Propel, based in Pittsburgh, PA, is a not-for-profit organization, whose mission is to catalyze the transformation of public education in Southwestern Pennsylvania so that all children have access to high performing public schools.
Propel is building an organization that can significantly transform the region’s educational landscape, especially in communities with a shortage of quality school options. Over the past ten years, Propel has demonstrated its ability to meet the needs of underserved children and families by opening and operating independent public schools of choice with positive results. The first Propel school opened in 2003 with 180 children, occupying a small hospital basement. In 2010, more than 2,000 K–12 students attend six newly renovated facilities in Homestead, McKeesport, Montour, Munhall, Turtle Creek and Braddock Hills. Across all its schools, 75% of students qualify for the federal free/reduced cost lunch program, 66% are a minority and 15% have special needs.
Propel students are now more likely to be at grade level than the typical Pennsylvania public school student in both mathematics and reading despite the fact that 75% are classified as economically disadvantaged (compared to 40% statewide). In fact, economically disadvantaged students at Propel are now performing at a level equivalent to the typical Pennsylvania public school student (regardless of income). In other words, the achievement gap has been closed. Propel students are now performing on par with solidly middle class, suburban districts like Baldwin Whitehall, Chartiers Valley, and Shaler.
In March, our school in McKeesport received the Effective Practice Incentive Community Award from New Leaders for New Schools. EPIC named Propel McKeesport the top performing charter elementary school in the country out of 89 participating schools that include recognized leaders such as KIPP, Uncommon Schools and Aspire. It’s no surprise that as of August 2010, Propel’s schools had over 2,000 children on its waiting lists.
Propel has consistently demonstrated its ability to innovate. Our academic program focuses on relationships, rigor and relevance as key components to our students success; our schools have become leaders in technology integration, preparing students for the 21st century; we developed an award-winning CreativeArts program that connects our students with local community arts organizations; we collaborate with local universities, for profit and non-profit partners to access their expertise in research, technology, design and evaluation. Propel has truly 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.
The Benter Foundation has helped Propel to reach its vision of scale and build internal capacity so that the vision is sustainable. Benter Foundation grants have been instrumental to the expansion of Propel Andrew Street High School and the opening of Propel Braddock Hills. Support from Benter has also helped Propel to leverage additional resources in the Pittsburgh community.
- Jeremy Resnick, Founder & Executive Director, Propel Schools