Mastery Charter School Receives Grant from NewSchools Venture Fund to Create New Schools in Philadelphia

March 1, 2005

PHILADELPHIA – March 1, 2005Mastery Charter School, a nonprofit charter management organization based in Philadelphia, announced today that it will build on the success of its first charter high school by creating several new schools with a new $2.65 million grant from NewSchools Venture Fund, a national venture philanthropy firm based in California that is working to transform public education for underserved students.

“The NewSchools Venture Fund was attracted to Mastery Charter because of our entrepreneurial spirit, solid results and dedicated backing of some of Philadelphia’s top business and civic leaders,” said Scott Gordon, CEO. “We are thrilled that they have joined our team as we re-engineer the urban high school.”

Founded in 2001 as a single charter high school, Mastery’s mission is to ensure that all students develop the academic and critical thinking skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy – beginning with full preparation for post-secondary education. As such, the organization plans to increase the number of high-quality education options for students in Philadelphia by opening additional new schools in the district over the next few years. The schools will offer a similar model to the original Mastery school, including high expectations for every student, and a project-based, technology-infused curriculum. Also, instead of a traditional grade-by-grade structure, Mastery students take a sequence of twelve semester-long courses in each academic subject and are required to demonstrate mastery (76+) in a course in order to move up the sequence.

Student outcomes at Mastery’s first school have been promising, particularly for a school serving a high proportion of low-income students:

(*) Nearly 85 percent of its first graduating class (2005) took the SAT (as compared to 27 percent of Philadelphia School District students and 62% of Pennsylvania’s students). Mastery’s average combined SAT scores exceeded both the School District of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania’s African American combined average SAT scores. To date, students have been accepted to Temple University, Penn State University, Immaculata University, Ursinus College, Chestnut Hill College, West Chester University, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

  • In two years, sophomores’ scores rose from the 39th percentile to the 51st percentile compared to their peers nationally.
  • Students in 11th grade scored 16 percentage points higher in Reading and 13 percentage points higher in math than their peers in the Philadelphia School District on the Pennsylvania State Standardized Test (PSSA).
  • More than 90 percent of Mastery students re-enroll each year.
  • Attendance rates are 94 percent.

NewSchools Venture Fund, based in California, is a venture philanthropy firm that raises early-stage capital and invests this money into nonprofit ventures led by educational entrepreneurs who are creating high-quality, scalable educational solutions. NewSchools investors include: Brook Byers and John Doerr of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, one of the leading U.S. venture capital firms; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. NewSchools has invested approximately $20 million across the United States in promising educational models, and selected Mastery Charter based upon a year-long review process.

“What the Mastery team has achieved in just four years is extraordinary,” said Jordan Meranus, a Principal at NewSchools Venture Fund. “NewSchools looks forward to supporting Mastery as it opens additional high-quality schools for students and families, and plays an important role in the district’s efforts to improve public education options in the city of Philadelphia.”

NewSchools joins an already impressive list of supporters and board members including: Brook Lenfest; Michael O’Neill, chairman of Preferred Real Estate Investments; Jeremy Nowak, CEO of The Reinvestment Fund; Josh Kopelman; Ed Snider; SEI Investments; and the Susquehanna Investment Group.

Monica Steigerwald
(215) 922-1902 ext. 2409