At risk of closing, Philadelphia school outperforms the state’s PVAAS results
Last year, the School District of Philadelphia decided that, as of June 2023, Memphis Street Academy would be forced to shut down.
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Past achievement scores and negotiations with the School District of Philadelphia, as well as a pandemic marked some turbulent years for Memphis Street Academy (MSA), a school located in Northeast Philadelphia.
After efforts to keep MSA open, the School District decided to invoke the school’s surrender clause, making the 2022-23 academic year the last one for MSA. However, even in the middle of a lot of uncertainty, MSA keeps surprising.
According to American Paradigm Schools (APS), an education non-profit organization that supports the management of four different charter schools in Philadelphia; MSA exceeded expectations on the Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS) results in the 2021-22 school year. With impressive results, it outperformed the state at an average of 90% compared to 75.6%. Data shows MSA exceeded the standard for growth in math and science and met the standard for growth in English Language Arts (ELA).
Ashley Redfearn, CEO of APS, highlighted the importance of sharing these results with the public, as the School District hasn't been doing. They want to bring attention to the PVAAS scores in order to acknowledge the accomplishments of their scholars, she said.
“We want to make sure that everyone knows what happened last year with the test scores and that there was a positive growth and strong academic outcome for our scholars,” Redfearn added.
Especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic circumstances for learning, which created difficulties for students to be able to engage, MSA values its students and teachers. Despite all the problems, the school had a 95% retention of teachers in the 2022-23 school year. Steven Bilski, MSA’s principal and CEO, said the teachers have a personalized approach to educate the children and they are committed to creating an environment of trust and safety.
“We try to act as much as a family as possible,” he added.
MSA is located in the Port Richmond neighborhood and 96% of its students identified themselves as being from minority communities. The school filed not only a Civil Rights complaint in federal court, but also a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission — in behalf of the school and a number of parents.
Both complaints are alleging that the School District has acted with a racial and discriminatory bias in the closure of charter schools serving minority students.
Redfearn explains there were no test scores results when the School District voted to terminate MSA activities last year. She hopes that they are going to rethink their decision with the new update.
Although MSA is still unaware of what are the School District's plans for the students; Steven Bilski, MSA’s principal and CEO, said they are going to keep operating with their charter.
“At the end of the year, we are going to continue doing what’s in the best interest of our kids,” he added. “We are going to continue to support them academically and in a holistic way to meet their needs socially, emotionally and behaviorally.”
Bilski mentioned MSA has already partnered with the National Summer School Institute for their summer activities until July. They will have opportunities for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, as well as facilitate a sports camp.
AL DÍA reached out to the School District for more information on their end, but no statements were received at the time of publishing this article.
MSA has a live petition to try to keep the school open.