Philadelphia School Partnership awards $3 million in grants to Mastery, American Paradigm

The Philadelphia School Partnership announced today that it will disperse nearly $3 million to support the expansion of four charter schools.

It will grant $2.1 million to charter operator American Paradigm to aid adding a second elementary school and a new high school. Mastery Charter School will get $855,000 to support expanding its Simon Gratz and Hardy Williams campuses.

American Paradigm’s First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter, opened in 2002, currently serves kindergarten through eighth graders at its Tacony campus.

This school year was the first for First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter High School, which enrolled only ninth graders.

In total, the grant will help the schools expand from 1,275 to 1,880 students by the 2016-17 school year. The School Reform Commission already has approved this expansion.

For the upcoming school year, 1,796 students have signed onto the school’s waitlist for only 280 available slots.

According to PSP’s official release:

“First Philadelphia has delivered excellent academic results for its students, drastically outperforming city averages and exceeding state averages. In 2012-2013, the school narrowed the achievement gap between low-income students and the general school population to 5 points, showing that students are achieving regardless of socioeconomic background.”

According to state data, First Philadelphia serves a population that’s 74 percent economically disadvantaged, 18 percent special education, and 54 percent female. It serves zero english language learners.

The state gives the school its highest marks for growth in math and English on standardized tests, but negative ratings for writing and science.

Mastery’s Simon Gratz High School, in Nicetown, has just completed its third year as part of the Philadelphia School District’s Renaissance initiative, which asks charter schools to act as neighborhood schools that must accept all students living within defined area. PSP touts Gratz’s “dramatic improvement in school culture” and “steady gains in academics” under Mastery. 

According to state data, Mastery’s Gratz serves a population that’s 81 percent economically disadvantaged, 25 percent special education, and 53 percent male. Its english language learners comprise less than one percent of the student body.

The state gives low marks to Gratz for its improvement in math and English; high marks were given for science growth. The grant will aid its expansion of a sixth, seventh and eighth grade, providing 225 additional seats.

Mastery took over Hardy Williams charter (currently K-10), in Kingsessing, in 2011.

According to state data, Mastery’s Hardy Williams serves a population that’s 43 percent economically disadvantaged, 13 percent special education, and 52 percent male. Its english language learners comprise less than one percent of the student body.

Mastery contests the state’s data regarding Hardy Williams’ economically disadvantaged population. Mastery’s filings with the Pennsylvania department of education’s federally required data reporting system shows an economically disadvantaged rate of 87 percent.

The state department of education did not respond to a request for clarification.

The state gives Hardy Williams high marks for improvement in all tested subject areas.

With the aid of this grant, Hardy Williams will add an 11th grade next year, growing by 150 students. 

PSP says its invested a total of $6.2 million in the creation and growth of Mastery schools to serve over 4,300 additional students.

“The school budget crisis is a challenge for all public schools, but there are teachers and principals throughout the city who are still finding ways to create transformational change,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of PSP in its official release. “These grants will give more than a thousand Philadelphia young people access to high-performing schools and a better chance at college and a successful career.”

The Great Schools Fund has awarded $34.7 million in grants to Philadelphia schools since 2011, creating 15,620 “seats.”

PSP’s goal is to roughly double that number by 2016-17.

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