Mastery Charter School

  www.masterycharter.org
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Mastery Charter School Reviews

Updated May 1, 2014
Mastery Charter School – Philadelphia – “Typical Mastery classroom”

All Employees Current Employees Only

2.8 10 reviews

80% Approve of the CEO

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Scott Gordon

(5 ratings)

43% of employees recommend this company to a friend
10 Employee Reviews
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    5 years employed once promoted

    Anonymous Employee (Current Employee) Philadelphia, PA

    ProsFlexibility, lots of professional development, chances to grow, advancement opportunities (i got promoted in less than 2 years) , kids are amazing and the relationships you forge with both students and parents are priceless

    ConsWork life balance is almost non existent, long hours are needed to complete most tasks and there are management spreadsheets to measure EVERYTHING

    Advice to Senior ManagementLead by example when it comes to valuing life outside of Mastery

    – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    1 person found this helpful  

    School run like a Major Company, Be Ready to "Fit In" Quickly

    Teacher (Former Employee) Philadelphia, PA

    Pros-Pay
    -Co-workers are awesome and dedicated
    -Certain Campuses are much better than others (Thomas, Lenfest are strongest two)
    -Resources in terms of money per student, clean buildings, etc. Mastery wants for very little in terms of providing for teachers things like Elmo's, etc.
    -If you can play "their game" you can do very well and gain large pay increases in a short period of time
    -Many of the students are awesome, as you'd expect and hope as a teacher
    -Organization is continuously trying to get better (this also could be filed under the Cons section at times though due to never being able to re-use ANY materials from year to year)

    Cons-Organization is run like a major company. Everything is measured in metrics on spreadsheets. You will be micromanaged to an extent not found in any other school. You can and will be addressed for the smallest of details and those will be used against you in end of year conversations and will effect your pay.
    -Metrics will impact your raise. If you're students do not preform well on their Benchmarks and you're formal observation schools and MVAS (Mastery Value Added System used to projected student growth) you can expect little raise and to be eventually shown the door.
    -Work life balance is bad, bordering on horrible. I am not talking just about working late and on the weekends but being stressed about work the next day. Most teachers in my campus last about 2 years overall if I had to guess.
    -Be prepared to "buy in" quickly or be forced out. Your leadership team will quickly identify whether or not you are bought in and willing to comply with their values and wishes. They have no problem brining up the smallest things in order to show you are not "on board" including not coming to after school events, being seconds late to meetings and generally saying they think you are not willing to be a part of their mission.
    - Let's be honest, working in a city charter school isn't easy. You're day to day instructing classes will be very difficult and having the added stress of your leadership breathing down your neck about everything from your posters in your room to your agenda board to your hands, lines in the halls and everything in-between. You will deal with situations that will cause you immense frustration and drive you to the brink of quitting (trust me, I've been there five years and seen dozens and dozens come and go and experienced these things myself). Coming back day after day is only easy for the most dedicated, driven and mission aligned folks (I'd say 5-10% of the staff in the building).
    -Buildings have many "moles" or "rats" who will overhear negative conversations and report them to your Principal or APs. After that, you'll wind up in a meeting about your values. Watch who you talk to.
    -Zero job security. I've seen teachers let go for various reasons including simply not being "on board" to being forced out because they clearly make too much money and can be replaced by someone (usually TFA folks) who make 20 grand less than they do. You will sign a contract that can be terminated at any time, for any reason, so don't expect to have a feeling of perfect job security (Unless you are in that 10% of teachers who really, really shine and are the sheep of the leadership team).
    -Cycle of Teachers and Unwillingness to keep folks long term is most scary to me. Here are the phases of how Mastery wants to cycle their teachers in and out of their buildings.

    1. You come in, you are observed, you will be told you are awful at teaching and giving a Developing or Unsatisfactory on your formal. You then feel like you really are a bad teacher, or never were good in the first place.
    2. You ask them, "How do I get better?"
    3. They tell you, they coach you with instruction over the years, you do improve and you will get a raise or two (maybe a big one if you are really well liked and really "on board" with their values, kissing up is huge)
    4. You will eventually plateau after your raises and be told you need to continue to improve...which becomes very hard to do after you've been named an Advanced or Master Teacher (order goes Associate, Sr. Associate, Advanced and Master Teacher in order of rating and pay)
    5. You start to get a ton of flack for your results and eventually are basically told you make too much money and can be replaced by someone much cheaper (This has been said to folks I know over the years). Leadership team nitpicks on everything you do and basically forces your hand to go elsewhere if you want to be happy. After a few years, the salary you make will stay the same basically for the duration of your time there.

    Advice to Senior ManagementBe more human, stop asking teachers to be robots and treat staff as professionals and not children. Also, the pace at which Mastery is growing will eventually cause the organization to lack quickly teachers and staff and cause them to essentially become the school district. Simply growing too fast with not enough good/driven dedicated teachers in the area.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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    • Disapproves of CEO

    1 person found this helpful  

    Great intentions, but poor delivery.

    Advanced Lead Teacher (Former Employee) Philadelphia, PA

    ProsCompetitive pay and ample resources.

