The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday awarded Philadelphia $2.5 million to bolster collaboration between public and charter schools and fund projects aimed at boosting teacher training and principal leadership, among other things.
Philadelphia’s three-year grant was one of seven cities nationwide to get Gates money. The public and charter school communities in all of the cities — the others are Boston, Denver, New Orleans, New York, Hartford, Conn. and Spring Branch, Texas — have signed agreements pledging cooperation and stating mutual goals.
Philadelphia’s Great Schools compact also includes the city’s Archdiocesean schools. As a group, the Great Schools participants aim to replace 50,000 seats in struggling schools and replace them with high-quality ones.
The money, to be managed by the nonprofit Philadelphia Schools Partnership, will fund three specific projects:
-An Urban Leadership Academy for principals at all three types of schools. Eventually, 50 promising leaders per year would enroll in the program, which would place them in full-year residencies. A national consulting group which has not yet been selected will aid in the principals’ development.
-A “teacher effectiveness” program. Currently in place at Mastery Charter Schools, the program includes intensive supports for teachers, and will be expanded to include “hundreds” of educators in district, charter and parochial schools.
-The creation of benchmark tests to align to the new Common Core standards adopted by schools around the country.
Flanked by district, charter, and parochial school officials and a representative from the Gates Foundation, Mayor Nutter’s chief education officer Lori Shorr said that for years, the philanthropic community bypassed Philadelphia, whose district and charter schools were often at odds.
But in the past few years, the parties began to wonder: “If we were to stop fighting each other and use that energy for something else, what would that look like?” Shorr said.
The Gates commitment announced Wednesday is a sign that it’s working, Shorr said.
Vicki Phillips, an education official at the Gates Fund, praised the work that education leaders in the city have done.
“Many of Philadelphia’s schools already have different kinds of management and leadership going on, and you are no stranger to any of that,” Phillips said. “And we think that you have an opportunity here to set such an important example for the rest of the country.”
Philadelphia School District Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the Gates money would prove vital.
There is much work to be done, both in district schools and elsewhere, Hite said, and “that work cannot be done in silos,” at it has in the past.
“We look forward to contributing to and learning from our charter and private school partners,” Hite said.