Northeast Times

Head of the class

Three ele­ment­ary schools and a high school in North­east Phil­adelphia are rev­el­ling in the news that a city­wide sur­vey has giv­en them per­fect scores of 10.

Earli­er this spring, Great­Philly­Schools.org, a non­profit that ad­voc­ates school re­form, ranked more than 400 city schools based on aca­dem­ic per­form­ance, stu­dent at­tend­ance and safety. The pro­ject began ex­amin­ing data in 2011 and in­cludes the most cur­rent of­fi­cial in­form­a­tion on its web­site.

Across the city, some schools re­ceived low scores of 1, while oth­ers, such as MaST Com­munity Charter School, scored at the top of the heap.

MaST, at 1800 E. By­berry Road, en­rolls 1,250 stu­dents, and has an­oth­er 5,646 young­sters on its wait­ing list. The daily at­tend­ance av­er­ages 95.4 per­cent. There are 1.9 ser­i­ous dis­cip­lin­ary in­cid­ents per 100 stu­dents.

Phil­adelphia magazine last year named the school, which boasts a new lib­rary me­dia cen­ter, the Top Charter School in the city. In 2007, it was named Na­tion­al Charter School of the Year by the U.S. De­part­ment of Edu­ca­tion’s Cen­ter for Edu­ca­tion Re­form.

John Swoy­er, CEO of MaST, be­lieves his school scored so high on the Great­Philly­Schools.org sur­vey be­cause of its fo­cus on STREAM — sci­ence, tech­no­logy, ro­bot­ics, en­gin­eer­ing, arts and math.

“We’re a com­munity school that is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence for every child in K-12,” he said. “We ac­com­mod­ate all dif­fer­ent levels of edu­ca­tion.”

MaST wasn’t the only loc­al school that scored a 10. So did St. Cecil­ia, St. Chris­toph­er and Plan­et Aba­cus.

At the oth­er end of the spec­trum was Frank­ford High School, which scored a 1. That was the only school in the North­east to re­ceive the low­est grade pos­sible.

The sur­vey pro­duced the fol­low­ing res­ults for Frank­ford: An av­er­age score of 1018 (out of 2400) on the SAT, a 49.5 gradu­ation rate, 26 per­cent of gradu­ates go­ing on to col­lege, 74.8 per­cent av­er­age daily at­tend­ance and 6.2 ser­i­ous dis­cip­lin­ary in­cid­ents per 100 stu­dents.

Prin­cip­al Re­gin­ald Fish­er did not re­turn calls for com­ment.

Great­Philly­Schools.org is a joint ef­fort of the Phil­adelphia School Part­ner­ship, the Urb­an Af­fairs Co­ali­tion and oth­er non­profit part­ners.

Its ad­vis­ory coun­cil con­sists of a City Plan­ning Com­mis­sion mem­ber, a rep­res­ent­at­ive of the United Way of Great­er Phil­adelphia and South­ern New Jer­sey, a Samuel Fels High School teach­er, the su­per­in­tend­ents of the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia sec­ond­ary and ele­ment­ary school sys­tems and oth­er school-re­lated in­di­vidu­als.

The in­form­a­tion on the web­site is meant to help par­ents sort through data on school per­form­ance so they can make in­formed de­cisions for their kids.

In all, more than 400 K-12 pub­lic, charter and Cath­ol­ic schools re­ceived rat­ings. The web­site also in­cludes a school’s ex­tra­cur­ricular activ­it­ies and spe­cial pro­grams.

The data came from the state De­part­ment of Edu­ca­tion, the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia, the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia and the Na­tion­al Stu­dent Clear­ing­house.

In de­term­in­ing a school’s safety, Great­Philly­Schools.org weighed vi­ol­a­tions ran­ging from pos­ses­sion of to­bacco to murder.

The over­all rat­ings are not ne­ces­sar­ily per­man­ent.

“They’re some­what flu­id. We want to be as cur­rent as pos­sible,” said Mark Gleason, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Phil­adelphia School Part­ner­ship, which ad­voc­ates re­forms. “As new data be­comes avail­able, we’ll re-crunch the cal­cu­la­tions, plug in the data and up­date the site.”

The web­site tells vis­it­ors that, “Users should avoid mak­ing snap judg­ments on any school based on a nu­mer­ic­al rat­ing.”

In­stead, par­ents are en­cour­aged to call or vis­it schools and to look at school web­sites be­fore en­rolling their chil­dren.

The top-rated loc­al schools in­clude a re­l­at­ive new­comer, Plan­et Aba­cus, a K-8 charter school in its sixth year. It’s loc­ated at 6660 Key­stone St., in the former St. Leo school build­ing in Ta­cony.

Plan­et Aba­cus is now in­de­pend­ent of its founder and former CEO, who are fa­cing fed­er­al charges of de­fraud­ing the school.

Kath­ryn Makar star­ted with the school two years ago as dir­ect­or of tech­no­logy. Last Septem­ber, she be­came the ad­min­is­trat­or. She said the school is in the pro­cess of gain­ing re­new­al from the school dis­trict.

Plan­et Aba­cus has a 93.9 per­cent at­tend­ance rate, and there were no re­por­ted ser­i­ous dis­cip­lin­ary in­cid­ents.

“We have a very struc­tured en­vir­on­ment, very rig­or­ous aca­dem­ics and very high ex­pect­a­tions,” Makar said.

St. Chris­toph­er, loc­ated in Somer­ton, has a 98.0 per­cent daily at­tend­ance rate and no ser­i­ous dis­cip­lin­ary in­cid­ents.