    ConsIt is a political game to advance.

    Advice to Senior ManagementTreat people like human beings and not computers that should read from scripts.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    It's a great job if you're passionate about it and willing to sacrifice yourself

    Teacher (Current Employee) Philadelphia, PA

    Pros-tons and tons of teacher support, training, and development
    -very dedicated staff at all levels
    -i can tell the CEO really believes in what we're doing and is not in it for the money or glory
    -clean schools, access to supplies, etc
    -tight discipline
    -raises and promotions tied to performance
    -being involved with something that is truly making a difference

    i really love working here...this is my 3rd year at mastery and my 5th year teaching, and i hope to be here until i retire.

    Cons-the main problem is, like others have said, there is NO room for work-life balance. the expectations on us are pretty much unreasonable, and we are very closely monitored for compliance. if you work here, don't expect to have much of a life of your own or downtime, at least if you want to get ahead
    -we have a large central office staff who get paid WAY more than the teachers do, and that makes me mad sometimes bc we work much harder
    -that's really all i can think of right now!

    Advice to Senior Managementi really respect my CEO and his entourage, as well as my P and my APs. my dean (discipline support for the grade) is fantastic. i would add to what the others said-stop trying to GROW and instead focus on making what we do have better. mastery 3.0 is a good start, but we really need to have more freedom to do creative and inquiry based teaching. the mastery model is really great and necessary in some cases, but not always. there have been a lot of cool things i've wanted to do with the kids that i think would be "sticky"-er learning than just DI but i am too afraid to do them for fear someone will walk in and disapprove. i try really hard to do everything exactly perfectly.

    oh, and you're never going to get cross-campus collaboration amongst subject/grade areas if you keep publicly comparing their benchmark scores!

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    Worst job ever

    Associate Teacher (Current Employee) Philadelphia, PA

    Prossalary, most teachers are well-intentioned

    Consworthless administration, treats adults like kids and treat kids like they are prisoners, required to be constantly silent

    Advice to Senior ManagementMake drastic changes.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    It's all good in the beginning...

    Anonymous Employee (Current Employee)

    ProsBenefits if you get them

    community outreach

    ConsInexperienced teachers in some subject areas where experience should be an Absolute

    Too many managers on the chain

    Beware of the CULTure!

    Advice to Senior ManagementDiversity on all Levels of Management

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    1 person found this helpful  

    They adequately address the problems in urban education but they do not fully value their employees.

    Teacher (Current Employee) Philadelphia, PA

    ProsIf you are passionate about urban education, then you will find that Mastery does about the best job possible addressing the achievement gap. They are truly concerned with closing the gap and moving students in the direction of college. They practice what they preach in that regard.

    ConsThe amount of work that they expect is unreasonable. Certainly, campuses vary, but teachers are micromanaged in a severe way. Grades in gradebooks as well as parent phone calls are counted. I understand the idea of accountability but if you hire professionals, why not set an expectation for the amount of grades in a report period and check at the end. If you have a family it will be difficult to balance the work load. They want people that are completely "bought in" and by that they mean someone who is willing to stay as long as possible and do everything to please the administration. If you struggle at all then you will be weeded out. The idea of a work life balance is a joke.

    Advice to Senior ManagementLearn to value your employees. There has to be a middle ground between closing the achievement gap and addressing teacher turn over. It appears that turn over is of no concern to you.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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    4 people found this helpful  

    The best job I have ever had.

    Teacher (Current Employee) Philadelphia, PA

    Pros--Everyone at the schools is competent. People do their jobs well and work hard at them. I've never had a job before where I had such confidence in the abilities of my coworkers and superiors.

    --The company and individual schools are extremely organized. Expectations are always clear, nothing is ever a surprise, from observations to teacher evaluations.

    --Very transparent. Every meeting has an agenda and an objective, every decision is talked through with the staff. Administrators actively seek out and encourage constructive criticism through many different outlets, both anonymous and direct, and suggestions are ALWAYS addressed. Changes based on feedback are made quickly, and if a suggestion is not made, it is still shared with the staff with the rationale why no change was made. Even the CEO of Mastery routinely visits schools and provides lunches for teachers to just talk or voice their concerns/questions.

    --Extremely supportive culture and administration. Culture and administration have teachers' backs 10 out of 10 times.

    --Very good salaries and benefits, and bonuses and raises that support achievement.

    --SO much support in becoming a better teacher. Mastery invests so much time and resources to constantly working to help teachers grow, from useful professional development days, to mandatory coaching certain report periods for all teachers, to informal and useful observations. People will always be in and out of your class, giving feedback, and it is 90-95% of the time extremely useful. If you're a teacher looking to develop skills and grow, Mastery is a great place for you.

