Education Funding

Mayor: Renaissance Schools’ Success Merits More State Money

By Benjamin Herold — June 22, 2011 10 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Leaders from the Philadelphia school district, the mayor’s office, and Mastery Charter are touting preliminary test score results at Mastery’s three turnaround schools—and ramping up their argument that the state should restore funding to the district.

But even while pointing to the evidence of early success in the Renaissance Schools initiative as a reason to “invest” in the district, officials confirmed at a press event Friday that the two senior staffers responsible for implementing the Renaissance initiative—Associate Superintendent Diane Castelbuono and Deputy for Process Improvement and Compliance Thomas Darden—have been laid off.

The event was held at Harrity Elementary in West Philadelphia, one of three historically low-performing elementary schools that just completed their first year as “neighborhood charter schools” under Mastery’s management.

“I’m delighted to share that today we have the evidence that Renaissance schools can work,” said Mastery CEO Scott Gordon, who announced double-digit test score gains at all three schools. “We need to get the word out that investment in the School District and in this initiative pays off.”

Lori Shorr, the chief education advisor to Mayor Michael Nutter, was on hand to echo Gordon’s message just hours after City Council agreed to raise $53 million in additional funds for the District next year.

“Yesterday, the city said, ‘yes, we’re willing to invest more money,’” said Shorr. “Today, these results show that it’s worth it.”

Shorr and Gordon both said they are actively taking that message to Harrisburg, where state legislators must soon decide whether any of Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed cuts to the District—an unprecedented $292 million—will be restored. The state budget is due June 30.

“Philadelphia stepped up to help its public schools. [Now], we’re really looking to the state to help us put some critical programs back on the table,” said Shorr, who expressed hope the state could act as soon as this weekend. The city is looking for a minimum of $57 million in charter reimbursement funds.

Also on hand at Harrity was District Assistant Superintendent of Schools Penny Nixon, who said that the preliminary PSSA data for all schools—which the Distict has not yet released—showed a ninth consecutive year of District-wide test score gains.

Nixon also touted Mastery’s test score results as evidence of District effectiveness in partnering with charters as part of the Renaissance initiative.

“Their success is our success,” said Nixon.

That argument seemed at odds with the decision to gut the program’s top staff, but District officials offered no explanation for the move, saying only that the complete restructuring plan will be made public in July. Nixon, who already has a huge portfolio, did confirm that she will take over running the Renaissance initiative from Castelbuono and Darden.

Gordon expressed some concern that the District brass has not yet shared the specifics of its plans for managing the program going forward.

“Diane and Thomas did miraculous work. They took this program, which was an idea, and filled in all the details, which are more than you can imagine,” Gordon said.

Though layoff notices have been going out in the District’s central office for weeks, officials have remained tight-lipped about exactly how many people are being laid off, how they are being chosen, or whether an updated organizational chart is guiding the process.

Nixon said that for the Renaissance program next year, her ”number one priority is to ensure that I can find competent leaders who can do more with less.”

Both the Renaissance charters and the District-run Promise Academies, meanwhile, appear to have spent their first year doing more with, well, more.

According to the preliminary data released by Gordon, Harrity Elementary, the site of Friday’s press event, saw jumps of 19 and 11 percentage points in the number of students scoring proficient in math and reading, respectively.

Just as important, said Gordon, only 6.6 percent of the school’s 801 students withdrew during the year, down from 10 percent last year, when the school had only 644 students.

“There were questions about whether [Renaissance] charters would keep the same children and address children who are lower-performing,” said Gordon. “Not only is the school achieving, but it’s with the same children, who we are keeping here.”

The charters get money from the District based on the per pupil expenditure, but also raise private funds.

“It required additional money to turn this school around,” said Gordon. The donations helped fund overhauls of the schools’ facilities and provide an array of student supports.

The charter schools’ allocation is based on the District’s per pupil cost for the prior year, which means that charter schools won’t feel the funding pinch until 2012-13.

“The District’s budget woes are my woes, one year later,” said Gordon. “If I don’t have that money, my ability to deliver a quality program is going to be impaired.”

Though the District is not yet releasing its PSSA scores, Nixon said that officials are “excited” about the preliminary results for the Promise Academies, which she said show gains that “outpace” those of other District schools.

But like the Renaissance charters, the Promise Academies—turnaround schools run by the District with extra staff, longer hours, and special programming—cost more. In their case, however, the extra expenses are incurred directly by the District. In the coming year, a total of 17 Promise Academies will cost the District an extra $27 million.

Some have criticized Superintendent Ackerman’s decision to preserve the additional funds for the Promise Academies while slashing the budgets in most other schools, but Shorr defended the decision as an example of strong leadership.

“We said to Dr. Ackerman early on, ‘We need you to keep accelerating gains in the District. That’s one of our priorities for you,’” said Shorr. “These aren’t pet projects. These are best practices that people are doing across the country, and that’s why we’re supportive of them.”

Leaders from the Philadelphia school district, the mayor’s office, and Mastery Charter are touting preliminary test score results at Mastery’s three turnaround schools—and ramping up their argument that the state should restore funding to the district.

Leaders from the Philadelphia school district, the mayor’s office, and Mastery Charter are touting preliminary test score results at Mastery’s three turnaround schools—and ramping up their argument that the state should restore funding to the district.

But even while pointing to the evidence of early success in the Renaissance Schools initiative as a reason to “invest” in the district, officials confirmed at a press event Friday that the two senior staffers responsible for implementing the Renaissance initiative—Associate Superintendent Diane Castelbuono and Deputy for Process Improvement and Compliance Thomas Darden—have been laid off.

