principals and staff of Steel and Rhoads will be required to reapply for their jobs. Up to 80 percent of the staff can be rehired.
In 2014, Steel was slated for takeover by Mastery Schools. But parents were given the option to vote that year on whether the school should become a charter at all. After a heated campaign, parents rejected the option in favor of developing their own makeover plan. After they did so, District leadership praised the plan, but did not provide any extra funds to pay for it.
Since September, each of the six schools have done "quality reviews," which involved community meetings and focus groups to determine needs and set priorities. Overall, they were rated high on school climate but lower on quality of learning and teaching and communication with families.
After the reviews, the central office decided how drastic to make the intervention. At Gideon, Feltonville Arts & Sciences, Wagner, and Penn Treaty, according to a District statement: "principals and their planning teams will start the academic improvement planning phase with supports from central office. Teams will focus on defining a clear, bold school vision, analyzing barriers to student learning, and identifying evidence-based approaches, programs and practices to inform their strategy for school improvement."
Meetings will be planned to explain the school improvement process. The changes will take effect in the 2018-19 school year.