Through the city’s renaissance program, a committee of parents chose Mastery Charter Schools to lead the effort to pull Gratz out of the muck. It’s still a neighborhood school, and about 65 percent of the kids are from low-income families. But now it’s run by Gordon’s private nonprofit, not the school district. He likes to say Mastery’s track record shows poverty is not destiny.
“I think if you spoke to folks prior to the turnaround, some would have assumed [in] a school like Gratz, kids couldn’t achieve,” says Gordon. “For lots of reasons: ‘There’s a culture of violence in the school; kids aren’t prepared.’ And it turns out not to be true. While poverty creates real obstacles, obstacles that require resources to overcome … our kids are smart, resilient, and given the right circumstances and support, will fly and succeed.”
On the academic side, Mastery reduced class size and added tutoring programs and specialized reading classes. It also revamped the curriculum. And robust intervention — whether addressing reading, truancy or poverty — has proved essential: If a student stops coming to class, Mastery will send a social worker to the house. Teachers are in frequent touch with parents, even helping link them with social assistance if they need it. The school has set up GED classes for the community, as well as free legal clinics and tax prep help for parents.
School choice may be the most winning issue for conservatives but isn’t being paid sufficient attention for reasons I’ve never been able to fathom. There are remarkable stories like this happening all over the country every year that definitely undermine the Democrats’, “We just need to spend more” narrative. Many (most?) of the schools being turned around were run into the ground by the unholy Democrat/Big Labor alliance (Detroit, anyone?).
This is something that helps people via freeing them from the yoke of government and appeals to various parts of the electorate Republicans have long wondered how to capture.