Charters still growing, still have naysayers

Students at Clymer Elementary are pretty happy these days. Their school became a Mastery Charter in 2011.

Charter schools are public schools, meaning they are funded by public money and cannot discriminate on the basis of race or religion.

The number of charter schools in Philadelphia has grown dramatically since the state first authorized them with the Pennsylvania Charter School Law in 1997. Almost a quarter (23.8 percent) of Philadelphia public-school students attended charter schools in the 2011-2012 school year. If present trends continue, that proportion could reach 40 percent in five years, according to a recently released study by Boston Consulting Group.

Not everyone is a fan of charter schools, which cost the School District of Philadelphia, on average, an additional $7,000 per seat. School Reform Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky, for instance, has said that there are more cost-effective strategies than expanding charter schools to help the district and SRC expand the number of “high-performing seats” in city schools.

The BSG study projects that charter expansion will cost the district $139 million over the next five years, including the $13 million already approved in the 2012-2013 budget. This number is part of the district’s projected $283 million budget shortfall for the upcoming year. 

Although they are exempt from some of the state and local requirements that constrain traditional schools, they are still required to comply with federal laws like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Masters of the school turnaround

Mastery Charter Schools are unusual in the charter-school landscape in Philadelphia — they turn around struggling neighborhood schools, rather than create new magnet schools.

“Of the 11 schools we operate, nine are turnarounds,” said Leslie Hall, assistant director of development and communication. “We take the same buildings — and students — of schools that have been failing.” The turnaround starts with the school itself: Mastery invests $800,000 to $1.2 million in renovations in each school it takes on. The students come from the surrounding neighborhood. They must fill out a simple application form, but they’re admitted without judgment of their qualifications.

To provide the help that many of the students need, Mastery schools have both a longer school day (till 4:00 most days) and a longer school year (their first day was last Wednesday). Saturday sessions are available for students who need extra help: Since some are functioning at three to five grades  behind level, this can be many of them.

In addition to academics, the schools offer extra-curricular activities, from music to art to football.
Each school has different activities, depending on what the students want and the resources available.

For more education news follow Judy Weightman on Twitter @JudyWEdu.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.