The Philadelphia School Partnership is celebrating its first anniversary by announcing $2.4 million in grants to three local charter-school operators that have taken over failing city schools.
The three organizations - Mastery Charter Schools, Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania, and Universal Cos. Inc. - were awarded grants based on academic gains their initial turnaround schools made during the 2010-11 academic year. All will use the money to help cover staff and program costs as they convert more troubled district schools into Renaissance charter schools.
Renaissance charter schools are a key component of former Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman's Imagine 2014 reform initiative.
"A year ago, we said the partnership would encourage and support proven leadership teams to expand the number of great schools in this city, and that's what [the] announcement is all about," said Mark Gleason, the partnership's executive director. "The Renaissance schools were among the poorest performing in the city, and these charters have demonstrated real progress in turning them around."
The grants were scheduled to be announced Thursday - "almost a year to the day," Gleason noted, since the partnership was launched during a program at the National Constitution Center.
As a way of accelerating the pace of academic reform, the nonprofit partnership aims to raise $100 million in five years to add 34,000 more seats in high-performing schools in the city, whether public or private.
The partnership is a collaboration of businesses, philanthropies, and educators from public, private, and charter schools who believe that an educated workforce is critical for the city's economic future.
Partnership representatives say they expect to use money raised to help open new schools, expand successful schools, and turn around failing schools.
Gleason, who became executive director in May, said the partnership had raised $3.5 million so far.
In the first series of grants, Mastery will receive $1.5 million as it tackles Clymer Elementary School and Simon Gratz High School. The money also will help support the organization's rapid growth. Mastery, which also has taken over Hardy Williams Charter School, operates nine turnaround schools in the city.
Aspira and Universal will each receive $450,000. Aspira is converting Olney East and West High Schools into a single charter high school, and Universal has taken over Vare Middle School and Audenried High School.
The operators began receiving some grant money during the summer to help prepare for the new academic year, Gleason said.
Total enrollment at the new Renaissance charter schools is 4,000 students. Though traditional charter schools select students from across the city by lottery, Renaissance charters enroll the same students who attended the schools when the district managed them.
The grant winners were selected from among seven organizations that had applied for Renaissance charter contracts. The three grant recipients all saw increases in the number of students who met state standards in reading and math at the six Renaissance charters they began operating in fall 2010.