Saturday, May 15, 2010

Williams' charter school has had rocky times | Philadelphia Inquirer | 05/14/2010

Williams' charter school has had rocky times | Philadelphia Inquirer | 05/14/2010

Williams' charter school has had rocky times

In his quest to be the Democrats' nominee for governor, State Sen. Anthony Williams is calling for expanding educational choice and targeting taxpayer funds to charters and other schools that produce results.
But the Southwest Philadelphia charter school he founded as Renaissance Advantage in 1999 and oversaw as board chairman for a decade has experienced rocky times.
The school, which Williams renamed Hardy Williams Academy in 2009 for his late father, was nearly closed in 2003 because of academic and management problems.
Academically, the charter has failed to meet federal No Child Left Behind benchmarks for the last three years. And, despite receiving taxpayer money, the school did not file federal tax returns for five years. Last school year, the school received $9.2 million.
Williams, whose candidacy was boosted by $3.2 million in contributions from supporters of charters and school vouchers, pledged that the school would do better. He cited the school's leadership under a seasoned executive, its new principal, and an increasing number of certified teachers.
"At the end of the year, I want to measure it based on academic outcomes," said Williams, who remains on the school's board although he stepped down as chair in September. "I'm pretty tough on everybody. I don't want excuses and neither do parents."
The charter, which enrolls 807 students from kindergarten through ninth grade, has posted test scores that lag the state's and the district's.
In 2009, 30.1 percent of the school's fifth graders were on grade level in math and 28.9 percent in reading compared with 52.4 percent and 40 percent in the school district. Statewide, the figures were 73.5 percent on grade level in math and 64.5 in reading.
Nonetheless, parents sing the school's praises.
"They're getting a good education," said Charlene Madison, who has four children at the charter.
Her oldest, Malik Jones, a seventh grader, has attended since first grade. Madison said the school moved quickly to provide special-education services for Malik.
"I'm pleased with the administration, the teachers, and the all-around academics," said Tamika Golson, whose son

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