Based on its successful track record, KIPP Philadelphia has been awarded a $4.6 million grant from a national investment fund to help reach its goal of expanding to a network of 10 charter schools in the city over the next decade.
Officials from KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) are scheduled to announce the award from the Charter School Growth Fund today.
William Schultz, spokesman for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Washington, called the award "the largest private grant to expand charter schools in Pennsylvania."
"We think we are uniquely positioned to do some great things in Philadelphia," Marc Mannella, chief executive officer of KIPP Philadelphia, said yesterday.
KIPP officials are talking with the Philadelphia School District about playing a possible role in Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's academic-reform initiative, Imagine 2014. Her plan includes the option of converting more troubled district schools into charter schools with successful operators such as KIPP.
"We look forward to working with KIPP to see how its commitment to expanding in Philadelphia can be aligned with our strategic plan's emphasis on providing a range of quality school choices across our city," Ackerman said in a statement about KIPP's grant.
The first KIPP Philadelphia charter school opened in North Philadelphia in 2003 and now enrolls 340 students in fifth through eighth grades.
The school's eighth graders scored higher than district students on state tests in reading and math in both 2007 and 2008. And all members of the school's first graduating class in 2007 were accepted at college-preparatory schools in Philadelphia and elsewhere.
The KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School is scheduled to open this summer with 90 fifth graders in leased space at the district's former Turner Middle School.
John Lock, CEO of the Charter School Growth Fund, said fund officials were impressed not only by KIPP Philadelphia's academic performance but also by Mannella's detailed business plans for opening more charter schools in the city.
KIPP Philadelphia, Lock added, met the fund's rigorous requirements and demonstrated that Mannella and his team had the leadership skills and the business acumen to successfully expand their educational model.
"Marc and his team fit that bill perfectly," Lock said.
The money, which will be used to help cover operating and administrative costs related to the expansion, will be distributed over the next five years.
Mannella said KIPP estimates that its expansion will cost about $11 million and is seeking additional financial support.
The Charter School Growth Fund, which is based outside Denver, was created in 2005 to help successful charter school networks expand.
Several large national foundations contribute to fund, including the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Don and Doris Fisher Foundation, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.
The grants awarded to expand charters have ranged from $740,000 to $7.9 million. The average award has been $2.9 million paid out over four to seven years.
KIPP Philadelphia is the first charter school in Pennsylvania selected for a grant from the fund.
TEAM Academy, a KIPP network in Newark, N.J., has received a $3 million grant to support its expansion plans.
KIPP, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, has 66 charter schools in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
It is among the best-known charter organizations in the country. KIPP's successes preparing low-income children for college have been detailed in magazine and newspaper articles and on 60 Minutes.
This year, Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews profiled KIPP in his book Work Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America.