Catholic elementary school to use new learning model to increase enrollment and achievement

Grants from Great Schools Fund will create seats for 2,000 more Philadelphia students to attend high-quality schools

The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) today announced it will invest $500,000 from its Great Schools Fund to support the expansion and transformation of DePaul Catholic School, a K-8 elementary school currently serving approximately 280 students in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. DePaul is one of 14 Catholic elementary schools that recently joined the Independence Mission Schools (IMS), an independent nonprofit organization.

DePaul is partnering with Seton Education Partners to implement a new blended-learning model. The Phaedrus model uses technology in the classroom to accelerate student learning and make Catholic schools more financially viable. By implementing Phaedrus, DePaul seeks to further improve students’ academic results and nearly double enrollment to 540 students—without a proportional increase in operating costs.

“Independence Mission Schools was formed to develop and implement strategies that will allow our schools to be financially sustainable while providing a high-quality education in disadvantaged communities,” said Al Cavalli, president of IMS. “We believe this initial, upfront investment will help DePaul lower per-pupil operating cost in the long run. In turn, the school will be able to keep family tuition low and give more families access to a great education.”

Seton Education Partners, a New York based nonprofit organization, has implemented Phaedrus in two Catholic schools on the West Coast. DePaul will be the first school in the region to implement the model. The innovative blended-learning model has resulted in both increased student achievement and greater enrollment at the pilot schools. For example, reading proficiency at Mission Dolores Academy in San Francisco increased by 16 percent during the first year with Phaedrus.

The innovative blended learning model incorporates technology to create an instructional environment that provides individualized learning for students in core academic areas. Classes are divided into two periods, with half of the students working on self-guided instruction on computers and half the class in small group instruction with the teacher. Teachers also use the data obtained through students’ individual work to identify areas of need and inform group instruction.

“Like most of the Mission Schools, DePaul is offering families a quality education in a neighborhood of Philadelphia with too few great options,” said Mark Gleason, executive director of PSP. “A growing number of students at DePaul are reading and doing math on grade level, and the leadership team is committed to building on this transformation to serve more students. The school will also serve as a model for other Mission Schools, as they work to ensure sustainability while improving educational outcomes for students.”

The Independence Mission Schools is a nonprofit organization formed by a group of business leaders and philanthropists who initially worked together as founding board members of the St. Martin de Porres School in central north Philadelphia. The organization recently assumed management of 14 Catholic schools, all but one of them in the city and many of which were at risk of closure for financial reasons. IMS is working to transform the schools’ financial positions, modernize systems and infrastructure so the schools can be managed more nimbly, and improve the schools’ academic programs as they implement new curricula aligned to national Common Core standards. In March 2013, PSP awarded a $500,000 planning grant to IMS for strategic planning and development of strategies to achieve sustainability with a focus on ensuring high-quality education in all of the schools.

“Our goal is to ensure that every child in our school is learning and achieving at high-levels, regardless of their background,” said Sister Cheryl Ann Hillig, principal of DePaul Catholic. “Phaedrus will allow us to customize learning and provide a great education to more students. We are grateful to all our partners for helping us to offer this opportunity to the families in our community.”

Seton’s Managing Director, Stephanie Saroki de García shared her enthusiasm for working in Philadelphia. “We are especially excited to work with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” Saroki de García, said. “In part because of the leadership of Archbishop Chaput, who has a clear heart for the poor and sees the importance of Catholic education, and in part because of the dynamic leadership of Catholic and non-Catholic individuals and organizations who see the need for more strong educational options for our most vulnerable children.”

PSP’s Great Schools Fund pools philanthropic dollars from a diverse group of funders to strategically invest in the incubation, startup, expansion and turnaround of schools of all types across Philadelphia. PSP has raised $60 million toward the Fund’s $100 million goal. The Fund accepts applications on a rolling basis and it plans to make additional investments in 2013. To date, the Fund has raised $60 million in commitments and invested $26.5 million in the expansion and creation of high-quality schools of all types – district, charter, and private – to serve approximately 13,100 additional Philadelphia students.


About the Great Schools Fund

The Fund invests in K-12 schools of any type with the capacity to deliver outstanding educational outcomes for children in the city, including traditional district, charter, and private schools. The goal of the Fund is to replace the 35,000 lowest performing seats in Philadelphia by 2016-17 with higher performing ones by turning around low-performing schools, expanding high performing schools, or creating new high-quality schools. PSP’s investment team conducts a rigorous screening process for grant applicants to evaluate their capacity for delivering strong educational outcomes; its recommendations are vetted by an investment committee before being presented to the PSP Board of Directors for approval.

About Seton Education Partners

Seton Education Partners was founded in 2009 by KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) co-founder Scott W. Hamilton and Teach for America alumnus Stephanie Saroki de García. With an emphasis on innovation, entrepreneurship, and talented leadership, Seton works to preserve and expand Catholic schooling’s rich tradition of character formation and high academic achievement for all students, for the benefit of thousands of children in America’s poorest neighborhoods.