PSP Invests $1.5M to Support Turnaround of North Philadelphia Public School

Grant will support the continued transformation of Frederick Douglass Charter School; Great Schools Fund now has made total investments of more than $37 million

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) today announced it has awarded $1.5 million from its Great Schools Fund to Mastery Charter Schools (Mastery) to support the transformation of Frederick Douglass Charter School (Douglass), a K-8 neighborhood school serving 750 students in North Philadelphia.

Operated by Scholar Academies since 2010, Douglass was one of the first Renaissance charter schools: a district school converted to charter management but continuing to serve all students within a neighborhood catchment area. This May, the SRC voted to transition management to Mastery after the school was recommended for nonrenewal due to inconsistent academic performance. As a result, Douglass is the first district-charter conversion school to subsequently be converted to a second charter operator.

Mastery has assumed management of seven chronically low-performing neighborhood schools since 2010 and shown consistent improvement in all of them; a School District analysis published at the end of 2013 showed that reading and math performance in Mastery turnaround schools had jumped 14 percentage points on average.

“This is what accountability looks like,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of PSP. “Douglass improved under Scholar Academies, as evidenced by enrollment nearly doubling, but the SRC says the school needs to perform even better. We are pleased to support Mastery as it brings its experience to Douglass and works with the community to make it an outstanding neighborhood public school.”

Mastery has a strong record of achieving significant improvements at neighborhood schools in Philadelphia. For example, in 2013, Mastery was selected to turnaround Francis P. Pastorius School, a K-8 school located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. In one academic year, PSSA math scores at Pastorius have increased 25 percentage points, reading scores have increased 12 percentage points, and writing scores have increased by 31 percentage points. (Source: SDP’s School Performance Report.)

“Every student in every neighborhood deserves access to a great education, and we applaud the leadership of Mastery and Scholar Academies for developing a plan for Frederick Douglass that is in the best interest of students and families,” said Jessica Pena, Director of the Great Schools Fund. “We continue to support Scholar Academies as it looks to accelerate its early progress in transforming Young Scholars Kenderton, another Renaissance school.”

The Great Schools Fund invests in the creation and expansion of high-quality schools serving predominantly low-income students. Since 2011, PSP has invested $37.5 million in schools of all types in Philadelphia to help nearly 17,000 students gain access to a high-quality education, including $22.1 million in public charter schools, $11.9 million in district schools and $3.4 million in private schools.

The $1.5 million grant will support implementation of a new curriculum at Douglass aligned with the Mastery model by infusing the school with teacher coaching programs and professional development, as well as bring new resources and technology to the school. It will also help to add additional leadership support during the first critical year of turnaround. Mastery will update individualized education programs (IEPs) for the approximately 190 special education students in the building.

“We’re very excited to have the Mastery model provide an excellent academic foundation for children in the Frederick Douglass community,” said Scott Gordon, CEO of Mastery Charter Schools. “At its very core, this model is about high-quality instruction, proven teacher development and an effective partnership with parents that results in our children getting a well-rounded education that will prepare them for success in school and beyond. This grant will help us get closer to meeting our mission that all students learn the academic and personal skills they need to succeed in higher education, compete in the global economy and pursue their dreams.”

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. In total, PSP has invested a total of $7.7 million in the Mastery network to help provide access to quality education to more than 5,000 predominantly low-income students.

“I am pleased to see another high-quality school operator investing in our neighborhood,” said Pennsylvania State Representative Curtis Thomas (D-181st). “Mastery Charter Schools brings a solid track record of success with turnaround schools, and I am excited for the many families in my district who will benefit from the continued transformation of Frederick Douglass.”


About the Philadelphia School Partnership

The Philadelphia School Partnership is 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.  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.