Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School
By all accounts, Masterman consistently excels. It was recently named a 2010 Blue Ribbon School, one of only two Pennsylvania high schools honored with this prestigious award. Such accolades are not unusual for Masterman, which was also named a Blue Ribbon School in 1997-98. The school was listed by Newsweek as the 53rd best high school in the country for 2009-10. Philadelphia Magazine designated it third best in the city last year. And U.S. News & World Report ranked it the 45th best in the nation in 2009.
Masterman focuses on developing well-rounded students who "apply historical knowledge to contemporary events," are “knowledgeable of a foreign language," are “technologically literate” and “adopt a healthy lifestyle.” The school promotes a college preparatory curriculum and offers Advanced Placement courses in at least eight subjects. It also lists more than 50 college scholarships available to students on its website. Despite having only one counselor for every 600 students (approximately), the school has a virtual 100 percent matriculation rate, consistently produces National Merit Semifinalists, and averages 600-plus on each of the SAT sections. Masterman boasts among the best reading, math and science Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test scores in the state. The school offers an array of advanced seminars, community service projects and extracurricular activities. It also requires students to complete a senior project. Last year, Masterman students won a slew of awards at the National History Day finals in Washington, D.C. One of their projects was a 10-minute documentary chronicling a local radio station’s influence on the civil rights movement.
Brent Gray, who teaches mathematics to grades 9 and 12, credits the school’s success to its dedicated staff. “Every person in this building is sponsoring two clubs and a sport,” he says. Gray himself coaches the mock trial team, which took second place in the state last year, and he teaches an SAT prep class. During lunch, he runs the school’s technology center where he answers students’ computer-related questions.
Gray has taught at Masterman for five years, but many of his colleagues have worked there much longer. “People have been here many, many years,” he says. There’s “not a lot of turnover.” There’s also a good working relationship between the faculty and the administration. Gray, who serves on the building committee, say the administration listens to committee members’ perspectives on what’s working for teachers at the school and what needs to improve.
According to Gray, teacher morale at the school is quite high. Teachers enjoy working with Masterman students, all of whom enroll in a variety of colleges: Ivy League schools, liberal arts colleges, big universities and small schools all across the country. Morale would be even higher, he says, if Masterman’s school building, which dates to the 1930s, undergoes a major renovation. To that end, a committee of parents and staff is working on plans to renovate the school’s current facility and build a sustainable and efficient addition, including classrooms, activity centers and other resources that will only enhance the school’s successful learning environment.
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