Philly district releases new charter school evaluations

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The Philadelphia School District’s charter school office has released its second annual evaluations of  city charter schools, and the reports have been expanded to provide more information for parents, students, staff, officials, and the public.

The reports are based mainly on charter operations and performance in 2015-16. They include mission statements and test results from 2015-16 and the prior two years,  in addition to information on compliance with state and federal laws and the schools’ financial health.

The evaluations — which run from 16 to 21 pages — do not rank schools or assign scores for overall performance.

Based on suggestions and comments the office received last year, the new reports include executive summaries and sections on equity.

“We received a lot of feedback,” said DawnLynne Kacer, executive director of the charter office. “We learned a lot.”

The equity portion includes breakdowns of student suspensions by race and the student survey results for such questions as “I enjoy being in school” and “I feel safe in the hallways and bathrooms.”

“In just its second year the Annual Charter Evaluation continues our work of bringing national best practices to improve our charter schools and better inform our authorizing,”  Joyce Wilkerson, chair of the School Reform Commission, said in a statement. “These best practices, which many charter schools have embraced, continue to close the gap created by a state charter law that is outdated and badly needs reform.  Reform which can lead to higher quality charter schools and better serve the children of Philadelphia.” 

Kacer thanked the charter schools for the time and effort spent on the project, including extensive feedback from last year’s evaluations.

She said the new reports reflect “a broader and deeper review of a charter school’s performance. It will provide families and charter operators with a greater understanding of the overall performance of their school.”

Kacer said the reports are based on the criteria her office uses when scrutinizing schools seeking to have their operating charters renewed by the SRC.

The charter office has posted evaluations for 54 of the 86 charters in the district. The group does not include six charters that started in the fall or the 26 schools whose charters are up for renewal.

Renewal reports are expected to be released next month.

Kacer said her office will release a separate report in the coming weeks that will analyze the performance of charter schools in the district using data from the evaluations.

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