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Widener Partnership Charter School Receives Approval to Expand to Middle School Grades

The Chester Upland School Board on Thursday approved a request by Widener University to expand the Widener Partnership Charter School to include grades six through eight.

The school, which opened in fall 2006, is the first university-based charter school in Pennsylvania. The school currently enrolls about 300 students in grades kindergarten through five.

With the expansion, the school will add 50 students in sixth grade in fall 2011, and the same number of students in seventh and eighth grades in 2012 and 2013 for a total enrollment of 450 students. Students currently enrolled in the school will be given first option to enroll in the elevated grades, and a lottery system will be used if the number of students in any grade falls below 50.

The charter school will accommodate the additional students at its current location at 1450 Edgmont Avenue in Chester and is considering other options, including the U.S. Army’s Recruiting Center at 500 W. 24th Street which will be vacated by the Army in November 2011.

“Parents have been very pleased with the education their children receive at the Widener Partnership Charter School and the results show in their PSSA scores,” said Widener University President James T. Harris III. “The parents clearly wanted their children to continue in the charter school. After pursuing several options and having many conversations with the school district and the parents, we believe the best way forward is by expanding our charter.”

In 2009, the first year students in the charter school were eligible to take the test, 76 percent of third graders scored at proficient or advanced levels in reading, and 70 percent scored at proficient or advanced levels in math. By comparison, the average for third graders in the Chester-Upland School District – where the charter school resides – was 46 percent for reading and 53.6 percent for math.

According to Stephen C. Wilhite, dean of the Widener School of Human Service Professions and chairperson of the Widener Partnership Charter School Board, the school takes a holistic approach to education that emphasizes a low student to teacher ratio, the social and emotional development of each student, a close partnership with parents and caregivers, and the inclusion of music, art, drama, physical and health education and foreign language instruction as integral parts of the curriculum.

“They aren’t just teaching them to be better students, they’re helping them to be better children,” said Patrice Todd, president of the Widener Partnership Charter School Parent and Caregiver Council. “You can see in their grades and even in how they walk down the hallways. It’s great. I love it.”

Because it is affiliated with Widener University, the school receives a variety of supports from the university including education faculty and students who support and enhance the instruction of classroom teachers, graduate students from social work and clinical psychology who provide a range of services to the children and their families, and the use of university facilities such as the Wolfgram Memorial Library, the Science Teaching Center and the Art Gallery.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate’s, baccalaureate’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,600 students. Visit the university website,