PSP invests $3.8 million in creation and expansion of great schools

Four schools receive grants from the Great Schools Fund for the transformation and creation of over 2,200 seats in high-quality schools for Philadelphia students

The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) announced today that it has awarded $3.8 million to four school operators with a track record of providing high-quality education. The grants from its Great Schools Fund will support the startup and growth of high-performing schools and the turnaround of a low-performing school. These are the first in a series of investments PSP plans to make in 2012.

PSP selected the following schools and school leaders from a pool of applicants after a rigorous screening and due diligence process:

– $2 million growth grant to String Theory Schools to support the turnaround of Edmunds Elementary School. String Theory currently operates the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School (PPACS), a high-performing school with a focus on S.T.E.M. and the arts. Edmunds Elementary, a chronically low-performing school that was turned over to String Theory as part of the School District’s Renaissance initiative, will enroll up to 950 students in 2012-13.

– $1.3 million startup grant over three years to Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School, which will open in fall 2012 in North Philadelphia. The school is part of a national network of 25 college preparatory Catholic high schools serving low-income students of all faiths. Students participate in a work-study internship program through which they work one day per week developing skills and financing the cost of their education. Nationally, 85 percent of 2008 and 2009 graduates from Cristo Rey schools were enrolled in college two years after high school. The school plans to enroll 125 students in 2012-13 and plans to grow to 450 students over the next three years.

– $350,000 growth grant to Freire Charter School, a high school that is expanding to include a middle school in 2012-13. Freire serves predominantly minority and low-income students from all over Philadelphia. The school’s four-year graduation rate has been above 80 percent for the last two years. Freire plans to add 500 students in grades five through eight.

– $175,000 incubation grant to The Sustainability Workshop, a project-based alternative senior-year program that intends to grow into a full-fledged high school. The Workshop leadership team is currently operating a two-year pilot at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, serving 30 Philadelphia School District seniors a year. Last year, 93 percent of the program’s students were accepted to college. The Workshop hopes to launch a 300-student high school in 2013.

“Great schools come in all different types but share key characteristics, chiefly high expectations and the belief that all students can learn,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of PSP. “These four leadership teams all have demonstrated their ability to prepare students for college or the work world beyond school. We make these grants with enthusiasm and with the expectation that they will help move Philadelphia 2,200 seats closer to the goal of ensuring that every student in the city has access to a great school by 2017.”

PSP’s Great Schools Fund pools philanthropic dollars from a diverse group of funders to strategically invest in the incubation, startup and expansion of high-performing schools across Philadelphia. PSP is working to raise $100 million for the Fund, including a $15 million investment recently committed by The William Penn Foundation.

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 with higher performing ones by 2016-17-either through turnaround of existing seats or creation and expansion of new ones.

“At all the schools we selected for investments, students are mastering grade-level content, graduating from high school and enrolling and persisting in college at impressive rates,” said Jessica Pena, Director of the Great Schools Fund. “Our funding will make it possible for proven school leaders to extend high-quality education to more students. Specifically, our funds cover critical startup costs such as: building improvements, technology, equipment, instructional materials, professional development, and strategic planning.”

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. This round of grants brings PSP’s total investments in schools to $7 million, with a cumulative impact on more than 7,000 seats.

PSP continues to receive and review grant applications to the Great Schools Fund and is working to ensure a diverse pool of applicants – including traditional district schools, charter schools, and private schools in the city. PSP plans to announce additional grants in 2012.