    --The best pro: You really feel like you are making a difference in the lives of your students. I have worked at high-performing schools in suburbs as well as the worst public schools in the city. In both, I felt I was not making any kind of impact on my students. The high-performing schools I found myself asking what was the point of me being there? Almost any competent teacher could fill my role and the (still wonderful) students I taught had enough resources and support in their own families and communities to be successful. In urban public schools, I also found myself asking why I was there. In those schools, I felt no matter what I did, I could not help my students; there was not enough structure in the school or support from the administration to provide the help I needed as a developing teacher, and with all the behavior management I had to focus on, precious little time to teach. Mastery is the perfect solution for a teacher like me, who wants to work to help close the achievement gap and help children in the poorest parts of the city, but needs a structured environment where there is abundant support and help. There is absolutely nothing as rewarding as seeing a child who is several years behind in their reading level grow multiple years worth of reading while you are his/her teacher.

    ConsPlease note that I do not consider all of these negative things, yet others may do so. I am admittedly "bought in" to Mastery, but have tried to represent fairly what some may consider cons. Readers must consider what is it is that they are looking for in a particular situation and how well-aligned their goals are with Mastery.

    --Mastery is intense. There is not a very strong work/life balance. Teachers who do well, especially brand new teachers, seem to commit all their time and energy to the job. It's part of the great thing about Mastery--everyone who works there is competent and hard working--but also puts a lot of competitive pressure on educators. This is especially true for beginning teachers.

    --Mastery measures the rate of student success by performance on the standardized state-wide test, the PSSA. While there has been remarkable success with students at turnover schools in this area, if you're looking for a job that goes leaps and bounds beyond standardized test prep (focus and emphasis on the arts, sciences, inquisitive based learning, etc.), and lets you be as creative as you want in the classroom, Mastery is not there yet.

    --Campuses vary a good deal; I'm extremely satisfied at the campus I teach at, yet I know morale can be lower or higher at others. Some have criticized the "cult-like" atmosphere and effect of Mastery. (Although to push back on this, I truly love working in an environment where teachers are generally all bought in and working to change the atmosphere of schools in the city.)

    --Not exactly a con, but some might consider it so: the benefit of working at a place with very competent people is that if you are NOT competent, you are quickly weeded out. I see this as a benefit, since in public urban school districts, bad, tenured teachers stick around forever. This system prevents that from ever happening. But occasionally this negatively impacts a brand new teacher who is struggling and has room for growth to be successful. A good deal of support is offered to all teachers, but teachers who don't show adequate growth quickly go down the route of improvement plans followed by non-contract renewals. Mastery offers only yearly contracts, which some might see as a negative, but if you ARE one of these struggling teachers, it is nice to have a non-renewal of contract rather than a dismissal.

    --Mastery does an AMAZING job at managing discipline and culture in the school, but it's still a school! The kids in these schools are still kids, and when you consider the average socioeconomic background of the students Mastery serves, the issues facing children in urban, low-income areas, and the previous schools these students have attended, you realize that they bring a lot of their own issues into the classroom. Some think of Mastery as a school that churns out robotically behaving students who keep their hands folded at all times and walk silently in halls. Not actually the case--the kids do misbehave, and strong classroom management is needed to keep control. Don't expect the kind of behavior and attitudes you'd find in a private school or public suburban school. (Once again--not a con exactly, but if that's what you're looking for, you should be aware)

    Advice to Senior ManagementI will say that I do share a previous poster's concern that Mastery is expanding too quickly out of a desire to show tangible success. Schools that have turned around in Mastery one, two, or three years ago are far from perfect. I believe more time and resources should be put into helping these schools rather than focusing on opening more campuses for at least a few years. I fear that as Mastery expands, it might fall victim to the fate that almost all small companies do as they become big companies: losing the quality and the values it once stood for. Mastery has some concrete values that they claim are the most important driving factors in their schools, and I believe these values are essential to what makes Mastery great. If the organization grows too rapidly in too short a time, I worry these will lose their significance as a guiding force.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    High Standards

    Teacher (Current Employee) Philadelphia, PA

    ProsGreat co-workers, a good amount of support from the top, potential for job growth

    ConsCan be very demanding and stressful

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
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    3 people found this helpful  

    Make sure you are completely aligned to their model and are a worker who enjoys being told exactly what to do.

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee) Philadelphia, PA

    ProsClear data in terms of your student performance. Clarity regarding exactly what will be on the formative tests. All Mastery get-togethers. Great if you are a new teacher with a ton of time to commit and want to improve your basic instructional techniques.

    ConsMastery is still expanding at a fast pace leaving little time to take seriously any innovation in regards to figuring out how to make their schools sustainable places of employment for adults who have families or want a dynamic life outside of their work days. Fast expansion also means that central leadership message becomes one of command and control rather than inquiry. Quick success seems to have created pressure NOT to change anything right now. If innovation is part of your motivation, then now is not the right time to work here.

    Advice to Senior ManagementStop expanding and start breaking new ground for making your schools places where teachers can work for a lifetime. Otherwise, you risk becoming another white-collar sweatshop that hires cheap young labor and burns them out, but has an effective training model in place to compensate by hiring new ones. Such a focus will also mean you are able to innovate beyond the basics delivered by direct instruction and instead add an additional model to the teaching approach that takes students to a level of critical thinking, reflection, and self-management.

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