Philadelphia’s Freire Charter School has won an Effective Practice Incentive Community, or “EPIC” award.It’s a national honor bestowed on only three charter high schools serving ninth through 12th grade in the nation. Kelly Davenport is the Head of School here at Freire Charter School in Rittenhouse Square. She says, to win, the school had to demonstrate dramatic increases in student performance. “We had to show our test scores of our students over time,” Davenport said. “So, when they were eighth-graders before they came to Friere, to 3 years later as 11th-graders now at Friere. It’s a value-added measurement about how students over time are performing.”The kids come to Freire from West, North, and Southwest Philly. Davenport says when students arrive at the school for ninth grade, it isn’t unusual for them to be three or four grade levels behind. By the time they’re finished at the school, though, she says 98 percent of the kids go on to colleges, each with an average of $50,000 in scholarships.”We have a no frills and no excuses attitude around here,” said Davenport. It’s not glamorous. Just hard work, she says. Late afternoons and after-school tutoring. And another thing. “This space is a safe place. There’s no metal detectors here. There’s no paid policeman at the door,” she said. “We call it a family here.” When students feel safe, says Davenport, they are far more likely to succeed.
A number of the Mastery Charter School campuses in Philadelphia have won “EPIC” honors in the middle school grade-level category.