Monday, February 15, 2016

Philadelphia Principal on Academia's "Privilege and Arrogance" Regarding Parent Demand for Charter Schools

Philadelphia Public Schools has a decades-long history of failing traditional public schools and, hence, parents continue to demand seats in higher-performing charter schools. In Philadelphia the mayor-appointed School Reform Commission is the arbiter for charter approval and last year Mayor Michael Nutter replaced the Chair of the SRC with charter foe Marjorie Neff who, in an interview with Philadelphia Notebook, said that “it is possible” that there is “a shadowy cabal trying to destroy public schools for private interests."

After angry parents protested at a SRC meeting this month, the panel agreed to allow Mastery to retain control of an elementary school called Wister. Then a group of academics wrote an angry letter claiming that Mastery expels students for “rolling one’s eyes or sucking one’s teeth.”

Today Sharif El-Mekki, principal of Mastery Shoemaker and former principal in the traditional district responds to that letter.

El-Mekki writes,
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 Hite testified to the Pennsylvania Senate on 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." 
I must confess that I was angry to read a letter from a group of academics who decided to descend from their ivory towers to propose how students of color should be educated in our communities. That is the epitome of privilege and arrogance. I trust our decade-long track record of results and the feedback we receive from our students and their families. I trust the judgment of experts in instruction and school climate who actually visit our schools and provide valuable, informed feedback. I trust the judgment of parents who live in the communities we serve. Parents are voting with their feet — our Renaissance schools have increased enrollment by over 1,100 students (with over 500 on wait lists). That’s 1,100 neighborhood families that are again choosing their neighborhood schools — with Mastery as their partner.  

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