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April 23, 2012

Compact goal is to increase access to great schools in neighborhoods
throughout the City of Philadelphia

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. and Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced today that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has signed on as a member of the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact, a united effort by the Mayor, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis, the School District, the School Reform Commission, charter schools, and Archdiocesan schools in Philadelphia to increase access to great schools in neighborhoods throughout the city. This announcement was made at St. Peter the Apostle School in Northern Liberties.

"The City of Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission, charter school leaders and now the Archdiocese have made a commitment to work together to transform education through the expansion of high-quality schools, the improvement of underperforming schools, and ensuring accountability," said Mayor Nutter, who himself attended parochial elementary school in West Philadelphia and a Catholic high school. "Our five-year goal is to ensure a seat in a quality school for every single student in Philadelphia. We can only achieve that goal through the collective efforts of all of our city's school providers."

Archbishop Chaput said, "The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is pleased to join in this Great Schools Compact and to be a part of this major education collaborative. We support the vision of the Great Schools Compact believing that all children-when challenged with high expectations-can learn at high levels. By signing this Great Schools Compact we declare our shared commitment to providing the children of Philadelphia outstanding education that will prepare them for postsecondary education and successful entry into the workplace of the 21st century."

To accomplish the goal of expanding the number of high-performing schools in Philadelphia, signers of the Compact have pledged to "eliminate barriers to collaboration" and "share information, best practices, resources, responsibility for success, and responsibility for failure." It is believed that Philadelphia is the first city in the nation where the local diocese has joined a school-collaboration compact.

The inclusion of the Archdiocese enhances opportunities for coordinating efforts among K-12 education providers and policymakers as they work toward dramatically increasing access to high-performing schools and addressing the obstacles that lie in their path. One such obstacle that is shared by both the Archdiocese and the School District is a large inventory of aging school facilities, many of which are underutilized. The signers of the Great Schools Compact are together vying for grants from national and local institutions to support the improvement and reuse of such facilities by growing charter and independent schools.

"Recently, officials from the School District and Archdiocese sat down together to study the potential impact on public schools of the proposed closings of Catholic schools," noted Lori Shorr, the Mayor's Chief Education Officer and Chair of the Great Schools Compact Committee. "Those meetings helped us to understand which of our schools would be most likely to see increased enrollment and to plan accordingly as we develop budgets and staffing plans for next academic year. We look forward to working together in the future to understand our respective priorities and identify ways we can assist each of our systems in improving academic outcomes for greater numbers of students."

The Great Schools Compact will create new avenues for all Philadelphia schools to share promising practices in the education sphere, such as learning models that blend virtual or computer instruction with traditional classroom teaching or innovations in assessing student progress. Ideas will also flow around innovation, best practices and cost savings. Both Catholic and public schools hope to identify opportunities for realizing economies of scale by sharing-or jointly purchasing-services.

"Catholic schools are an important education asset in the city of Philadelphia-providing quality, college-preparatory education," said Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership. He noted that the Catholic school system is the second largest K-12 education provider in the city, with 25,000 students, or more than 10% of total students. Sixty-five percent of students in the city's Catholic schools are classified as economically disadvantaged, not far below the 78% figure in all types of public schools. "This announcement reinforces the commitment of the Mayor and other stakeholders in the Great Schools Compact to a vision for education that emphasizes school quality rather than school type."

PSP is a nonprofit organization that provides growth capital to all types of school providers-public and private-to help them expand access to high-performing schools by increasing enrollment, opening new schools or turning around failing schools. PSP also serves as the facilitator of the Great Schools Compact.

Today's announcement took place at Saint Peter the Apostle School, an Archdiocesan grade school located at 5th Street and Girard Avenue. The school is located at the site of the Shrine of Saint John Neumann, who during his tenure as bishop of Philadelphia is credited with establishing the first parochial school system in the country.

The backdrop for today's announcement was a mosaic designed by St. Peter the Apostle students, which reflects the cultural and racial diversity of the school's population. It features heroes such as Saint John Neumann, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Roberto Clemente, Rosa Parks, and Marian Anderson.

The Philadelphia School District, City of Philadelphia and representatives of more than 80 Philadelphia charter schools officially announced the signing of the Great Schools Compact in December 2011. The Compact represents a commitment by the organizations to work together to transform education through accountability, expansion of high-quality schools, and improvement of underperforming schools. It aims to replace or transform poor-performing schools that currently serve nearly 50,000 students so that all of those students are in better quality schools by 2016-17.

The formation of the Compact coincided with an announcement by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that it was providing a $100,000 grant to support the implementation of the Compact. Philadelphia is one of 15 cities in the nation that have signed a District-Charter Collaboration Compact, which makes it eligible to compete for a share of more than $40 million in Gates Foundation funding and program-related investments.

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Meredith Wilson
Communications Specialist

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