New Public School to Open in West Philadelphia with Support of $1.8 Million Philadelphia School Partnership Grant

Exterior of the Dornsife Center

The School District of Philadelphia, Drexel University and Inquiry Schools announced that Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLA-MS) plans to open to fifth grade students in Fall 2016 in a temporary location at Drexel’s Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.

SLA-MS, a new district middle school based on the Science Leadership Academy model, will be led by Timothy Boyle. The school will open with 90 students and ultimately serve 360 students in grades 5-8. The school will have no admissions requirements and will serve primarily as the neighborhood catchment school for Samuel Powel Elementary. In addition, Powel will expand to a preK-4 school and will add one classroom per grade over time beginning with the addition of a preK classroom. 

“We’re excited to bring the quality of a magnet school education to a neighborhood school setting,” said Boyle. “The new school will marry the successful educational approach of Powel Elementary with the innovative model used by Science Leadership Academy. Our plan is to develop a school that’s specifically created to serve the needs of the future SLA-MS students.”

For at least two years, the school will rent a portion of the Dornsife Center, located at 3509 Spring Garden Street. Both SLA-MS and Powel intend to eventually operate in a building located on the Drexel-owned parcels of the former University City High School site.

"We’re delighted to host SLA-MS at the Dornsife Center in the coming years,” said Lucy Kerman,PhD, vice provost for University and Community Partnerships at Drexel. “It is a perfect fit: we can provide beautiful space during the school day and explore community school programming after hours with expanded Dornsife Center offerings."

Planning this school has been an ongoing community process for about three years, with a steering committee, working groups and many public meetings. The new school will have the full support of Drexel's School of Education whose faculty will work with the non-profit Inquiry Schools and the SLA-MS teachers and administrators to develop a curriculum that incorporates technology and inquiry-driven learning practices that are proven to be effective in urban classrooms.

Startup and planning costs to open the new school will be supported by $1.8 million grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP). The grant from PSP is supporting the leadership team in planning and opening SLA-MS in Fall 2016 -- to ultimately serve 360 students -- and the expansion of Powel to serve 150 more students. This investment builds upon an incubation grant awarded in 2012 support planning for the addition of a new middle school for Powel Elementary.

“SLA and Powel are among the highest-performing schools in Philadelphia, and SLA-MS is building upon the success of both schools,” said Jessica Pena, director of PSP’s Great Schools Fund. “We are thrilled to help give 500 more students the opportunity to receive a high-quality education.”

About Inquiry Schools

Inquiry Schools is a nonprofit organization which assists in creating and supporting inquiry-driven, project-based modern schools across the country. Beginning in 2006 and with an initial focus on Philadelphia, it helped start the Science Leadership Academy and later Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber. Continuing the success of these two schools, Inquiry Schools will help launch a new learning environment, Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLA-MS). Inquiry Schools provides consultation on curriculum, pedagogy, and administration.

About Drexel University’s School of Education:

The Drexel University School of Education’s mission is to help education professionals to lead and navigate others through change in classrooms, administration, research and policy. With a particular emphasis on civic engagement, School of Education faculty and staff engage in classroom-based and site-based learning as a part of our diverse bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs. The School also offers a wide variety of certificate, certification and professional development programs to meet the needs of educators, administrators and education professionals.

About the Philadelphia School Partnership

The Philadelphia School Partnership is non-profit organization that funds the creation and expansion of high-quality K-12 schools in the City of Philadelphia to give more children access to a quality education. PSP also facilitates the sharing of best practices among school leaders that improve the quality of education for students. PSP is raising $100 million in philanthropic funds to provide grants for the transformation, growth and startup of high-performing public and private schools in Philadelphia. It measures success by the number of students in Philadelphia who move out of struggling schools to higher-quality schools based on student academic achievement. To date, PSP’s Great Schools Fund has invested more than $50 million in order to give nearly 20,000 more students access to a great school.