By: Caitlin Peng, Policy Fellow
On June 7, I had the opportunity to tour DC Bilingual (DCB) Public Charter School as a part of First Fridays, a series of monthly tours that spotlights top-performing D.C public charter schools. Not only was this my first time participating in a First Fridays tour, but also my first time stepping foot into a public charter school. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but by the end of the tour, I experienced a snapshot of a public charter school where a strong sense of community permeated throughout the hallways and classrooms.
By Sara Gopalkrishna, Policy Fellow
No one should ever turn down an opportunity to tour a pre-K classroom in DC. Lucky for me, an opportunity was presented to me. As part of the First Fridays tour of DC charter schools, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Charter School welcomed us to their new East End campus. Stokes PCS is known in the city as providing dual-language instruction for elementary school students. They offer Spanish-English and French-English elementary school classrooms. Linda Moore founded the school in 1998 and named it after her mother. After moving from its first location in Mt. Pleasant to 16th Street NW, the first campus eventually found its home in Brookland.
With the Brookland campus in such high demand—that it seemed that only siblings could enroll—it was time to expand after 20 years. With careful and deliberate planning, the Stokes team planned and opened its second campus in fall 2018, enrolling 135 pre-K and kindergarten students. Tucked in the eastern-most corner of the city in Ward 7, Stokes East End is the only bilingual elementary school east of the river. The school shares a building with Maya Angelou PCS, a high school. The two schools strategically share the gym, the cafeteria, and other resources such that the young scholars and older ones are kept separate, using shared spaces at different times of the day.
By Sara Gopalkrishna, Policy Fellow
I had the opportunity to visit Digital Pioneers Academy (DPA) as part of First Fridays—a series of monthly learning tours that spotlight D.C. charter schools. The description “digital pioneer” aptly describes this school. The public charter middle school is the first-ever computer science focused middle school in the District. Deliberately grounded in Ward 7, Mashea Ashton, the school’s founder, and her staff are rounding the corner on the inaugural year of the school, alongside the 120 sixth-grade scholars, mostly local to the Hillcrest community, where the school resides.
With a 1-to-1 ratio of computers to students and with teachers and students using technology tools with ease, everyone in this school is a pioneer. Students at DPA have a 55-minute computer science class every day, but they use their computers all day long. This is striking when, nationally, only 31 percent of seventh and eighth graders use a computer at school every day. 
By: Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst
What does two-generation learning mean and how has it been implemented in the District? How do public schools establish themselves as the center of their communities? During a recent visit to Briya Public Charter School’s Fort Totten campus, I had the opportunity to witness this two-generation learning approach, as well as see the additional community and social services provided through the school’s partnership with Mary’s Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center community health center in the District.
- Two-generation learning – Briya’s mission is to strengthen families through culturally responsive two-generation education. At Briya, parents and their young children learn together. Parents study English—from basic to advanced levels—and practice digital literacy and parenting skills. At the same time, their Pre-K–3 and Pre-K–4 children, as well as infants and toddlers, receive a high-quality early education in dual-language, project-based classes right across the hall. Parents and children also participate in intentional weekly Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time.
- Briya and Mary’s Center partnership – For nearly 20 years, Briya and Mary’s Center have partnered closely to provide education, health care, and social services for families. Through this partnership—and their shared philosophy of social change—Briya and Mary’s Center exemplify how a public school can serve as the hub for a community.