When Propel first opened its doors in 2003, our "Pioneers" did not have a framework upon which to base their work. Instead, Propel's founders opened a school in the basement of an old hospital with a vision of operating high performing public schools and providing choices to families who otherwise would not have them.
Now and Then Ten years ago, Propel started as a dream. The dream was to build an organization with the capacity to transform public education in Southwestern Pennsylvania so that all children have access to high performing public schools. Today, that dream is a reality.
Propel has become one of the largest, fastest-expanding set of charter schools in Pennsylvania with the highest levels of student achievement among Pennsylvania public school districts serving high poverty areas. The first school opened in 2003 with 180 children, occupying a small hospital basement. In 2012, more than 2,800 K-12 students attend nine newly renovated facilities in Homestead, McKeesport, Montour, Munhall, Turtle Creek, and Braddock Hills, Northside and Pitcairn.
Across all its schools, 75% of students qualify for the federal free/reduced cost lunch program, 69% are a minority and 14% have special needs. Propel is having a significant positive impact on the population that it serves, and despite the impact of poverty, is delivering tremendous results. The most recent data on Pennsylvania state tests confirms Propel's success: Propel had the highest levels of student achievement among the 20 Pennsylvania school districts serving high concentrations of students living in poverty (70% or greater).
Propel is dramatically outperforming the district run schools where most of its students live. Students are 41% more likely to be at grade level than their peers in these districts - up from a 35% advantage in the prior year. Propel students are now performing on par with solidly middle class Allegheny county school districts.
Propel's African American and economically disadvantaged students performed significantly better than the typical student (regardless of race or family affluence) in Pittsburgh, Woodland Hills, and other school districts where Propel students live.
Compared to the seven school districts from which Propel draws most of its students:
African-American students were 60% more likely to be at grade level if attending Propel;
Economically disadvantaged students were 45% more likely to be at grade level if attending Propel.
Propel is filling a community need for a high performing school option where there otherwise may be little or no choice. Over 92% of Propel parents are satisfied with their school, compared to just 77% of parents in national public school surveys. Because Propel parents rate the schools so highly, and students are succeeding, increasing numbers of families want their children to attend a Propel school. As of May 2012, over 2,600 children were on Propel's waiting lists. Propel has become both a regional asset and a national model, providing measurable evidence of how innovative public schools can expand opportunity for children and families and can revitalize communities. Over recent years, Propel has been recognized for momentous achievements.
Propel McKEESPORT was named the top elementary charter school in the nation, receiving the Effective Practice Incentive Community (EPIC) award from New Leaders for New Schools, Gold Gain category.
Propel MONTOUR received the Charles Gray Award from the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, recognized for its commitment to quality arts education and for having one of the "most unique arts programs in the region."
Propel EAST received the Charles Gray Awar from Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, recognized for its commitment and excellence in arts education.
In 2011, Propel MONTOUR and Propel McKEESPORT were named among the top elementary charter schools in the nation, recieving the Effective Practice Incentive Community (EPIC) Award from New Leaders for New Schools, Silver Gain category.
IPropel HOMESTEAD was the
recipient of the grand prize for their school-wide Bullying Prevention Program by the Marcus Ruscitto Foundation
In 2012, Propel EAST was named one of the top communities in music education, nationwide.
Propel was one of twelve elite charter organizations across the country to receive a U.S. Department of Education grant for replicating and expainding its high-quality charter school model.
An extended school day and school year, professional development opportunities for staff, close relationships with students, and a commitment to sharing best practices, are just a few of the elements that make Propel schools a success. We are committed to building on our foundation. Over the next few years, we envision opening new Propel schools and doubling the number of children that we serve. We see our schools closing the exposure gap that divides children from resource-poor families with their more affluent peers, and we see our students performing at levels consistent with more affluent subruban districts. We know this is within our reach.