This is the fourth consecutive year that the district has shrunk itself, turning over some of its toughest schools to outside groups to run. The new crop of Renaissance schools marks 20 schools since 2010 given to charter operators.
Some critics have said the Renaissance movement is a march toward privatization, but district leaders disagree.
"We really do see these charter operators as partners in trying to sustain the neighborhood school model," Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said in an interview. Unlike traditional charter schools, Renaissance schools must take all students who live in the area from which the schools draw their students.
Kihn said the district was committed to the Promise Academy model, which added no new schools last year. It is paying particular attention to the high schools - designating Edison and Strawberry Mansion, but giving them a planning year with some extra resources before becoming full Promise Academies in 2014.
"It hasn't been a consistent model, and there are lots of questions about what it should look like at the high school level," Kihn said. Three Promise Academy high schools - Germantown, University City, and Vaux - have struggled despite the extra resources and are slated to close in June.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan blasted the move to name more Renaissance schools, accusing the district of having a pro-charter agenda and abandoning schools it had neglected for years.
"You cannot expect schools to improve unless you're giving them the resources they need to do the job," Jordan said.
Jordan also said the moves would be expensive, though the price was not immediately available.
The new Renaissance schools will cost the district millions of dollars, and officials said they were still calculating the figure. Although the School District is in dire financial straits - it faces a $1 billion deficit over five years - district leadership and the School Reform Commission have said continuing the Renaissance program is a priority.
Research shows that the Renaissance schools have performed well. Growth in student achievement and attendance both at Promise Academies and Renaissance charter schools outstripped gains at comparable city schools, according to a 2012 study by Research for Action, a Philadelphia nonprofit.
Academics, attendance, violence, and other factors were considered in choosing the schools to be overhauled, and the schools tapped to become charter schools or Promise Academies have struggled for years.
All had fewer than 30 percent of their students meeting state standards in reading and math; at one school, Edison, 12 percent of students hit the mark in reading and 8 percent in math.
But, in an interesting twist, one school chosen to become a Promise Academy was just a few years ago a "Vanguard School" - one of the district's top-performing buildings.
Cayuga had landed that elite status. But teachers and others at the school told The Inquirer that the school's stellar test scores were the result of widespread state-test cheating, and Cayuga was one of dozens of schools investigated by the state for testing improprieties.
The school's scores tumbled last year, after unprecedented security measures were put into place.
The Renaissance announcement will affect staff districtwide.
If they choose to stay in their current schools, teachers in the soon-to-be charter schools will have to leave the district and apply for jobs with the charter organizations. If they opt to remain with the district, they will be eligible for other open jobs in the school system.
Every Promise Academy teacher would have to reapply for a spot in his or her current school, and no more than 50 percent could be rehired. The rest would also be eligible for open district jobs.
Jordan said he thought the changes, which come on top of a possible 29 school closings, would mean teacher layoffs, but Kihn disputed that.
The teachers' contract expires this year, and the district has warned it must get millions in concessions from the PFT. Those factors should mean more attrition than usual, Kihn said.
The Renaissance timeline must now move quickly.
Advisory councils made up of parents and community members at the three schools to become charters will interview potential providers, then provide recommendations to the district on who they want to run their schools.
But the district has final say, and can overrule those recommendations.
The School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote on the Renaissance charter providers in late April or early May.
Contact Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.