Board Should Not Renew Substandard Charters

Not one of the 2021 charter schools in the 2021 cohort has met academic standards. The District’s Charter Schools Office, however, has recommended all for 5-year renewals. This represents a cost to the district of  approximately  $  $484, 053, 891. 

Most of the schools in this cohort failed to meet most of the conditions they agreed to in their previous renewal agreements. That should come as no surprise.  As then-CSO Director DawnLynne Kacer told the School Reform Commission in 2017, there are no formal consequences for failing to meet conditions. With this year’s recommendations, we see that there are also no consequences for not meeting conditions included in a legal surrender agreement clause. 

None of the seven Renaissance charters in the 2021 cohort meets academic standards. APPS cited District reporting in our 2020 analysis of the Renaissance charters in concluding that none of the operators came close to keeping their promise to turn around the neighborhood public 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.  

Note: All academic data taken from most recent CSO renewal evaluations, District school profiles and District SPRs.  All CEO salary/compensation data from 2018 and 2019 IRS Form 990s. Projected costs of operating of charter schools based on 2021 District budget information. 

This report was written by Lisa Haver, Karel Kilimnik, Deborah Grill, Diane Payne and Ilene Poses.

Click on the name of the school to read the report:

Universal Charter School at Audenreid

Universal Charter School at Vare Stem and Arts Academy

Mastery Charter Schools at Wister, Clymer, Gratz and Shoemaker

Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School

Global Leadership Academy at Huey

TECH Freire Charter School

Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School

Lindley Academy Charter School at Birney

YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School

Board Must Act to Alleviate District Racism

Ears on the Board of Education: May 27, 2021

by Diane Payne

Just two days before this meeting, two more District students were felled by gunfire.  Several others had been killed in recent months. Yet the only acknowledgement made by President Joyce Wilkerson was one part of this sentence:  “Before we begin today, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of two of our students yesterday due to gun violence and while we acknowledge this tragic event, I don’t want to lose sight though that we have things to celebrate within the district as well.”  She then went right into  graduating seniors’  accomplishments. Wilkerson failed to honor the slain students by name, and she failed to note that one of the slain students himself was a graduating senior. These students did not “pass”. They were murdered.  Why did Wilkerson spend so little time honoring these fallen students? Neither she nor Dr. Hite addressed the trauma of the surviving classmates, teachers, and families or what, if anything, the District is doing to help them. The rest of the Board remained silent. Board Action Meetings should open with a reading of the names of students we have lost and a moment of silence to remember them.  Say their names now: Nasir Marks.  Kanye Pittman.  Please give them a moment of your silent reflection.

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The Board Should Withdraw Action Item 4: KIPP Amendment Proposal

April 20, 2021

Dear President Wilkerson and Board Members of the Board, 

We are writing in reference to Item 4 on the April 22 2021 Action Item agenda, the amendment request from KIPP charter schools. KIPP is requesting numerous changes, including name, location, grade and enrollment expansion, recruitment area expansion, and the official beginning and end dates for the 5-year term of “KIPP Parkside Charter School”. There are a number of inconsistencies in the Item’s description along with a number of issues that should be addressed before the Board considers this Item. 

First, the District’s webpage lists no KIPP Parkside Charter School.  There is a KIPP West Philadelphia and a KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory. The address of the first is 5070 Parkside, so we assume that the Item refers to that school. 

The District website lists KIPP West Philadelphia Charter as a K-3 schools. However, the 2017 SRC resolution linked in Item 4 states that this school would not include Grade 3 until the 2021-22 school year.  When was KIPP granted an amendment for grade expansion after its initial approval? 

The SRC resolution also indicates that “KIPP Parkside…shall not open until the 2019-20 school year.”  Why would a school in its second year of operation need to move?  KIPP’s operators told the SRC that the Parkside community needed a KIPP charter school.  Item 4 gives no explanation of why KIPP’s operators changed their mind so quickly or whether they had actually intended to stay in that community. 

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Eyes on the Board of Education: April 22, 2021

by Karel Kilimnik

Despite being in an earth-shattering pandemic rocking the entire world, District leadership, with Board approval, continues to implement corporate practices into the administration of our School District. April brings more administrative requests for contracts instead of a commitment to rebuild its own infrastructure. Board Member Lisa Salley questioned this practice at last month’s action meeting.  Teachers, principals, and other school staff are moved around like pieces on a chessboard instead of consulted for their knowledge and experience in working with students and families. The Board creates Advisory Committees and Councils to mask the Board’s actual quashing of the voices from school communities. The Board has refused to rescind its regressive speaker policies limiting both the number of speakers and restricting everyone to two minutes, down from three. Both student and adult speakers were barred from speaking in February and March.  APPS and UrbEd, represented by the ACLU, has sued the Board in Common Pleas Court. We have sent letters to all City Councilmembers urging them to speak out and to direct the Board, over whom Council has some oversight, to end the silencing of the public. We have also created a petition urging the Board to rescind these speaker procedures.

The Board abolished three of its four committees, significantly lessening the public’s opportunity to be heard. The last time a report was presented by a member of the Parent and Community Advisory Council was almost six months ago. Earlier this month the Council hosted a “Conversation Session”, but the April 22 action meeting agenda has no item for any report from that session. 

Trust in both the District and Board erodes further during the several botched attempts to open school buildings and the delays in posting a dashboard to track covid cases in buildings with students and staff present. The Hite administration failed to disclose to anyone–parents, students, educators–that only students returning to buildings would be taking standardized tests.  Since only 30% of parents opted for hybrid learning, what is the rationale for administering PSSAs to only those students? Who does it benefit other than the powerful testing companies?

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