The Philadelphia School District on Thursday announced the top schools in the city, calling out strong traditional public and public charter schools for their academic performance, growth, and safety.
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and Mayor Kenney lauded the leaders at a ceremony at Anne Frank Elementary in Northeast Philadelphia, named the city's leading elementary school for the third straight year.
Tops among K-8 schools is Penn Alexander School in West Philadelphia; the highest-ranked middle school is Masterman, a magnet school in Center City; the leading high school is Central, a magnet school in Logan.
Hite and Kenney also recognized "peer leaders" throughout the city - schools that topped district rankings when compared with schools that educate similar populations. The elementary schools are Samuel Powel, Rhawnhurst, and Mastery Charter School at Smedley. For K-8 schools, the leaders are Kirkbride Elementary and Christopher Columbus, Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures, Laboratory, Universal Institute, and Universal Creighton charter schools.
Among middle schools are Hill-Freedman World Academy and Memphis Street Academy Charter School at J.P. Jones.
Among high schools, Academy at Palumbo, Bodine and Carver High Schools, and Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter topped the district's peer-leader lists.
The peer and overall leaders were determined using the district's "School Progress Report," an internal measure. Rather than relying solely on test scores, the report counts academic progress, school climate, and other factors. District schools and 90 percent of charters - all those that opted in - were graded.
Still, Hite noted, there is much work to be done. Among the roughly 300 schools graded, a whopping 80 percent fall into the district's two lowest achievement categories.
"The results also show that we must meet challenges at many schools," the superintendent said. "We have a lot of work to do."
He said 20 percent of the district's efforts must be directed into targeted interventions at the neediest schools.
Hite said the data released Thursday also lay bare challenges at the city's comprehensive high schools, which educate the vast majority of Philadelphia teens.
On the fourth day of his administration, Kenney pledged to visit at least one Philadelphia school a week, underscoring an oft-stated campaign promise to focus on education.
Kenney asked the audience of dignitaries, students, and others to applaud teachers, who he said are too often blamed unfairly.
He also vowed to support city schools "by any means possible" - including city funding and lobbying in Harrisburg.
Kenney said that some of the district's struggles can be pinned on state cuts made during the administration of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, and that the data will be useful in making the case to Pennsylvania lawmakers.
"When you provide the resources, children do flourish," Kenney said.
The mayor also pitched a key plank of his education platform - community schools, which concentrate social services inside school buildings as a way to address nonacademic challenges and allow teachers and principals to focus more on instruction.
Kenney has said he wants to see 25 community schools in the city within four years. To that end, support from city businesses and nonprofits will be key.
"You have to recognize the fact that these children are our children - not somebody else's kids," the mayor said.
With balloons, crystal statuettes and flashes popping, it felt a little like the Oscars at Anne Frank, a 1,200-plus-student school off Roosevelt Boulevard. Principal Mickey Komins said his staff goes all-out to serve a population that speaks 40 different languages and has more than half of its students living below the poverty line.
Anne Frank fourth grader Christopher Lewis said he was proud of his school.
"You never see fights," he said. "Everyone's smart. There are great teachers - people always help you with whatever you need."
Like most district schools, Anne Frank has gone years without new textbooks or other staples that are a given in suburban schools. But the school has managed to shine, largely through creative fund-raising, community partners, and teachers who come early and stay late.
"You can't let money stop you," Komins said. "Hard work is easy. Money is hard."
Still glowing from being presented an award by the city's top leaders, Universal Creighton principal Wendy Baldwin said it was gratifying to have the diligence of her staff and students recognized.
"It gives you what you need to keep going," said Baldwin, a second-year principal.
To see how all schools fared, visit: http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/s/strategic-analytics/annual-reports/school-progress-reports