Philly’s Memphis Street Academy Charter School in jeopardy?

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Philadelphia School District staff have recommended cutting ties with another charter school.

The district’s charter office said that Memphis Street Academy Charter School at J.P. Jones,  a formerly troubled district school-turned charter in Kensington, should not be given a new, five-year operating agreement, primarily because of poor academic performance.

The report containing the recommendation of non renewal was posted on the charter office website late Tuesday.

Memphis Academy has 860 students in grades five through eight. For the past five years it has been managed by American Paradigm Schools, a Philadelphia-based educational management organization that has four charters in the city.

Under American Paradigm, test scores did not improve the first year, the charter office said. And although reading scores improved by 7 percentage points over the first two years, they declined by 7 percentage points in math during the same period.

The office said Memphis Street Academy did not meet the standard “for academic success” for former district schools that have converted to charters as part of the district’s Renaissance program.

Antoinette Powell, Memphis Academy’s top administrator, said in a statement Wednesday that over the past five years the school had made significant gains in academic performance and had “drastically improved the community, the surrounding neighborhood and the [school’s] reputation through transformative community partnerships.”

She said that it was in the best interests of Memphis Street Academy’s students that the charter remained open under the  management of American Paradigm Schools.

Powell also noted that the SRC was scheduled to vote on Memphis Street Academy May 1 even though the commission had not voted on four other Renaissance charter schools recommended for non renewal last year.

The charter office on Tuesday gave a thumb’s up to another American Paradigm school. The charter office said it would recommend the School Reform Commission approve a new operating agreement with conditions  for the General David B. Birney Charter School in Olney.   

 The office said it could not rate Birney’s academic performance because American Paradigm only began running the school in 2015. The organization took over when Mosaica Education, which is based in Atlanta, left after three years.

The charter office also said it would recommend American Paradigm’s request to change the school’s name to Lindley Academy Charter School at Birney. The charter has 710 students in grades five to eight.

Memphis Academy was the second charter recommended for non renewal this week. On Monday, the charter office said Laboratory School of Communications and Languages, a K-8 school with campuses in Northern Liberties and West Philadelphia, should not have its charter renewed because of serious problems with finances and governance.

The SRC is scheduled to vote on Memphis, Birney and Laboratory, along with 20 other requests for charter renewals at a special meeting May 1.

Recommendations for three other charters have not been finalized.

Philadelphia’s 86 charter schools enroll nearly 65,000 students.

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