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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APPS Urges Board to Reject City Health Director’s Reopening Recommendations

by Lisa Haver

Update: the Hite administration has scrapped its reopening plan for the foreseeable future. When the issue comes up again for reconsideration, possibly in Spring 2021, APPS will reissue this statement. 

Members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools call on the Board of Education and the Hite administration to stop following recommendations from City Health Director Thomas Farley on sending back students and staff to District buildings. 

The inconsistencies of Dr. Farley’s statements since July demonstrate his failure to present an honest assessment of the dangers of reopening school buildings. No one disputes that face-to-face instruction would be better, but we cannot endanger the lives of teachers and their students, nor those of their families.

To read the rest of the statement click here.

Defenders of Public Education Speak before the BOE, October 22, 2020

Click on the title to read the transcript of the speaker’s testimony.

Teaching and Learning

Board Devaluation of Effective Teaching, Learning, and Health by Rachel Boschen

Signature U.S. Education Initiatives by Barbara McDowell Dowdall

Policy Changes

Do Not Eliminate Renaissance Charter Policy 141 by Deborah Grill

Board Must Not Deregulate Renaissance Charters by Lisa Haver

Changes to Renaissance Charter Policy 141 by Karel Kilimnik

Consequences of Changes to the Wellness Policy and Policy 141 by Robin Lowry

Outsourcing

Board Spending on Contract with Playworks by Jennifer Byiers

Against Outsourcing Equity Work by Maddie Luebbert

School Reopening and Charter Renewals

NEBB Certification– Credentials and Reports? [Ventilation] by Diane Payne

What is the Rush to Renew Keystone Charter? by Ilene Poses

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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