The new and innovative grants will support schools to identify a key area of practice that can help them accelerate student outcomes

Philadelphia, PA – Elevate 215 announced today its approval of a first round of ‘Beat the Odds’ Planning Grants to a group of five public district and public charter schools that are “Beating the Odds” for their students who are making strong academic progress each year. The new grants, totaling $250,000, will help these schools build on their track record of success and continue to elevate performance and expand their impact to even more students.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with and support student success in these schools,” said Dr. Stacy Holland, Executive Director of Elevate 215. “Research shows that over a 10-year period, these schools have been beating the odds for some of the highest need children in our city. These grants will help them strengthen and expand on what has been working to make a difference for more and more students.”

A $50,000 grant will be made to support a six-month planning process for each school to identify areas of research-based practice they can implement to dramatically increase student outcomes. The five schools receiving planning grants include: Alliance For Progress Charter School (K-8), Juniata Park Academy (K-8), Middle Years Alternative (MYA) School (5-8), Morton McMichael School (Pre-K-8), Pan American Academy Charter School (K-8).

The schools identified collectively serve 2,875 students, of whom 90% are Black or Latino/a and 85% of whom are low-income. Cohort 1 grantees will have the opportunity to apply for grants of up to $825,000 each over three or four years, with more than $4 million in implementation grants available once plans are developed to help move their schools from good to great.

“We are grateful to Elevate 215 for choosing to invest in our students by providing planning grants to these three District schools,” said Tony B. Watlington, Sr., Ed.D., Superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia. “Throughout both my 100-day Listening & Learning Tour and my Transition-Team report, I consistently heard from a variety of stakeholders across the district on the need to improve academic outcomes for our students. These planning grants provide school leaders with additional resources to implement strategies that will increase learning outcomes for our students.”

Elevate 215 used research on 10 years of student outcomes data in public elementary and middle schools to identify Philadelphia schools serving high need populations whose students consistently “Beat the Odds” and achieved greater growth than their local and national peers during this span. To learn more about this Beat the Odds methodology, see here.

While this research provides a baseline for the first Beat the Odds schools, Elevate 215 will work in the coming years to use different forms of data and information to offer opportunities to grow and expand programs that appear to be beating the odds across all grade levels and school types.

“This planning grant opportunity comes at a much needed time for our school community,” added Darcy Rusotto, CEO of Pan American Academy Charter School. “The last few years have taken a toll on our students and staff, and this opportunity provides us with a spark to imagine what we can do to get back to what we have done well historically and to create the safe and welcoming school environment we know our students deserve. I know not everyone in this City may believe that a truly great school can exist in North Philadelphia, but we know it can, and this grant will provide us with the opportunity to prove it.”

All schools will have access to opportunities to collaborate as part of a cohort model, where they will meet periodically to work with each other, share best practices, and learn from other exemplar schools on how to improve their practice to impact student outcomes and experiences. Stronger outcomes in these schools will directly benefit thousands of current and future enrolled students while generating proof points that other schools can replicate, creating the potential for system-wide impact.

“We are so excited to participate in this grant opportunity with Elevate 215,” shared Shakae Dupre, the Principal of Middle Years Alternative. “Our school is often overlooked as worthy of innovative grants and opportunities. But our educators have worked very hard over the years to provide the best opportunities possible for our students. This grant will help us reflect on what the data shows has worked, and to build on it to take our school to the next level.”

All schools receiving planning grants will have six months to plan alongside technical assistance experts in order to create a proposal for implementation. Each school will have the opportunity to apply for an implementation grant to Elevate 215 in Spring 2023. Elevate 215 will also continue to engage with and consider other schools that data shows are beating the odds for their students who may be interested or ready for an implementation grant at that time.

“Our goal is for this to lay the groundwork for how we support schools in the years to come,” added Dr. Holland. “But it starts with listening and engaging with educators, students, and school staff to determine what they actually need. That is why we are starting with these planning grants, and believe this first cohort will start to build momentum for our City to improve student outcomes in the coming years.”

As a part of its new five-year plan, Elevate 215 plans to fund at least one cohort of beat the odds schools every year for the next five years, with a goal of supporting 25,000 students from underserved regions and different school sectors across the city.

You can learn more about Elevate 215 here.