NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

By signing up to our newsletter, you agree to our terms.

How To Turn Around A Failing School

A change in culture and increased focus on literacy have started to show progress at Mastery’s Smedley Elementary, one of the city’s first Renaissance schools

In the year before the School District turned Smedley Elementary into a Renaissance School, 30 students—from kindergarten to fifth grade—were arrested, mainly for fighting. Cop cars were a constant presence on the Frankford campus. And classroom learning often took a backseat to chaos: That year, more than 82 percent of Smedley fifth graders were reading two grades behind, according to their PSSA scores.

Mastery brought the model it has honed at stand-alone charters throughout the city to the neighborhood school in 2010, as part of the first group of Renaissance schools. Their work is not done yet. But as it applies for a charter renewal this spring, Smedley looks and feels like a whole new school. No one is arrested anymore. And through a deliberate focus on phonics and other literary skills—as much as three hours a day—reading scores are on the rise: From 35 percent proficiency the first year to 41 percent the last two years.

“Our mission here at Smedley is to make school incredibly fun and motivating for our students, but at the same time, focus on reading, which is the foundational skill that we know our students need to be successful in life,” said Brian McLaughlin, principal at Smedley for most of the last five years. (He’s now becoming Mastery’s Deputy Chief of Schools, and will be replaced by assistant principal Caitlin Murphy.)

Watch the video from documentary filmmaker Lauren Flick to learn more about how Mastery’s focus on literacy and culture is turning around a neighborhood school.

This video originally appeared on Open Education last year.

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We want to be a communal space. But that doesn’t mean you have a First Amendment right to be an idiot. Send us an insulting, offensive and/or wildly off-topic comment and not only will we refrain from posting it -- we will laugh at you before we hit delete.

Recent Tweets
@THEPHILACITIZEN

@thephilacitizen @@thephilacitizen
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Getting gerrymandering bills passed has taken on new urgency since the 2016 election. It would be the only lasting… https://t.co/x8D4tj43zC 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
“For children, in terms of their behavior, discipline, and social skills, they have learned to solve their problems… https://t.co/NzUmKWTbOq 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Since its inception, the program has graduated over 2,000 BankWork$ students across the country, with more than 1,… https://t.co/Aah5VJl7K0 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
“I fear I may have integrated my people into a burning house.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." @selmekki on one of M… https://t.co/tEnYWizCyO 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Deep in the recent jobs report number doled out by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a glimpse of what th… https://t.co/QdiduhA7gy 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Mariner East may not be the result of a vast conspiracy or individual wrongdoing, but the reality is just as troub… https://t.co/K0Se24mxCk 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Getting gerrymandering bills passed has taken on new urgency since the 2016 election. It would be the only lasting… https://t.co/8sU1ZHzgvq 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
“For children, in terms of their behavior, discipline, and social skills, they have learned to solve their problems… https://t.co/T06xwIr5Tk 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Temple's controversial stadium is a go. Do you agree with its construction in the North #Philly neighborhood? Via… https://t.co/6cu3ecrHXk 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Since its inception, the program has graduated over 2,000 BankWork$ students across the country, with more than 1,… https://t.co/Na7gPuafyN 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"What this means, essentially, is that the public-safety oversight of Mariner East 2 begins once it is operational—… https://t.co/YLAPrTJw0D 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
59% polled think that @Amazon should come to Philadelphia. What do you think? #AmazonHQ2 #PhillyDelivers @Amazonhttps://t.co/2XeDG8vcwn 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"With some 35,000 Philly students with asthma, it is the most common reason for chronic absenteeism here and around… https://t.co/4yWXHG10Oi 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
“I fear I may have integrated my people into a burning house.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." @selmekki on one of M… https://t.co/efmhLgjkq8 

LOAD MORE

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story