New Charter School Proposals Offer Hope for Thousands in Phila.

Commonwealth Foundation
Contact: 717-671-1901

New Charter School Proposals Offer Hope for Thousands in Phila.

Life-changing Educational Opportunities Should not be Denied

Good morning,

This afternoon, Philadelphia families who have endured enrollment lotteries and thousand-student waiting lists may finally be granted more education options, as Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission will rule on 39 pending applications for new charter schools.

“Today, the School Reform Commission has an opportunity to offer thousands of Philadelphia parents and students hope for a brighter academic future,” commented James Paul, senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Some will question how Philadelphia can afford these new charter schools. But, for the sake of kids trapped in failing and violent district schools by virtue of their ZIP code, a better question is: how can the city afford not to?”

Several charter operators proposing new schools, including String Theory and Mastery, have a proven track record of turning around failing district schools under the Renaissance Schools Initiative.

When asked by The Inquirer about approving new charter applicants this week, SRC Chairman Bill Green indicated that schools meeting all requirements should be approved, saying, “We're simply going to follow the law.”

According to the SRC and Pennsylvania Public School Code, charter applicants are evaluated on the following:

  • Applicant’s ability to provide comprehensive learning experience
  • Demonstrated support for charter plan by parents, community members, and students
  • Extent to which the charter school can serve as a model for other public schools

Paul continued, “Given these criteria, there is no reason why more Philadelphia families shouldn't be given the opportunity to place their children in one of these high-performing and properly vetted charter operators’ classrooms.”

High-performing charter operators

String Theory

  • Entrusted to run H.R. Edmunds K-8 school by the SRC as part of the Renaissance Initiative
  • Offers innovative curriculum focused on both academics and the arts


  • Operates 6 schools with 2013-14 SPP scores exceeding 70 (average Phila. district score is 56.8)
  • Entrusted to operate a half-dozen Renaissance schools
    • Example: Grover Cleveland Elementary, 2013-14 SPP score of 73.9, rising 8 points over the previous year, with a student body that is 95% black and 84% economically disadvantaged


  • Operates four schools, including KIPP West Philadelphia Prep, which has a 74.7 SPP score and 97% black enrollment.

Paul thinks these schools and other high performers could be given a vote of confidence later today: “It would be stunning if exemplary charter operators like String Theory, Mastery, and KIPP were denied a chance to expand their offerings to more low-income and minority students.”

James Paul is in Philadelphia today and is available for comment. Please contact me at 717-671-1901 to schedule an interview.



Cindy Hamill
Dir. of Strategic Communications
Commonwealth Foundation
Harrisburg | King of Prussia
Office: 717-671-1901
[email protected]