District doubling the number of accelerated high schools

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

Since the inception of accelerated high schools in 2004, serving over-age students with few credits, enrollment in these programs has grown to 1,275 students.

Next year, even more students will have an opportunity to pursue this alternative pathway toward their diploma. The District has increased the number of slots in accelerated high schools to 3,000, growing the number of schools from 8 to 16 by contracting with additional outside providers to operate them.

Multiple Pathways to Graduation Director Courtney Collins-Shapiro said the slot expansion was prompted by the existing accelerated high school wait list, which now stands at 1,000 people, the success of the District’s new re-engagement center, and the large number of repeating 9th graders.

“We’ve had more than 2,000 young people come through the re-engagement center in a year to re-connect to school. Then we have a lot of the comprehensive high schools who have young people who are repeating 9th grade and thousands who are repeating the 9th grade for the second or third time,” Collins-Shapiro said.

“It’s no longer acceptable for us to leave them in the same environment if they need a different environment,” she said. “We’re hopeful that this will be the expansion that we needed, and we’ll be able to help every kid who walks through the door,”

In the current fiscal year, the District is spending close to $10 million to operate its accelerated high schools. With the slot expansion, “we’re almost going to triple spending,” Collins-Shapiro said. But a cap on provider compensation and shift of funds from the disciplinary schools to these programs will keep any cost hikes to a minimum.