First 14 academies open, 35 more in the works

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School District has opened 14 of its planned 55 “High Achievement Academy” elementary and middle years programs, promising to bring rigorous academic programs into neighborhood schools throughout the District, and has begun implementation at another 35 schools.

The Academies are schoolwide initiatives and are based on six different models.

Emerging Scholars schools are the only ones launched in September. The District describes the approach as a “lab/professional development school” centered around the District’s core curriculum, but free to tailor approaches to individual student strengths. The program opened in Bache-Martin, Kearny, AMY James Martin, Conwell, Ziegler, Greenberg, AMY NW, Fitler, Houston, Greenfield, Meredith, Hamilton, MYA, and Powel.

The remaining Academies are working to find program-certified teachers and meet specific program criteria. The models include:

SpringBoard, designed around the College Board Standards for College Success. It stresses math, reading, and writing standards to prepare students for Advanced Placement programs and college. Schools are Bregy, Pollock, Sheridan West, Henry, Olney Elementary, and Turner.

Montessori, for ages 3 to 12, following the philosophy that “the child learns everything without knowing he/she is learning it,” according to District materials. Children learn from the environment and each other. The program is slated for Ludlow, Arthur, Longstreth, Overbrook Elementary, John Marshall, Sharswood, and Day.

International Baccalaureate Primary Years. For students age 3 to 12, the model follows an international focus that “centers on the student’s relationship to his/her national iden tity and the cultural traditions of others,” according to the District. Students begin studying a foreign language by age seven. Schools are Moffet, Barton, E.M. Stanton, M.H. Stanton, Harrington, Comly and F.S. Edmonds.

International Baccalaureate Middle Years, which “draws connections between content areas and the real world.” Students study a foreign language, humanities, sciences, math, arts, technology, and physical education. The program is at Baldi, McCall, Welsh, Harding, Central East, Grover Washington, Wilson Middle, Overbrook Education Center, Mifflin, Southwark, Adaire, Hill-Freedman, and Lingelbach.

University Lab Schools. The sponsoring partner universities institute schoolwide programs associated with their own academic offerings. Unlike the District’s university-managed schools, the District says, these programs offer curriculum beyond the core subject matter. The schools are Lea, partnered with the University of Pennsylvania; and Gompers, partnered with St. Joseph’s University.

Three proposed University Lab Schools are to be announced.

The District plans three new High Achievement Centers next fall. These will be special-admissions magnet elementary schools.

The District stressed that its programs are in all geographic regions, but numbers range from two in the Central region to as many as eight in Center City and Northwest.

The Academies serve neighborhood students but accept students as transfers, space permitting.