Mary Tr­em­per has been prin­cip­al for three years and was vice prin­cip­al for nine years be­fore that. She can re­call only one stu­dent ex­pul­sion in that time. Stu­dents are sus­pen­ded for van­dal­ism, shov­ing a class­mate or show­ing dis­respect to an adult.

Tr­em­per said her school’s teach­ers are for­tu­nate to be able to par­ti­cip­ate in the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania’s Dis­trib­uted Lead­er­ship Pro­gram, which is de­signed to im­prove classroom in­struc­tion.

In ad­di­tion, the school has an ad­vance­ment dir­ect­or to mar­ket the school and boost en­roll­ment.

There are smart boards in each classroom, and every fifth- through eighth-grader has a Net­book. The school of­fers ex­tra help for kids with learn­ing dis­ab­il­it­ies.

“Our stu­dents do very well on stand­ard­ized tests, and the feed­back from high schools is that our stu­dents do very well,” Tr­em­per said.

St. Cecil­ia, loc­ated in Fox Chase, has had 23 stu­dents win full, four-year high school schol­ar­ships as part of the Con­nelly Found­a­tion Neu­mann Schol­ars Pro­gram, which was cre­ated in 1995.

The Class of 2012 earned about $260,000 in schol­ar­ships to Arch­dioces­an and private Cath­ol­ic high schools.

Sis­ter Jane Mary Carr, the prin­cip­al, said the classrooms have smart boards and pro­ject­ors as part of their fo­cus on 21st-cen­tury learn­ing skills.

The fac­ulty doesn’t “teach to the test.” In­stead, the teach­ers fol­low the “four C’s” — col­lab­or­a­tion, cre­ation, com­mu­nic­a­tion and crit­ic­al think­ing.

“It’s more than three times three equals nine,” Sis­ter Jane said.

No ser­i­ous dis­cip­lin­ary in­cid­ents were re­por­ted at St. Cecil­ia, and the school has a, “Be a buddy, not a bully,” cam­paign.

Last Septem­ber, St. Cecil­ia wel­comed 159 pu­pils and six teach­ers from St. Wil­li­am, a Lawndale school that closed in June 2012 be­cause of de­clin­ing en­roll­ment. Sis­ter Jane said the ar­rivals have ad­ded to the fam­ily at­mo­sphere at the school.

The daily at­tend­ance rate is 96.0 per­cent, and school of­fi­cials will call a child’s home if he is not called out sick by a par­ent.

“Good at­tend­ance leads to good aca­dem­ics,” Sis­ter Jane said.

Gleason, the Phil­adelphia School Part­ner­ship of­fi­cial, said the web­site is meant to provide mean­ing­ful and ac­cess­ible in­form­a­tion in a user-friendly format.

Since many stand­ard­ized tests are taken in April — the PS­SAs for pub­lic schools, Ter­raN­ova Third Edi­tion for Cath­ol­ic schools — Gleason es­tim­ates that new data will be avail­able some­time from Ju­ly through Septem­ber.

In fo­cus group set­tings, par­ents pre­ferred a 1-10 rank­ing rather than A-F.

The rat­ings made their de­but last Oc­to­ber, and there has been no sus­tained cri­ti­cism of meth­ods or find­ings.

“It was a lot less than we ex­pec­ted. I’m sure there are schools out there that feel their rat­ings should be high­er, but nobody found a mis­take that I know about,” Gleason said. “The meth­od­o­logy was cre­ated with in­put from a lot of school lead­ers. Col­lect­ively, we used all their opin­ions. It was bal­anced and fair.” ••

Great­Philly­Schools.org ranked schools in the North­east based on aca­dem­ic per­form­ance, safety and stu­dent at­tend­ance. Schools re­ceived rank­ings from a low of 1 to per­fect score of 10. Some schools were not ranked.

Here are the rank­ings:

High schools

MaST 10

Arch­bish­op Ry­an 9

Frank­lin Towne 9

New Found­a­tions 9

Arts Academy at Ben­jamin Rush 8

Fath­er Judge 8

Little Flower 8

Phil­adelphia Academy Charter School 8

St. Hubert 8

Ta­cony Academy Charter School 7

North­east 6

Sankofa Free­dom Charter 6

George Wash­ing­ton 5

Swen­son 5

Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln 3

Fels 2

Frank­ford 1

Middle schools

Baldi 9

Woo­drow Wilson 6

Aus­tin Mee­han 5

War­ren Hard­ing 2

Ele­ment­ary schools

Plan­et Aba­cus 10

St. Cecil­ia 10

St. Chris­toph­er 10

Frank­lin Towne 9

Joseph J. Green­berg 9

Ma­ter­nity BVM 9

Our Lady of Cal­vary 9

St. Mat­thew 9

Anne Frank 8

Comly 8

Crossan 8

Loes­che 8

North­wood Charter 8

Phil­adelphia Academy Charter School 8

St. An­selm 8

St. Jerome 8

St. Kath­er­ine of Si­ena 8

Dec­atur 7

Far­rell 7

Fox Chase 7

Han­cock 7

J. Hamp­ton Moore 7

May­fair 7

Pol­lock 7

Rhawn­hurst 7

St. Domin­ic 7

St. Martha 7

Ta­cony Academy Charter School 7

A.L. Fitzpatrick 6

Christ the King 6

Holme 6

J.H. Brown 6

Sankofa Free­dom Charter 6

Sol­is-Co­hen 6

Spru­ance 6

Dis­ston 5

For­rest 5

Law­ton 5

St. Mar­tin of Tours 5

Zie­g­ler 5

Ben­jamin Frank­lin 4

Eth­an Al­len 4

Mas­tery-Smed­ley 4

Car­nell 3

Sul­li­van 3

Mar­shall 2

Ste­arne 2

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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