Analysis Shows Failure of Renaissance Schools

by Coleman Poses

In his swan song to the Board of Education last April, Dr. Chris McGinley requested that the Renaissance model be retired, due to its lack of accountability as well as the fact that schools were being coerced to adopt a model that was based upon school choice. Dr. Fix-Lopez promised to bring a motion before the Board to end the Renaissance program by October. Chairperson Wilkerson stated that the Renaissance evaluation that the district had been performing needed to be made public before a vote could be taken. Dr. Hite, however, prepared a way to continued existence for these schools by stating that policy 141, “The Renaissance Schools Initiative” needed to be “updated”.

At the Policy Committee meeting on September 10, the committee voted to update various charter policies. During this meeting, Committee Chair Maria McColgan kept assuring the charter school advocates on the Zoom that these policy changes had nothing to do with the existence of the renaissance program.

At the meeting, Charter Office head Christina Grant explained that the office was proposing conflating six existing charter school policies into two, and eliminating Policy 141.

Upon questioning by Committee Chair McColgan about how the elimination of Policy 141 would affect the operation and oversight of the Renaissance charters, Ms. Grant stated that these schools would continue to operate in exactly the same fashion that they have always operated, and that the monitoring and authorization of these schools would not change.

Why then, all the fuss about elimination of this policy? A closer look at the policy itself reveals that: “Renaissance Schools shall not exercise selective testing or erect other barriers to admission. All Renaissance Schools must enroll and serve all grade appropriate students that were enrolled at the school at the time of Renaissance School designation. Students who attend or through feeder patterns are slated to attend a school that is designated a Renaissance School shall be guaranteed a seat in the new school, subject to space limitations of the school.”

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Board Should Not Deregulate Renaissance Charters

Deletion of Policy 141 Cedes Power to Harrisburg 

by Lisa Haver

In 2010, the state-controlled School Reform Commission  approved the Renaissance Policy portion of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s “Imagine 2014”.  Policy 141 escalated  the privatization of public schools and the diversion of taxpayer funds to privately-managed schools.  The companies awarded contracts to manage  those schools promised to “effect dramatic change”  at “chronically underperforming schools”.  The District, over the past ten years, has spent hundreds of millions on Renaissance schools while getting very little in return. Although the Initiative stipulated  that “Renaissance Schools will be granted greater autonomy in exchange for increased accountability”, there has actually been less accountability, as seen by the repeated renewals of Renaissance charters that fail to meet basic standards, let alone surpass District performance.  

Much of the funding for this method of charter expansion came from a major grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Great Schools Compact Grant, accepted by the SRC in 2011 without public deliberation. The Philadelphia School Partnership advanced its privatization agenda while acting as manager and fiscal agent of the Great Schools Compact Committee, whose meetings were not open to the public.

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