This guest blog post comes from Rich Migliore, a frequent Notebook commenter and veteran teacher and administrator.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Mastery-Smedley Elementary in Frankford. Brook Lenfest, a member of Mastery’s Board of Trustees, had invited me to visit a Mastery school to see for myself what it does for children.
There has been much heated debate lately about Mastery so I approached my visit as a learner. I wanted to see Mastery-Smedley through the eyes of an educator who has spent over 35 years in schools and in classrooms.
The District has released the second quarterly monitoring reports from School Advisory Councils (SACs) at seven existing Renaissance charter schools.
Some school-by-school highlights:
In a plan that will expand Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's Renaissance Schools initiative to encompass 31 schools and 12 percent of the District's students, 18 more low-performing schools have been targeted for radical overhauls.
"Everyone knows this comes back to me," said Ackerman in announcing the move. "These schools are under my very close watch and care."
Delighted with the recent changes at their school, parents and community members on the School Advisory Council (SAC) at Mastery-Smedley are lining up in support of the move.
Just a few months ago, Kallie Turner was limping to the end of her first year as a classroom teacher. Exhausted, she feared that she had failed her students.
"I didn't get them where they needed to be," Turner says of the children at the Louisville public school where she taught last year. "The hardest thing was knowing that I didn't have an answer – and that no one was helping me find that answer."
Waiting for 'Superman'" has reignited a national conversation about what makes for effective teaching.
But in the back-and-forth debate about hot-button issues like teacher unions and performance pay, the importance of the "cultural competence" of school staff has been largely overlooked.
What is "cultural competence?" And moving forward, what role is it likely to play in how Philadelphia schools think about good teaching?
It’s not yet 8:30 am, it’s the Friday before Halloween, and the audience before him is made up of five- and six–year-olds.
But Mastery Charter-Smedley Elementary Principal Brian McLaughlin is not one to go off message, especially just two months into Mastery’s effort to turn around the long-struggling neighborhood elementary school in Frankford.
Flush with new resources and fresh from whirlwind makeovers, the District’s 13 new Renaissance Schools opened their doors this September, carrying out Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s plan to breathe new life into some of Philadelphia’s lowest performing schools.
Roughly 7,000 students kicked off the new school year in the District’s seven new charter-operated Renaissance Schools and six new District-operated Renaissance Promise Academies. Collectively, the schools were upgraded to the tune of several million dollars since last spring.
Seeking to get a jump on their ambitious change agendas, two of the District’s new Renaissance charter operators opened their doors early this week.
By 8:30 in the morning on September 1, all of the fourth and fifth graders at the new Mastery Charter Smedley Elementary School in Frankford were assembled in the sweltering cafeteria for a combination PowerPoint presentation and pep rally.
Charlene Young, a parent at Smedley Elementary in Frankford, doesn’t want much for her daughter’s school – just an end to the chaos.
“More controlled classrooms,” she said. “More organization, more respect for the teachers, more respect for each other inside the school.”
Jana Wilcox, development director at the Young Scholars Charter School, promised that her team could deliver.