The Charter Schools Office (CFO) arm of the School District of Philadelphia recommended that charter renewal applications receive either a pass or fail verdict this week, and two South Philly schools are in trouble. Of the nine schools reviewed, four applicants were rejected. In addition to John B. Stetson School in North Philadelphia and Olney Charter High School, Universal Audenried Charter High School, 3301 Tasker St., and Universal Vare Charter School, 2100 S. 24th St. received rejections.
The charter contracts typically last five years. Fourteen schools underwent reviews last year and 25 will receive them next year. Three Mastery Charter schools met approval, but none are South Philly-situated.
“Academic success is the primary consideration for charter renewal,” a School District statement said. “A charter school that does not meet the standard for academic success will be considered for nonrenewal regardless of ratings in the other two domains.”
DawnLynne Kacer, executive director of Charter Schools at the District, explained the three domains in detail: Academics; organizational viability and compliance; and financial health and sustainability. Both schools were deemed Renaissance Schools, “schools operating under the District that were doing so poorly. Since the District last controlled the school, we would expect that it would improve, [preferably at] small and consistent improvements over time,” Kacer explained.
Sadly, a review of records, test scores, and files, combined with on-site visits, interviews, observations, and meetings, yielded grim results.
“We found that there was a decrease in performance at Vare in math, decreasing 10 percentage points,” she said, but noted that English Language Arts (ELA) scores weren’t as low. “At Audenried, there was a 12-percentage point decrease in math and a 14-percentage point decrease in ELA.”
The schools won’t have to close immediately, and the School Reform Commission will accept or reject renewal recommendations on April 28. The schools can appeal renewal rejections all the way up to the State of Pennsylvania.
“Obviously, we are disappointed and disagree with those recommendations,” reads a response from Universal Companies. “We are proud of our students, teachers and Principals at Audenried and Vare. All of us at Universal will continue to work with [the School District] and our parents on our number one priority, educating our scholars and preparing them to compete successfully in the 21st century. We will make our case to the SRC when the recommendations are on their agenda and will respond thereafter in a timely and appropriate manner.” – Bill Chenevert