The Philadelphia School District has targeted 11 low-performing schools for overhaul next year.
The schools will not close or convert to charter, but will get some kind of major intervention come September, ranging from merging with an existing high-performing school to reopening with major staff or program changes.
The schools are: Blankenburg, McDaniel, Heston, Hartranft, and John Marshall Elementary Schools; Harding Middle School; and Bartram, Ben Franklin, Fels, Kensington Health Sciences, and Overbrook High Schools.
Options for the schools include entering the district's Turnaround Network; merging; engaging a firm to manage the school on a contractual basis; operating under an evidence-based academic improvement plan; or restarting the school with significant staff or program shifts.
The schools were chosen on the basis of low performance for at least three years. They all have scores of no higher than 15 on a scale of 100, according to the district's School Progress Report.
"There is going to be some more-focused plan to try to rapidly improve children's learning opportunities," said Kevin Geary, a district spokesman.
Each school's fate will be determined in part by the wishes of its community, Geary said.
In the past, the district used its Renaissance program to overhaul needy schools, but it has decided to spend a year evaluating the mechanism it has used to drive change at 21 schools since 2010. That program either turned district schools into charters or funneled them into an internal improvement model.
Beginning next week, parents, school communities, and staff will have opportunities to voice their opinions on school improvements. A "school quality review" will be conducted at each.
Schools' wishes will be taken into consideration when turnaround plans are made, Geary said. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. will make the final recommendation on each school's fate, with School Reform Commission action if necessary.
"Each school has unique strengths and challenges, and each school community is special, but the goal for all children and all schools is the same: to ensure children are able to learn and to succeed," Hite said in a statement. "We are excited to begin this work with our parents and schools to make this goal a reality, and we will make the decisions necessary to ensure all children are given their right to a great education."
Dave Metzger, an English teacher at Fels, said the faculty there was stunned at the news, delivered by his principal at the end of the day.
"I feel like we could improve it on our own," said Metzger, who has taught at Fels for five years. "These are incredible teachers, and the skills they have, they really don't let us use them."
Metzger said the decision continued a district pattern of depriving schools of resources and then blaming them for failing.
Hite was firm: More must be done.
"Despite investments made in all schools, some schools are not meeting students' needs and parents' expectations," the superintendent said. "There are schools that require additional support right now so that children can have the learning opportunities they deserve."