About : A Brief History


Our Mission

All students learn the academic and personal skills they need to succeed in higher education, compete in the global economy, and pursue their dreams. 


Our Values

At the core of every Mastery school is a set of values that guides all of our actions. Mastery’s values are infused in the everyday life of the organization -- in the recruitment criteria for new staff, in staff evaluation and promotion decisions, in the organization’s growth strategy, and in the way staff interact with each other and the parents and students we serve.

Mastery Values are:

1) Student Achievement -- Above All

Student achievement is the civil rights issue of our time and the reason we exist. Each staff member is responsible for our students’ success.

2) We Serve

We serve students and their families first. Our business is their success.

3) The High Road

We do the right thing. We are fair and treat folks with respect.

4) Grit

Our students’ futures are at stake – we don’t give up. We do more with less. If it doesn’t work, we fix it. We find a way.

5) Joy and Humor

Our positive, caring culture supports student and staff success. We like fun. We love to laugh.

6) Straight Talk

We face reality, communicate honestly and respectfully, and hold each other accountable.

7) Open Doors

Everybody is welcome to talk to anybody. We are open and transparent.

8) Continuous Improvement

We seek a better way – always. We are engaged in an ongoing cycle of goal setting, action, measurement, and analysis.

9) One Team

We are in this together. We may disagree, but at the end of the day, we support each other 100%.


Mastery Charter Schools’ first school, the Lenfest Campus, was opened in September 2001 by a coalition of business and civic leaders. In 2005, based on the success of the Lenfest Campus, the School District of Philadelphia invited Mastery to turn around Thomas Middle School in South Philadelphia. In 2006, Mastery turned around Shoemaker Middle School, previously the second most violent school in the District. In 2007, Mastery turned around Pickett Middle School. In all three cases, the original middle schools have been expanded to include high school grades. In September 2010, Mastery opened three elementary turnaround schools under the School District of Philadelphia’s Renaissance Schools Initiative. Mastery merged with Hardy Williams Academy Charter School in the Spring of 2010. During 2011-2012 school year, Mastery turned around Clymer Elementary and Simon Gratz High School as part of the Renaissance Schools initiative. During 2012-2013, Mastery turned around Grover Cleveland Elementary School and added 9th grade to Hardy Williams Academy Mastery Charter School.  For 2013-2014, the Pastorius Elementary School in Germantown will become Francis D. Pastorius - Mastery Charter School serving K-6 graders, Mastery Charter Schools Thomas Elementary School will open in South Philadelphia and Mastery Charter Prep Middle School will be serving 7th and 8th graders in North Philadelphia.

15 Schools & over 9,500 Students:

  • Mastery Charter Schools Lenfest Campus - Grades 7-12 - Traditional Charter (2001)
  • Mastery Charter Schools Thomas Campus - Grades 7-12 - Turnaround (2005)
  • Mastery Charter Schools Shoemaker Campus - Grades 7-12 - Turnaround (2006)
  • Mastery Charter Schools Pickett Campus - Grades 6-12 - Turnaround (2007)
  • Mastery Charter Schools Harrity Elementary - Grades K-8 - Renaissance (2010)
  • Mastery Charter Schools Mann Elementary - Grades K-6 - Renaissance (2010)
  • Mastery Charter Schools Smedley Elementary- Grades K-6 - Renaissance (2010)
  • Hardy Williams Academy Mastery Charter School - Grades K-10 – Merged Charter (2011)
  • Mastery Charter Schools Clymer Elementary - Grades K-8 - Renaissance (2011)
  • Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter - Grades 9-12 - Renaissance (2011)
  • Mastery Charter Schools Grover Cleveland Campus- Grades K-8 - Renaissance (2012)
  • Francis D. Pastorius Mastery Charter Schools- Grades K-8 - Renaissance (2013)
  • Mastery Charter Schools Thomas Elementary- Grades K-6- Division of Thomas Campus (2013)
  • Mastery Charter Prep Middle School- Grades 7-8-Division of Simon Gratz High School  (2013)

Mastery Charter Schools operates three charter public school models- charters, turnarounds and renaissance.


Traditional charter schools are tuition-free public schools that receive public funding.  They are subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, but generally have more flexibility than traditional public schools. Charter schools are expected to produce certain results, set forth in each school's charter.  Charter schools provide families with choice and provide an alternative to school district run public schools.  The charter is approved by the school district in which the charter school is located.  Currently, all of Mastery Charter Schools are located in Philadelphia and approved by the Philadelphia School District.  When enrollment in a charter school has reached its capacity, admission is allocated by a lottery system.  Mastery Charter Schools Lenfest Campus is Mastery’s only citywide traditional charter school.


Mastery Charter Schools also operates Turnaround Schools.    The Turnaround Initiative, created under Former Superintendent Paul Vallas, targeted chronically low-performing middle schools to bring about dramatic improvement in student achievement.  Mastery Charter Schools Shoemaker, Thomas and Pickett campuses are all turnaround schools.  After Mastery assumed management of the schools, test scores increased an average of over 40 percentage points per grade and subject, violence decreased by 80%, and student turnover dropped by one-third.  


Lastly, Mastery operates Renaissance Schools.  Introduced in 2010 by former Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, the Renaissance Schools Initiative is designed to turn around the lowest performing schools in Philadelphia by working with school communities who select the school operator that has a proven track record of operating and supporting high-achieving schools.  The goal of the initiative is to turn underperforming schools into highly effective schools that provide exceptional opportunities for student academic achievement and preparedness for success in college and the workforce.  These schools remain neighborhood schools, with open admission to local residents.  After Mastery took over, enrollment at these three schools increased an average of 16% -- with 100% of students from the local neighborhood. Violence has nearly disappeared. Attendance is up. Student turnover has dropped by 50%. Math scores increased 14% points and reading scores increased 9% percentage points in the first year.


The main difference between traditional charters and turnaround schools is that turnaround schools are neighborhood schools that take the same students from the same neighborhood in the same building while changing the management of the school, implementing new systems and bringing in new staff.


All of Mastery Charter Schools’ students take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), a state-mandated exam.