PSP Invests Nearly $3 million to Expand High-Quality Schools in Philadelphia

Great Schools Fund has awarded more than $34 million in grants to Philadelphia schools since 2011 to give more children access to quality education
The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) today announced it will award nearly $3 million in grants to three public schools in Philadelphia giving over 1250 more students access to high-quality K-12 schools and the opportunity to receive a great education.

PSP’s Great Schools Fund awarded a $2.1 million growth grant to First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School to add a second elementary school campus and a new high school, and $855,000 will support expansions at Mastery Charter Schools’ Simon Gratz High School and Hardy Williams Academy to serve 375 more students. Since 2011, PSP has invested $34.4 million in schools of all types in Philadelphia, including $20 million in public charter schools, $11.4 million in district schools and $3 million in private schools.

“We are investing in these schools because their leaders have a track record of success serving disadvantaged students and a commitment to ensuring all students can achieve at high levels,” said Jessica Pena, Director of the Great Schools Fund. “American Paradigm – under the new leadership of Jurate Krokys – and Mastery are poised to grow and provide more students with a high-quality, rigorous education.”

The Great Schools Fund invests in the creation and expansion of high-quality schools serving predominantly low-income students. First Philadelphia Charter School and Mastery Hardy Williams Academy are both high-performing schools – scoring 76.6 and 75.6 respectively on the state’s School Performance Profiles. Simon Gratz is in its third year of turnaround under Mastery and has seen a dramatic improvement in school culture and steady academic gains.

“We believe all students, regardless of background or neighborhood, deserve to attend a great school that will prepare them for success after graduation,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of PSP. “The school budget crisis is a challenge for all public schools, but there are teachers and principals throughout the city who are still finding ways to create transformational change. These grants will give more than a thousand Philadelphia young people access to high-performing schools and a better chance at college and a successful career.”

First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School
A $2.1 million, three-year grant from PSP’s Great Schools Fund will support growth of a new elementary school campus and a new high school American Paradigm’s First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter High School launched its inaugural ninth grade in Fall 2013 and the new elementary school began enrolling students in K-4. The $2.1 million grant will support the continued expansion of the schools to ultimately serve 1,880 students in grades K-12 by 2016-17. These expansions were approved by the SRC in 2013.

The new schools are modeled after First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School, which opened in September of 2002 and serves a student population that is 89 percent minority and predominantly low-income. First Philadelphia is located in the Frankford Valley section of Philadelphia where many schools are overcrowded. For the upcoming school year, the school has a waitlist of 1796 students and only 280 slots.
First Philadelphia has delivered excellent academic results for its students, drastically outperforming city averages and exceeding state averages. In 2012-2013, the school narrowed the achievement gap between low-income students and the general school population to 5 points, showing that students are achieving regardless of socioeconomic background. Approximately 18 percent of students are special education and benefit from a co-teaching model.

First Philadelphia’s mission is to provide a well-balanced, literacy-based education that positions students for success after graduation. Each classroom is equipped with Smart Board technology and computers which provides for an interactive approach to teaching and learning. The new schools will continue the school’s tradition of supporting student achievement through literacy by helping students “learn to read so they can read to learn.”

Mastery Gratz High School and Hardy Williams Elementary
An $855,000 grant from PSP’s Great Schools Fund will help fund expansions at Gratz High School and Hardy Williams Academy, as they grow to serve 375 more students by Fall 2015

Gratz and Hardy Williams are part of Mastery Charter Schools, the third largest school operator in Philadelphia. Mastery is a highly successful 15 school network with schools all across Philadelphia spanning grades K-12 and collectively serving over 9,500 students. The vast majority of Mastery students graduate from high school (86 percent in 2012), go to college (74 percent in 2012), and gain the support and skills necessary to ensure they are successful after school.

Mastery will grow Gratz and Hardy Williams in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years to serve 375 more students. Mastery merged with Hardy Williams in March 2011 and the school has since made consistent progress. Gratz has also seen a dramatic improvement in school culture and made steady gains in academics under Mastery. To date, PSP has invested a total of $6.2 million in the creation and growth of Mastery schools to serve over 4,300 additional students.

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.