Aug 112011

Today I was lucky enough to catch a fascinating conversation with the CEOs of both KIPP and Mastery Charter Schools here in Philadelphia. As someone who was directly impacted by the Philadelphia School District’s Renaissance School Initiative, I have some deep seated mistrust of Mastery Charter. They campaigned to take over my former school in a not-so-honest way and they’re merit/demerit system has always irked me.

However, listening to Marc Mannella (KIPP) and Scott Gordon (Mastery) I found that there was nothing they said that didn’t sound acceptable, well-meaning and respectable. Granted, the whole picture was not really painted during the interview, but the guys honestly care about kids and families.

So, I kept pondering, “what’s my beef?”  Obviously, these schools work for some kids. Some families love them and they have definitely turned kids’ lives around. In fact, Mannella specifically states that KIPP is not a “silver bullet” or that it works in every school in every community.

So, what’s my beef?

Both men kept agreeing and referring to the commonalities between the two school models. In fact, at one point one of the men basically said the other had taken his answer.

This is my beef.

OK, I get it. KIPP works, Mastery works. But are they really offering the choices they claim they offer to students and families in Philadelphia?  If they’re so similar, what’s the choice there?  I have already made reference to this false school choice in a previous post, but I finally had my Eureka moment when I sent out this tweet:


That’s it.

We need to offer students and families more than college-prep, reward/punishment models. Granted, there are a number of diverse charter schools here in Philly that offer distinct models, but these two models run 15 schools in Philadelphia alone. Yes, it works for many, but it shouldn’t be all that’s out there.

You can check out the interview here on the Radio Times website.