On Feb. 10, NewsWorks published a letter from “area academics” ("SRC plan to privatize 3 Philly schools a gross overreach, inconsistent"). It is disappointing that these “area academics” selectively used data to make misleading claims about Mastery schools while falsely positioning themselves as advocates for communities that they don’t live in — supposed champions of children they don’t see, interact with, or fight for. As a Mastery principal, community activist, and a practicing child advocate for over 23 years, I would like to set the record straight.
All Mastery Renaissance elementary schools are significantly higher performing than Wister Elementary School.
All six Mastery Renaissance elementary schools (previously the very lowest-performing schools in the city) scored higher on the 2015 PSSAs in reading and math by an average of 15 and 6 points, respectively.
It appears that these academics used only the District’s 2015 School Progress Report ratings to draw their conclusions. However, a closer look at this year's SPR undermines their conclusions. In 2015, the PSSA was completely redesigned to align with the new, more rigorous "PA Core." As a result, scores across the state plummeted. Because the test is so different from the previous PSSA, the Pennsylvania Department of Education decided that the 2015 test “established a new baseline” and that it was not appropriate to make comparisons to the previous test. Consequently, the state is not rating elementary schools this year.
The Philadelphia School District decided otherwise. As a result, SPR scores this year vary greatly from previous years and some unusual results were produced. Wister Elementary for example, was deemed a "model" for math growth, despite the fact that 3 percent of students were proficient and 76 percent scored below basic. In fact, if we set aside the District’s growth calculation, all Mastery elementary schools significantly outscored Wister on both achievement and school climate.
Mastery Renaissance Schools have a long track record of turning around struggling neighborhood schools.
We now have a decade of evidence that Mastery turnaround schools work. All six Mastery Renaissance elementary schools have made significant academic growth, increasing PSSA scores an average of 23 points in math, 15 points in reading from pre-turnaround starting in 2010 to 2014. On May 13, 2015, Superintendent William Hite testified to the Pennsylvania Senate that "Mastery has achieved notable turnaround and sustained success, posting double-digit gains in academics, reducing violent incidents, and retaining the vast majority of students post-turnaround."