About : A Brief History : What is a Charter School?

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.