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DC Public School Unveils Middle Grades Plan for Ward 5

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

DC Public School Unveils Middle Grades Plan for Ward 5

Options include a standalone school, two new programs at existing schools

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) will offer compelling new programs for middle grades at three Ward 5 schools, including a stand-alone Arts Integration and World Language middle school at Brookland; an International Baccalaureate program at Browne Education Campus; and a middle school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) integration program at McKinley, DCPS officials announced Tuesday at a Ward 5 community meeting. 

The announcement, which followed months of community visioning and feedback meetings as part of the Ward 5 Great Schools Initiative, also included proposed grade configurations for these schools and other Ward 5 schools that either feed into these schools or accept their students at the high school level. A total of 1,180 middle school seats will be available through these three options that cover neighborhoods in the northern, central and southern parts of Ward 5.    

“When families in Ward 5 demanded better educational options for their children at the middle school level, we listened and responded with rigorous and compelling programs that will prepare students for success in high school and beyond,” DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson said. “I am excited by the portfolio of middle grade programs that we designed with the input of the community and expect Ward 5 families to agree and respond by filling the seats we’re creating.”       

In surveys conducted during fall 2011, most Ward 5 families and community members signaled a preference for a standalone middle school (38 percent of about 800 respondents); 29 percent preferred a preschool to Grade 8 education campus; and 24 percent preferred a grades 6-12 program.  Families also emphasized a need for more rigorous academic curriculum and a variety of compelling middle grade options.

Currently, middle grades in Ward 5 are served by seven education campuses, many of which have fewer than 300 students. In the middle grades, it is important to have schools of sufficient size to ensure that students are afforded a range of educational opportunities.

This ambition, combined with community preferences, led to a proposal in November to create a portfolio of one education campus, a middle grades program at McKinley Technology, and a standalone middle school for a total 1,180 quality middle school seats for a total 1,180 quality middle schools seats the 2013-2014 school year.

Over the past three months, DCPS officials have worked with Ward 5 families and community members to determine a final plan for school sites, grade configurations, feeder patterns, and programming for these options. That plan includes the following:

Brookland Middle School

A standalone Brookland Middle School would cover the northern portion of Ward 5 and feature arts integration and world languages programs.

In an arts integration programs, teachers weave the arts into lesson plans; schools host at least two guest artists or performances a year; students present what they learn in at least two public showcases; and half of the teachers participate in artist-in-residence programs each year. 

In world language programs, schools offer at least two languages; provide high school credits for some classes; provide yearlong programs with a goal of 135 minutes of instruction time each week; and educators specialize in the languages they teach.

Browne Education Campus

Browne Education Campus, which already offers a grade 6-8 program, will serve the southeastern portion of Ward 5 and feature an International Baccalaureate (IB) for the primary years (preschool-Grade 5) and the middle years (grades 6-8).

An IB curriculum is one of the ways we can see more rigor, increased student outcomes, and a specialized curriculum.

In an IB primary years program, teachers and students assess student work; the curriculum covers traditional subjects and interconnects them as well (for example, a social studies lesson may incorporate math concepts); and students acquire a holistic understanding of six themes: Who we are; where we are in place/time; how we express ourselves; how the world works; how we organize ourselves; and sharing the planet.

In an IB middle years program, student work is assessed with guidance from the International Baccalaureate; there is an emphasis on formative assessment; courses include Language A and B, physical education, sciences, arts, math, technology, and humanities; and five perspectives, or “areas of interaction” are factored in each subject.


McKinley Middle School STEM integration

In a STEM integration program, features include grade-level team collaboration; at least two showcases of student work; STEM-related competitions; and interaction with STEM professionals each year.

Next steps

At Tuesday’s meeting, families and community members were asked to sign up for committees and working groups that will focus on recruitment and outreach, school-based transition, and building renovation. These committees and working groups will work with DCPS officials over the next year and a half to finalize details before the 2013-2014 school year, the targeted opening date.

Contact: Melissa Salmanowitz | 202.535.1096