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Pew To Add $10.2 Million To Support Phila. Reforms

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The Pew Charitable Trusts were scheduled this week to announce two grants totaling $10.2 million to support the ongoing restructuring of the Philadelphia school system.

The new grants bring the foundation's total investment in the city's schools since 1989 to nearly $20 million--one of the largest philanthropic commitments ever made to a public-school district, according to Pew.

In 1989, the foundation awarded a $7.8-million, three-year grant to the Philadelphia Schools Collaborative, which has been working with the school district to reorganize the city's 22 comprehensive high schools.

It also gave $2.4 million over three years to PATHS/PRISM, a faculty-development and resource organization established by the Committee to Support Philadelphia Public Schools.

The new money will allow the Philadelphia Schools Collaborative to continue its work, which has focused on creating "charters,'' or small units of students and teachers, in the high schools.

The collaborative also will expand initiatives designed to help students attend college, and will continue to work closely with the district as it restructures its budgetary, personnel, and information-management systems to support greater decisionmaking at the school level.

At the same time, PATHS/PRISM will work with the district's office of curriculum and instructional support to carry out a similar restructuring effort for the city's 40 middle schools.

Robert B. Schwartz, the trusts' program director for education, noted that the strategic use of charters, the focus on the transitions into and out of high school, and the commitment to keeping a record of the changes and their impact on student performance make Philadelphia's reform efforts noteworthy.

'Clear Progress' Shown

During the first three years, the foundation says, the school district has shown "clear progress'' toward a site-based management approach.

School-based management teams in 16 of the high schools are now directing the restructuring efforts, with more scheduled to adopt the method next year.

Forty-nine "charters'' have been established for a wide range of special programs. And more than 600 teachers have participated in professional-development institutes to design the charters and their curricula.

An evaluation showed that students enrolled in the charters outperform their peers in the comprehensive schools, according to Pew.

"The seeds of change have been planted at all levels and in all corners of the school system,'' said Thomas W. Langfitt, the president of the Pew Charitable Trusts, "and we are beginning to see the first fruits of our cultivation.''

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