At last month’s SRC meeting, Ms. Simms expressed concerns that public employees must carry out a taxpayer given mandate to “provide all children with equal access to high quality education at all schools.” Yet by choosing Mastery to be the administrator of the turnaround at Wister, Ms. Simms and the other SRC members may actually perpetuate the inequity that we have witnessed all too often within the Philadelphia School System.
The rationale for this assertion comes from the School Progress Report, which uses a measure that compares a school with its peers – schools with similar grade levels, and demographics. Among Wister’s nineteen peers is one Mastery School – the Mastery Charter School at Mann.
While Wister garnered 68% of all possible points for the academic progress that it had made during the 2014-2015 school year, placing it 8th out of all 20 peers, and earning the second highest performance tier of “REINFORCE,” Mann had only received 8% of all possible academic progress points in the same period, finishing 18th among the 20 peers, and earning the lowest performance tier of “INTERVENE.”
It is true that Mann scored higher in academic achievement during this time, earning 28% of all possible points, whereas Wister scored only 7%, but Wister’s score showed an improvement from 5% over the previous year, and an improvement from 4% from the 2012-2013 school year. These increases are certainly modest, but they follow a continuous positive trend, as compared with Mann’s downward trajectory from 57% to 28%.
Although the PSSA’s were very difficult last year, they were difficult for all schools – both Wister and Mann. Yet Wister posted gains, whereas Mastery did the opposite. In addition, Wister gains occurred while it had lost 7 teachers, 1 counselor, and 52% of its supply budget over the last four years. Given such a backdrop, it is amazing that any academic achievement had taken place at all.
Why would the SRC turn over the operation of a school to a company with a negative record in working with similar schools when the school in question has been showing positive gains? It would make more sense to hand over control of Mastery Mann to Wister.
I share Ms. Simms concern for children having equal access to high quality education, and for the reasons that I have just cited, I believe that a vote to hand Wister over to Mastery will hinder, rather than advance her cause. Thank you.