PSP invests $3 million in turnaround of two public schools

Grants will support turnarounds at Kelley and Blaine Elementary Schools, each of which is expanding enrollment by 50% due to nearby closing schools

The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) today announced it will invest $3 million from its Great Schools Fund to support the turnaround of two district-managed public elementary schools in North Philadelphia, William D. Kelley and James G. Blaine. The grants will help the principals at the schools to develop and implement turnaround plans focused on dramatically improving academic quality. Both schools have made important strides toward academic improvement but face extra challenges in the coming year as they each add 160-170 additional students as a result of the District’s recent school closings.

Each school’s principal will receive $1.5 million to support the development of a school turnaround model. The turnaround models will be focused on instructional improvements: improving teacher training, increasing rigor of the school curriculum, and creating interventions for students to make dramatic learning gains. In the first year of turnaround, principals will consult with experts as they assess strengths and weaknesses of the current instructional foundation and then develop a plan to elevate performance and make changes as needed.

“The Great Schools Fund is committed to supporting turnarounds of all types of schools,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of PSP. “At Blaine and Kelley we have found dynamic school principals who are laser-focused on improving instruction, and who have worked relentlessly to ensure that every student under their care learns and succeeds. Most important, they are committed to the comprehensive transformation strategies that turning around high-poverty urban schools requires.”

The William D. Kelley School, located in the Brewerytown section of North Philadelphia, will receive approximately 170 students from the closing of nearby John F. Reynolds School, expanding enrollment to 484. Principal Amelia Brown has led the school for two years, and in this time she has invigorated the culture within the school, reducing truancy and increasing parent engagement.

The James G. Blaine School is located in the Strawberry Mansion section and is expected to receive approximately 160 students from the closing of nearby L.P. Hill School, expanding enrollment to 454. During the last four years, Principal Gianeen Powell has raised student attendance to 93 percent and seen a 75 percent drop in safety incidents. Academically, the school outperforms schools in the surrounding zip codes.

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, and it has invested $29.5 million in high-quality schools to create 14,000 seats for students.

PSP selected Blaine and Kelley for grants after carefully reviewing applications from a number of district schools interested in pursuing turnarounds. PSP expects these schools to continue to build on recent gains in safety, culture and academics in the coming school year and to demonstrate improvement on multiple academic measures within two years.

“We are tremendously grateful to be able to work with partners like PSP as we prepare our schools for the upcoming school year,” said Superintendent Dr. William Hite. “This is a double win for Philadelphia: First, these two schools are driving toward dramatically better student outcomes, and second, we want to direct as many resources as possible to students impacted by school closings.”

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.