President Obama singled out the city's Mastery Charter Schools in a speech to the National Urban League on Thursday. In outlining his Race to the Top initiative and his program to turn around the 5,000 lowest performing schools, Obama cited Mastery's work and Philadelphia Democrat, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah. Here's what he said, from the White House transcript:
"Now, in some cases, that's going to mean restarting the school under different management as a charter school -– as an independent public school formed by parents, teachers, and civic leaders who've got broad leeway to innovate. And some people don't like charter schools. They say, well, that's going to take away money from other public schools that also need support. Charter schools aren't a magic bullet, but I want to give states and school districts the chance to try new things. If a charter school works, then let's apply those lessons elsewhere. And if a charter school doesn't work, we'll hold it accountable; we'll shut it down.
So, no, I don't support all charter schools, but I do support good charter schools. I'll give you an example. There's a charter school called Mastery in Philadelphia. And in just two years, three of the schools that Mastery has taken over have seen reading and math levels nearly double –- in some cases, triple. Chaka Fattah is here, so he knows what I'm talking about. One school called Pickett went from just 14 percent of students being proficient in math to almost 70 percent. (Applause.) Now -- and here's the kicker -- at the same time academic performance improved, violence dropped by 80 percent -– 80 percent. And that's no coincidence. (Applause.)
Now, if a school like Mastery can do it, if Pickett can do it, every troubled school can do it. But that means we're going to have to shake some things up. Setting high standards, common standards, empowering students to meet them; partnering with our teachers to achieve excellence in the classroom; educating our children -- all of them -- to graduate ready for college, ready for a career, ready to make most of their lives -- none of this should be controversial. There should be a fuss if we weren't doing these things. There should be a fuss if Arne Duncan wasn't trying to shake things up. (Applause.)"