Four Philadelphia Schools That Work
Science Leadership Academy
A partnership between the school district and the Franklin Institute, Center City’s SLA is proof that a strong outside collaborator can help produce strong results. The diverse students (45 percent black, 34 percent white, seven percent Asian, seven percent Hispanic) have to apply to get in, and once there, they follow a college-prep curriculum focused heavily on science, technology, math and entrepreneurship—with a special emphasis on project-based learning (plus some cool outside speakers, like Michael Dell). Eighty-eight percent go on to college, and SLA has been named an Apple Distinguished School from 2009 to 2013.
K-8 Jenks shows the potential of a well-run traditional neighborhood school—particularly when it’s supported by parents. (Jenks actually has two active parent organizations that raise money and contribute time.) This Chestnut Hill school, where one-third of the students qualify for reduced-price lunches, is a major feeder for Girls High and Central, and altogether, 90 percent of kids go on to special-admit high schools.
One of the oldest charter schools in the state—and one with a strong track record. Though a high percentage of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, nearly all go on to college (94 percent of 2013 graduates, according to the school). Named after Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, the school emphasizes nonviolence and has a robust mediation program. After operating only as a high school, Center City-based Freire opened a middle-school campus in 2012.
Samuel Powel Elementary
A district-run K-4 school with an active parent association and impressive results, Powel was named by advocacy group PennCan as one of the top 10 elementary schools in the state for black student achievement. (Eight out of 10 students are at grade level or above in math, and seven out of 10 are at grade level or above in reading.) Powel, which received a $215,000 grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership in 2012, is now teaming up with its West Philly neighbor, Drexel University, and Science Leadership Academy to create a new middle school in the neighborhood.