A “First Friday” at Digital Pioneers Academy

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. [1]

The school adopted the RePublic model for computer science curriculum and instruction, after researching its use in Tennessee charter schools. The approach allows teachers with strong pedagogy and the willingness to learn new content the opportunity to learn computer science material independently and step-by-step, while staying ahead of their students. The 10- and 11-year old students have used Scratch to explore game development, are currently using CodePen to script and view web pages they are developing, and will start programming with JavaScript soon.

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A “First Friday” at Briya Public Charter School

Briya Public Charter School

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.

 

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Center City PCS-Congress Heights Hosts First Fridays

On Friday, November 3rd, Center City Public Charter School in Congress Heights hosted community members and education advocates for this month’s First Fridays tour. In one of the most engaging parts of the day, students welcomed and engaged in small group discussions with attendees prior to the start of the presentation giving some true insight into what it’s like to be a student.

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Principal Ms. Niya White gave opening comments before attendees broke up into tour groups. Guests relished the opportunity to drop in and observe classes throughout the building. Ms. White said that teachers and administrators focus on “what we teach and how we teach” in order to ensure students are successful. Center City PCS Congress Heights offers constant opportunities for students to learn, with math, reading, and writing lessons posted on walls throughout the school’s hallways and stairwells.

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