Troy CLE and a few of the students of Marvelous World University (Years One and Two) Back Row L to R: Lyndon Harewood, David Fasanya, Matt Aponte, Jibreel A-Rahman, Fabian Rogers, Jordan Murray Front Row L to R: Latoya Paul, Shennel Green, Troy CLE, Tazmin Begum (Photo Credit: Rayon Richards)
Troy CLE is an award-winning author who has developed a unique and highly comprehensive curriculum based upon his Marvelous World book series (Simon and Schuster and Random House Listening Library Audio) called Marvelous World University (MWU). MWU has been piloted multiple times in the NYC school system and has gained the support of educators and politicians as an innovative tool that enagages students and raises standardized test scores. This is an interview that took place after he spoke at the Harvard Graduate School of Education about his accomplishments.
Can you explain how it felt to speak at Harvard about your career?
Harvard is the most respected educational institution on the face of the planet and speaking there was an amazing experience. That was a major endorsement and vote of confidence that I am honored to have. Everyone I met there, like Professor Reimers, Professor Blatt, and Vanessa Beary, is awesome.
What exactly is Marvelous World University (MWU) and why do you think it is effective?
MWU is an advanced interdisciplinary curriculum with versions for middle grade and high schools. There is even an AP® (Advanced Placement) version certified by the College Board. MWU uses my Marvelous World books and popular media as a foundation to teach students a unique understanding of literature, philosophy (Kant, Hume, Berkeley, and Rousseau), science (Einstein, Lemaitre, and Schrodinger), video games, music, and film. My curriculum is successful because it focuses on turning students into critical thinkers that recognize universal themes found within all media that they encounter. That way their minds are always "on," extracting some type of meaning from everything they encounter. MWU's core purpose is that it is supposed to be a method for any teacher to deliver a high-end prep school education in any school. MWU is also incentive-based with assignments tied to points and prizes.
When you spoke you mentioned that your students did very well on an important standarized test. What is the story behind that?
My students at Brooklyn Collegiate High School had to take the ELA Regents Exam. The year before I got there only 37 percent of the students passed. One hundred percent of my students that took the test passed, some with high 90s, outscoring the rest of the city and state. I am from NJ and had no idea that the exam existed. Nor did I know my students were going to take it. That is fine because I do not believe in teaching students so they can take tests. I now know that no NY student can graduate without passing this exam and that my students took it a year earlier than required. What I love is that after my students passed with high scores they said they did so directly because of what I taught them. Now they are going to great colleges. Some of them like Fabian Rogers and Lyndon Harewood have received amazing scholarships. Awesome!
What was the primary influence for Marvelous World University?
MWU is highly influenced by Mr. Harry Dawson's AP English Seminar class that I had at Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, NJ. Mr. Dawson used classic literature and popular media to educate his students at an AP® level. That was the best class and he was the best teacher I have ever had. It changed the way I see the world. I am trying to honor and share what he did for me.
You mentioned the ELA Common Core State Standard Initiative (CCSSI) when you spoke at Harvard. What is so significant about that?
As far as I know every book that is introduced into a classroom is supposed to be compliant with the CCSSI. Teachers were in an uproar because many books they have been using do not meet those requirements. Marvelous World Book 1: The Marvelous Effect fulfills the ELA Common Core requirements for grades 6th - 8th and 9th - 12th. That means that if a sixth grader reads my book and completes the study guide, without even experiencing MWU, they will have fulfilled the ELA requirements for the 12th grade. I was told by many teachers that no other book like mine does that. That's really cool because my book was written for grades 10 and up and only seems to be an action novel.
How do you your students react to MWU with video games, films, and music being major parts of your curriculum?
Video games, music, and films may sound like fun, and they are, but MWU can be a hard pill to swallow. Students have to do demanding written and visual assignments that compare those forms of media to literature. There is also lots of reading, blogging, and real class participation is a must. At the end of the class students must become teachers and present what they have learned to the entire school. This is nothing new in many private schools but to many students this is a shock. The students who refuse to step outside of their boundaries are regrettably removed from my program. That is harsh but not everyone can prove to be a FAVORITE, who are the graduates of MWU and actual heroes of the Marvelous World books.
What type of relationship do you have with your students now?
I only taught the class twice but all of my students who completed the program know that they can contact me at any time about any help they may need. I stay in contact with them via social media and when I know something great or troubling is going on with them I make sure I try to offer my support.
You mentioned that doing this came at a large personal sacrifice to yourself. What did you mean by that?
MWU was a pure labor of love that was a huge financial sacrifice on my part. In order to develop my system I had to take about two and a half years off from my writing career. I was not writing or doing anything to promote my series. Now that I have acheived some major goals I have to remind the world that Marvelous World exists and get my books back out there in a big way. I am sure what I have done will prove be a big win in the very near future.
What is the biggest obstacle with MWU?
That is easy. I have to find out how to replicate myself because I cannot teach every class. I wrote the books and know all of the popular media associated with MWU inside out. That allows me to have a massive advantage when delivering MWU to students. I am in the process of packaging MWU so teachers can duplicate my process.
What makes your book series unique beyond its educational value?
Well, my series is unique because of the way it is formatted. There are multiple series within the Marvelous World. For example there is Marvelous World: The Young Armada and Marvelous World: Lacey Proof among a few others. They all are tied to and have major impacts on the core series while having full independent storylines of their own. Another thing that my readers find interesting is that Marvelous World Book 2: Olivion's FAVORITES takes place in the middle of Marvelous World Book One: The Marvelous Effect. It is a very unique plot technique that takes the reader back in time while greatly moving the story forward directly into Marvelous World Book 3.
When you spoke to the class you mentioned that Marvelous World is real. What did you mean by that?
Marvelous World is real because it is influenced by my actual life. There is a real Alonis Medallion. There is a real Louis Proof. There is a real inspiration for Brandon Davis. There is a real inspiration for Lacey Proof. There are real-world inspirations and equivalents of Cyndi Victoria Chase and our relationships mirror exactly what is in the book. One thing that is a bit odd and hard to explain is that in part Marvelous World is about missing parents and how that affected my life. While I was doing publicity for my first book my real uncle went missing. The same time Headline News did a report on him I was on the Tavis Smiley show. I do mean the EXACT time and you could switch between the channels and see us both on TV. My uncle had a heart attack while traveling and was found in a hospital. He recovered and the hospital staff was able to identify him to his daughter because they found my book in his suitcase. That is only one story of many that I have like that involving my books.
What is on the horizon now?
I am focused on the Marvelous World movie and making an effort to make sure it happens. I am also working on a Marvelous World University TV show. I recently released three Marvelous World FAVORITES Day Novellas and I am very excited about those. Schools are also using a modified version of MWU called the Marvelous World FAVORITES Day Challenge. Beyond that I am packaging MWU so it can be an option for all schools in the near future. There is also a real Marvelous World University in Orange, NJ that is gearing up to offer the curriculum and enrichment programs to students taught by me and members of my staff. Wait... I want to send a shoutout to all of my students. I can't forget Principal Amote Sias and Cathie Wright-Lewis for bringing me and MWU into Brooklyn Collegiate High School.