Truebright Science Academy Charter School — the beleaguered school which had been slated for closure by the School District of Philadelphia for a host of reasons, chiefly because it hasn’t made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) — recently received word from the Pennsylvania Department of Education that the school achieved AYP status for the 2011–2012 school year, meaning one of the major obstacles have been cleared for the tiny North Philadelphia school to have its charter confirmed at the end of the year.
“I am hoping the school district and the School Reform Commission takes this into consideration, because one of the findings was that Truebright didn’t make AYP; but we’ve made AYP for two years now,” said Truebright CEO Bekir Duz, allowing that Truebright was placed in warning status several years ago. “Right now, hearings are going on with the Charter School Office, and I have a sense the hearings are going well.
“We can prove that we really are helping students in our neighborhood, “Duz continued. “All of us hope that the SRC makes the right decision to keep us open, and lets us continue to help students in our neighborhood.”
School District spokesman Fernando Gallard confirmed the district and Truebright are engaged in discussions and in the middle of hearings. The district would have no further comments, Gallard said, until those hearings are completed.
Truebright can also petition the Pennsylvania Department of Education, but the preferred method is to work with the SRC first, Duz said. “The [Pennsylvania Department of Education’s] charter school appeal board will make the final decision,” Duz said, “but we are hoping to receive our charter from the SRC.”
The good news continues to flow for Truebright, as it not only made AYP — it has outperformed the schools in its neighborhood cluster, Duz said.
“We worked on data from the past four years, and we outperformed the neighborhood schools. It clearly shows that consistently, we were in the top three all of the time,” Duz said. “The other schools averages were decreasing, where Truebright was increasing. That’s an important piece and must be frustrating for Strawberry Mansion and other schools, but for Truebright, this is good news.”
The data backs up Duz’s claim. In 2007–2008, 19.9 percent of its students reached advanced levels in math, while 54.8 percent of Truebright’s students were below basic; in the 2010–2011 year, 40.9 percent of its students were at the advanced level in math, while 45.1 percent tested below basic.
That’s an increase by more than half in the advanced math level, and also shows a steady decline in the numbers of students not testing well. Conversely, in the 2007–2008 school year, 5.8 percent of all Germantown High School students tested at the advanced level in math, while 80.2 percent of its students tested out below basic. In 2010, 8.1 percent of Germantown High students reached the advanced math level, while 73.9 percent tested below basic.
For comparisons sake, the data shows the Strawberry Mansion High School making slight gains in advanced math while owning a slight increase in the number of students testing below basic.
For the 2007–2008 school year, 33.7 percent of Mansion students tested to the advanced math level, while 41.3 percent of its students tested below basic. For the 2010–2011 school year, 37.6 percent of Mansion students tested at the advanced level in math, while 44.5 percent of its students tested below basic.
Duz credited Truebright’s ascension to his teachers’ work with education specialist The Khan Academy and allowing his teachers to teach to the strengths of the students.
“We use data-driven instruction and utilized The Khan Academy method, and students started studying at their own pace,” Duz said, noting the successes gained by the Forsyth County Schools department after it utilized the Khan Academy. “And we shared the data [from Forsyth] with teachers, and teachers implemented those tactics into their curriculum and modified [the curriculum] to the level of the student.
“The increases in our seventh-graders’ [progress] have been tremendous.”