Walk in to Mastery Prep Elementary School on any school day at 11:30 a.m. and you’ll be greeted by the sounds of students playing African drums, doing karate or yoga, cooking, working in the school’s clay studio or playing sports. Mastery Prep Elementary Principal Ray Fields, 2018 Neubauer Fellow and former founding principal of Mastery’s Simon Gratz Prep Middle School, believes that to close the educational opportunity gap students must be taught a rigorous curriculum coupled with life experiences.
“Funding from PSP allowed us to pause instruction in the middle of the day so that 100% of our students have access to a robust learning experience that’s not just solely core content, academic-focused, but speaks to the needs of the whole child,” said Fields.
With the help of a PSP start-up grant, Mastery Prep Elementary just completed its first year in operation serving 225 students in grades K-2. The school plans to grow enrollment to eventually serve 588 students in grades K-6. Mastery Prep Elementary is unique because it is one of the few campuses in the Mastery Charter network launched as a brand new school rather than a turnaround or renaissance school.
Mastery Prep Elementary had impressive results for a first-year school. Fields reported that 69 percent of students were on track with grade level in language arts (+21 percent compared to the district last year) and 80 percent of students with a 90 percent or higher attendance rate. Almost every core curriculum teacher (10 of 11) will return for the school’s second year, as will all of the community partners who make the midday enrichment courses possible.
Creating an environment where students want to learn, and where they thrive is personal for Principal Fields.
“I had teachers and staff members that invested and poured in me and worked with my parents [who did not graduate high school] because they were so deliberate in terms of their hopes and dreams for me, which translated into my desire to go into school leadership.”
For Fields, the definition of success is simple. “Success is my students at that door, circling back 12 years later and saying ‘I had the [best] foundation, the most loving teachers, the most robust learning experience that has provided me the opportunity to do whatever I want to do.’”
Ray Fields, Founding Principal, Mastery Prep Elementary School