By: Abby Ragan, Policy Fellow and Matt Repka, Policy Analyst
Last week, two SBOE staff members had the chance to visit a Chavez Prep Middle School open house. Chavez Prep is one of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, a DC-based charter school network. Serving grades 6-9, Chavez Prep has served Columbia Heights since 2009.The open house, which attracted several prospective students and their parents, consisted of a presentation by Director of Campus Operations Myisha Trice and introductions to the administrative personnel like Principal Kourtney Miller and Special Education Manager Aireen Sampson before concluding in a tour of the school. The administrators were engaged with the potential students present throughout their presentation, asking questions about their favorite subjects in school or what they would want to buy at the school store.
The Chavez Prep MS motto is “to prepare scholars to succeed in competitive colleges and to empower them to use public policy to create a more just, free, and equal world.” Administrators emphasized a dual focus on college and on public policy: at Chavez Prep, middle schoolers not only prepare for high school, but for college and beyond. They use “warm, but strict” methods and a 1-to-1 laptop-to-student model to aspire for success for their hardworking students. This could be seen through student incentives like a school store where students use credits for good behavior and work to earn small prizes or field trips, “Student of the Week” awards, and charts in hallways that display academic accomplishments and the progress of the whole grade throughout the semester.
Public Policy is seen as a tool to change the world at Chavez Prep MS. 6th graders have the opportunity to work on a grade-wide research project which is then presented to the D.C. Council. This past year, the students chose police brutality as their subject. 7th graders work on a research project that they get to present on Capitol Hill to Members of Congress. 8th graders participate in the Center for Civic Education’s “We the People” competition, a national competition that focuses on how well students know the U.S. Constitution. For Chavez Prep students that continue on to Chavez Parkside High School in Northeast Washington, this immersion in the policy world continues, culminating in a senior thesis during their 12th grade year.
Chavez Prep embraces multiculturalism and connecting with the historic community around them in their location in Columbia Heights. With over 80% of their student population identifying as Hispanic, they make sure 100% of print communications are bilingual and that interpreters are always available at parent teacher conferences and school wide events. Furthermore, Chavez Prep has relationships with outside community organizations like DC Scores, the Center for Talented Youth, and After School All-Stars. Parent involvement opportunities like monthly ‘Chat N’ Chew’ dinner events and biweekly progress reports were also emphasized as chances for the school to connect with families.
SBOE was thankful for the chance to see the great work that Chavez Prep is doing with their students and families and looks forward to finding opportunities to partner in the future.