PSP Grants $10.5 Million to Help Open 5 New Charter Schools

Great Schools Fund also makes incubation grants to support 3 schools applying for new charters

The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) today announced that its Great Schools Fund will award $10.5 million to help open five new public charter schools in Philadelphia. The grants will support the startup and gradual expansion of the schools, which together will ultimately serve 3,700 Philadelphia public school students. The School Reform Commission (SRC) approved the opening of the new schools in February and May 2015. Investments in the five schools, set to open in September 2016, are as follows:

  • Mastery Gillespie Charter School: $3.3 million startup grant to enroll 588 students
  • KIPP Elementary II: $1.6 million startup grant to enroll 375 students
  • TECH Freire High School: $1.9 million startup grant to enroll 580 students
  • MaST Community Charter School II: $1.9 million startup grant to enroll 1,250 students
  • Independence Charter West: $1.7 million startup grant to enroll 900 students

All five operators currently operate one or more public charter schools in Philadelphia, and most of these schools rank in the top quartile of all public-school performance in the city, as measured by the state’s School Performance Profile or the city’s School Progress Reports for 2014.

“These schools have helped to narrow achievement gaps for thousands of students in Philadelphia,” said Jessica Peña, director of the Great Schools Fund. “We are pleased to support their expansion and expand educational opportunity for nearly 4,000 additional students and their families.” The five schools will be located in Southwest Philadelphia, North Philadelphia and parts of the Lower Northeast.

Peña noted that waiting lists provide evidence of the demand from parents across the city for these schools. MaST and Mastery each have more than 5,000 students on their respective waiting lists. KIPP, Freire and Independence all have waiting lists of more than 1,000 children. PSP estimates that the cumulative, unduplicated waiting list for enrollment in city charter schools exceeds 22,000 students. Waiting lists for admission to the School District’s best schools, including magnets, and for scholarships to attend private schools, also approach 20,000.

The Great Schools Fund is raising and investing $100 million to create and expand high-quality schools serving predominantly low-income students. Since 2011, PSP has invested $50 million in schools of all types in Philadelphia to help nearly 20,000 students gain access to a high-quality education, including approximately $33 million in public charter schools, $12 million in district schools and $5 million in private schools.

The startup investments announced today will fund planning by school leadership teams over the next year and startup costs for the first three years of operation, including staff professional development, facility improvements, and technology.

PSP also announced three incubation grants to charter operators to support the preparation of applications to open new schools in Philadelphia:

  • $79,000 to Folk Arts Charter School (FACTS), a high-performing K-8 school in Chinatown, to support an application for a new, larger K-8 school;
  • $77,000 to Russell Byers Charter School, a high-performing K-6 school in Center City, to support an application to open a 6-8 middle school; and
  • $35,000 to Global Leadership Academy, a high-performing K-8 school in West Philadelphia, to open a new high school.

The SRC is expected to vote on these and other applications in February 2016.

“Charter is not a synonym for quality. There are great schools, and not-so-great schools, of all types in Philadelphia,” said Mark Gleason, executive director of PSP. “The charter schools receiving grants from PSP today are among those that have led the way in increasing access to quality education for historically under-served student populations. Our challenge as a city is to strategically invest in what’s working so we can quickly reach a day when educational opportunity is not determined by one’s zip code or income level.”

Mastery Gillespie Charter School: $3.25 million growth grant

Mastery Charter Schools is planning to open Mastery Gillespie Charter School in North Philadelphia, which when fully enrolled will serve 588 students in grades K-6. The new school will feed the Mastery Prep Middle School and Gratz High School. The Mastery network includes 15 schools across Philadelphia spanning grades K to 12 and collectively serving nearly 10,000 students, making it the third largest school operator in Philadelphia after the School District of Philadelphia and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Historically, Mastery schools are among the highest performing schools in Philadelphia.