The event was held at Harrity Elementary in West Philadelphia, one of three historically low-performing elementary schools that just completed their first year as “neighborhood charter schools” under Mastery’s management.

“I’m delighted to share that today we have the evidence that Renaissance schools can work,” said Mastery CEO Scott Gordon, who announced double-digit test score gains at all three schools. “We need to get the word out that investment in the School District and in this initiative pays off.”

Lori Shorr, the chief education advisor to Mayor Michael Nutter, was on hand to echo Gordon’s message just hours after City Council agreed to raise $53 million in additional funds for the District next year.

“Yesterday, the city said, ‘yes, we’re willing to invest more money,’” said Shorr. “Today, these results show that it’s worth it.”

Shorr and Gordon both said they are actively taking that message to Harrisburg, where state legislators must soon decide whether any of Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed cuts to the District—an unprecedented $292 million—will be restored. The state budget is due June 30.

“Philadelphia stepped up to help its public schools. [Now], we’re really looking to the state to help us put some critical programs back on the table,” said Shorr, who expressed hope the state could act as soon as this weekend. The city is looking for a minimum of $57 million in charter reimbursement funds.

Also on hand at Harrity was District Assistant Superintendent of Schools Penny Nixon, who said that the preliminary PSSA data for all schools—which the Distict has not yet released—showed a ninth consecutive year of District-wide test score gains.

Nixon also touted Mastery’s test score results as evidence of District effectiveness in partnering with charters as part of the Renaissance initiative.

“Their success is our success,” said Nixon.

That argument seemed at odds with the decision to gut the program’s top staff, but District officials offered no explanation for the move, saying only that the complete restructuring plan will be made public in July. Nixon, who already has a huge portfolio, did confirm that she will take over running the Renaissance initiative from Castelbuono and Darden.

Gordon expressed some concern that the District brass has not yet shared the specifics of its plans for managing the program going forward.

“Diane and Thomas did miraculous work. They took this program, which was an idea, and filled in all the details, which are more than you can imagine,” Gordon said.

Though layoff notices have been going out in the District’s central office for weeks, officials have remained tight-lipped about exactly how many people are being laid off, how they are being chosen, or whether an updated organizational chart is guiding the process.

Nixon said that for the Renaissance program next year, her ”number one priority is to ensure that I can find competent leaders who can do more with less.”

Both the Renaissance charters and the District-run Promise Academies, meanwhile, appear to have spent their first year doing more with, well, more.

According to the preliminary data released by Gordon, Harrity Elementary, the site of Friday’s press event, saw jumps of 19 and 11 percentage points in the number of students scoring proficient in math and reading, respectively.

Just as important, said Gordon, only 6.6 percent of the school’s 801 students withdrew during the year, down from 10 percent last year, when the school had only 644 students.

“There were questions about whether [Renaissance] charters would keep the same children and address children who are lower-performing,” said Gordon. “Not only is the school achieving, but it’s with the same children, who we are keeping here.”

The charters get money from the District based on the per pupil expenditure, but also raise private funds.

“It required additional money to turn this school around,” said Gordon. The donations helped fund overhauls of the schools’ facilities and provide an array of student supports.

The charter schools’ allocation is based on the District’s per pupil cost for the prior year, which means that charter schools won’t feel the funding pinch until 2012-13.

“The District’s budget woes are my woes, one year later,” said Gordon. “If I don’t have that money, my ability to deliver a quality program is going to be impaired.”

Though the District is not yet releasing its PSSA scores, Nixon said that officials are “excited” about the preliminary results for the Promise Academies, which she said show gains that “outpace” those of other District schools.

But like the Renaissance charters, the Promise Academies—turnaround schools run by the District with extra staff, longer hours, and special programming—cost more. In their case, however, the extra expenses are incurred directly by the District. In the coming year, a total of 17 Promise Academies will cost the District an extra $27 million.

Some have criticized Superintendent Ackerman’s decision to preserve the additional funds for the Promise Academies while slashing the budgets in most other schools, but Shorr defended the decision as an example of strong leadership.

“We said to Dr. Ackerman early on, ‘We need you to keep accelerating gains in the District. That’s one of our priorities for you,’” said Shorr. “These aren’t pet projects. These are best practices that people are doing across the country, and that’s why we’re supportive of them.”

Related Tags:

Republished with permission from The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. Copyright © 2011 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook.
A version of this article appeared in the July 13, 2011 edition of Education Week as Mayor: Renaissance Schools’ Success Merits More State Money

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding ESSER Isn't the Only School Funding Relief That's Disappearing Soon
Federal relief aid, policies to prevent schools from losing enrollment-based funding, and support for vulnerable families are expiring soon.
10 min read
Vector illustration of a businessman's hand holding a slowly vanishing dollar sign.
iStock/Getty
Education Funding Schools Lost Ground on Funding in Recent Years. The Recovery Could Be Slow
School funding took a hit a few years ago. It might be some time before it recovers.
5 min read
Tight crop of a dollar bill puzzle missing one piece
iStock/Getty
Education Funding Here's How the Feds Are Spending $277M for Academic Recovery
A new round of grants from the Education Department aims to spur innovation in academic recovery, with initiatives in math, reading, and AI.
4 min read
Image of a dollar bill folded into an upward arrow.
ImagePixel/iStock/Getty
Education Funding A Judge Just Ruled That Another State's School Funding System Is Unconstitutional
New Hampshire joins Pennsylvania on the list of states whose courts have ruled that it's underfunding poor school districts.
5 min read
Image of money symbol, books, gavel, and scale of justice.
DigitalVision Vectors