City, School District and charter school officials have joined forces in an effort to win a share of $40 million, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed at boosting school performance.
“Our goal is to enhance educational opportunities for about 50,000 students in the poorest performing schools in our district and charter school systems by creating high quality alternatives,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, at a joint press conference Tuesday at the Stetson Middle School in Kensington. “By 2016, our goal is to not have a single student in a low-performing school while raising the standards and quality of higher performing schools.”
The coalition of city, School District and charter officials has formed the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact — promising to share education strategies and methods at schools across the city. Philadelphia was one of 14 cities — including New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Baltimore — across the nation to form similar pacts, allowing them to compete for the Gates Foundation funds.
Nutter made the announcement with School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos and organizations representing the majority of the city’s charter schools as well as Don Shalvey, with the Gates Foundation.
The foundation has already approved a $100,000 grant to support the creation of the Great Schools Compact.
“I can remember a time when a compact between charter schools and district schools would have been unheard of,” Shalvey said. “But, Philadelphians took a bold move with this compact — to stand together in the interest of the youth at every single Philadelphia school, to change the opportunity equation for your futures.”
The School District is already in the midst of a reform plan intended to boost student performance.
Eighty-eight schools — charter and district schools serving 46,000 students — have been identified as the city’s lowest performing schools. Since 2010, the District has shifted approximately 20,000 students from 22 schools of those schools to new management and/or school models through its “Renaissance Schools” and “Promise Academies” programs.
There are about 210,000 students attending Philadelphia’s public and charter schools.
New reform plans will unite charter and district officials, who promised to set aside past differences and focus on the kids.
“The newly constituted SRC intends to pursue the aims of the compact vigorously,” Ramos said. “We know this requires great effort and steadfastness from all of us who have a stake in our students’ future — which means all of us in Philadelphia.”
Mark Gleason with the Philadelphia School Partnership, a non-profit dedicated to school improvement, also promised his support.
“The signing of the compact represents a great first step for Philadelphia,” said Gleason. “Already, we have seen funders rally in support. We formed PSP knowing that our city has lots of people and institutions who care deeply about improving schools, but unless we are all working and funding in concert we won’t be able to achieve results on a large scale.”
Shalvey too lauded the effort.
“Despite facing a number of challenges this year on the education front, Philadelphia has brought together an impressively broad group of stakeholders to support the vision of the Compact,” he said.
In addition to seeking funding from the Gates Foundation, city and education officials are looking for other outside funding. The Philadelphia School Partnership has begun putting together a “Great Schools Fund” to invest in the creation, expansion and sustainability of high-performing schools. Its goal is to raise $100 million by 2016 from individuals, corporations and foundations; it is currently in discussions with donors for matching commitments that could run as high as $20 million.