KIPP West Philadelphia Elementary Academy: $1.6 million growth grant

KIPP West Philadelphia Elementary Academy is slated to open in fall 2016 and serve 375 students in West Philadelphia. KIPP coffers a high-quality college prep program to students with the greatest need; the vast majority of KIPP’s current student population lives in low-income households. On average, 15% of 5th graders entering KIPP Philadelphia schools for the first time performed on or above grade level in Math; the rate triples for students who promoted from KIPP’s existing elementary school. KIPP West Philadelphia Elementary Academy will round out KIPP Philadelphia’s first K-12 feeder model of two elementary schools feeding two middle schools, which feed one high school. The KIPP Philadelphia network currently serves 1,630 students in four schools and plans to serve 4,400 students in North and West Philadelphia by 2019.

TECH Freire High School: $1.865 million startup grant

TECH Freire Charter High School is scheduled to open with 300 students and a goal to grow each year to serve a total of 580 students in grades 9-12. TECH Freire will offer the rigorous liberal arts education of the original Freire Charter School, with the addition of computer programming and entrepreneurship. The mission of TECH Freire charter school is to provide a college-preparatory learning experience with a focus on real-world learning, critical thinking, and problem solving in an environment that emphasizes the values of community, teamwork, and nonviolence. Approximately 96 percent of the Class of 2015 of the original Freire High School went on to college, and consistently 85 percent of graduates return for their second year. Freire’s current student body is over 96 percent Black and Hispanic and over 88 percent economically disadvantaged. The new high school is expected to serve a similar demographic population and will be located in North Philadelphia. TECH Freire is now accepting applications for the 2016-17 school year, please visit:

MaST Community Charter School II: $1.925 million start-up grant

MaST Community Charter School has been one of state’s top performing schools for over 15 years. More than 7,000 families currently are on the waiting list for entry to MaST, and it plans to oversee and develop a second campus in lower Northeast Philadelphia that will serve 400 students in grades K-3, with the goal to grow to 1,250 students in grades K-12 by 2023. MaST’s mission is creating innovative pathways through science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts, and math (STREAM) and will continue to drive its unique model to MaST II. MaST II is currently accepting applications for the 2016-17 school year, please visit:

Independence Charter West: $1.733 million start-up grant

The flagship Independence Charter School (ICS) is a high-performing K-8 elementary school with a mission of providing an intellectually-stimulating curriculum with a global focus designed to develop independent, thoughtful global citizens. ICS plans to open a new school in Southwest Philadelphia (ICS-West) serving students in both West and Southwest Philadelphia based on the model of the original school, which emphasizes the study of the Spanish language, and aims to graduate students from 8th grade fully bilingual. The new ICS-West school will open with 300 students in grades K-3, and ultimately serve 900 students in grades K-8. Although all students in the city may apply for the lottery, ICS-West will give preference to students residing in the high school catchments of Sayre, Overbrook, and Bartram, which together serve predominantly low income and minority students. ICS-West is accepting applications for the 2016-17 school year for grades K-3 please visit:


About the Philadelphia School Partnership

The Philadelphia School Partnership is a nonprofit organization that funds the creation and expansion of high-quality K-12 schools in the City of Philadelphia to give more children access to a great education. PSP also facilitates the sharing of best practices among school leaders that improve the quality of education for students. PSP is raising $100 million in philanthropic funds to provide grants for the transformation, growth and startup of high-performing public and private schools in Philadelphia. It measures success by the number of students in Philadelphia who move out of failing schools to better-quality school options based on student academic outcomes.

About the Great Schools Fund
PSP’s Great Schools Fund provides grants for the turnaround of low-performing schools, expansion of high performing schools, and the creation of new high-quality schools in Philadelphia. Grants are provided to district, charter, and private K-12 schools that have the capacity to deliver outstanding educational outcomes for children in the city, primarily those who are economically disadvantaged. The goal of the Great Schools Fund is to create 35,000 seats in high-performing schools in Philadelphia by 2016-17. 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