New faculty and Saturday classes at troubled schools

Eighteen more underperforming schools will undergo drastic changes this fall aimed at turning them around, the Philadelphia School District announced yesterday.

The 10 high schools, one middle school and seven elementary schools are among the second round of the district’s Renaissance Schools Initiative that started last year with 13 schools. Most of the 18 will remain under some level of district control, but six will be run by a charter operator or “turnaround team,” which will be decided in the spring after community input.

As Renaissance schools, each school will receive more autonomy and a faculty shakeup. Except for the six run by external operators, the schools will also have longer hours, including Saturday school twice a month, and more student support.

“Teachers are very upset about the concept of what the district is doing,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan. “Particularly they question the lack of data [and] lack of evidence to show that these models that the district is going to pursue are proven models.”

The district said the schools were chosen based on test scores, dropout rates, current supports and neighborhood characteristics. But, as Jordan pointed out, schools have not taken the state PSSAs for this year.

“We are excited that year two of our Renaissance Schools Initiative heightens the impact we can make on the lives of children in schools and communities across the city,” Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said in a statement.