Former Dropouts "Excel" in Philadelphia

Published mar. 05, 2012

Last month I was at Camelot's Excel Academy South in Philadelphia, a school that demonstrates what teaching and learning should look like for our nation's off-track students. Excel South has helped its students make major academic gains, using Jobs for the Future's Common Instructional Framework to accelerate student learning. Now, JFF is working with Camelot to develop Excel South into a lab school that will demonstrate college-ready instructional practices to educators across the nation. JFF's CEO Marlene Seltzer and I joined Philadelphia's Mayor Michael Nutter and Camelot CEO Todd Bock last Wednesday to announce the partnership.

The students at Excel South in the Juniata Park neighborhood are former dropouts aged 16 to 21, most of whom came to the school overage for their grade and with few credits. Yet in these classrooms, students are highly engaged, using literacy groups, classroom talk, writing to learn, and other strategies that lead to college readiness. The school has a 96 percent graduation rate, and in the course of just one year, one-third of students progressed four or more grade levels in reading and/or math skill. More than two-thirds of the students achieved skill gains of two or more grade levels.

These schools and their educational management company, Camelot, recognize that it's not enough for students just to get a diploma. They need to graduate with the skills that will help them earn some sort of postsecondary credential that leads to wages that support a family. And we need to grow more Back on Track schools and programs like this one. We'll be working with Excel South to strengthen their practices even more as they host visitors from across the nation who seek to emulate their success.