The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts (TCF) supplements basic academic programming for 372 students at Chester Charter School for the Arts (CCSA) in grades K-7 with arts-infused enrichment by providing the following programs not covered by public funding:
• Literacy Intervention
• Arts-Infused Curriculum Integration
• Direct Arts Instruction
• Afterschool Programming
TCF and CCSA have a unique approach to address the issue of poverty and education, as over 97% of the 372 students who attend CCSA qualify for free and reduced lunches. We believe that the key to children in high-poverty situations succeeding is on a foundation of socio-emotional wellness. As Paul Tough coined, we are a high “licking and grooming” school, where building relationships with students is at the core of everything we do. On top of that, we empower students with the tools needed to develop critical thinking skills; create high expectations around academic mastery and achievement; then use arts as the icing on the cake.
Dr. John Alston, a music professor at Swarthmore College, founded the Chester Children’s Chorus in 1994 with seven boys and a dream. His idea was to impact these boys’ lives in the same way his own impoverished upbringing had been transformed by the Newark Boys Chorus. While the Chester Children’s Chorus after-school and summer programs grew to serve 140 boys and girls ages 8-18 from every school in Chester, Dr. Alston felt something was missing and wanted to do more.
In 2005, along with a board of directors, Dr. Alston founded The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts (TCF) with the mission of transforming Chester through education and the arts. After years of researching school models and negotiating with the Chester Upland School District, TCF opened Chester Upland School for the Arts (CUSA) as a district school in 2008.
The Chester Fund (TCF) supplemented programming for CUSA students in grades PK-8 by building capacity for specialized arts, academic, and after-school programs through grants from public and private sources. By the spring of 2011, CUSA had achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) for the second year in a row. In the fall of 2011, cuts in state-level funding resulted in the lay-offs of 90% of all CUSA teachers, who were the last to be hired in the district.
At that point, TCF’s board made the decision to terminate the agreement and launch a K-12 public charter school. Thus, the Chester Charter School for the Arts (CCSA) successfully opened its doors in September 2012 to 321 children in Kindergarten through 6th grade. While Chester Charter School for the Arts (CCSA) is a new school, we continue to build on the legacy of Chester Upland School for the Arts, where students achieved an Adequate Yearly Progress rating on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests for two years in a row, meeting established benchmarks.