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DC Public Schools Celebrates First Day of Traditional School Year with Launch of Excel Academy

Monday, August 20, 2018

DC Public Schools Celebrates First Day of Traditional School Year with Launch of Excel Academy

DCPS welcomes students to first day of traditional school year and its first all-girls school to the DCPS family

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Public Schools (DCPS) celebrated the first day of the traditional school year as 103 schools welcomed students into their buildings across the District. This school year, DCPS will continue to focus on the strategic priorities outlined in  A Capital Commitment 2017-2022 to ensure that every student feels loved, challenged, and prepared to positively influence society and thrive in life.

The traditional school year begins following the announcement that DCPS saw gains across every grade level and ward and across almost all student groups on the 2018 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment. Overall, the number of DCPS students scoring at a Level 4 or 5 increased by 3.2 percentage points in English Language Arts (ELA) and 3.1 percentage points in Math in 2018, outpacing the state average. Thirty-five percent of DCPS students met or exceeded expectations on the grades 3-8 and high school English language arts (ELA) assessments, while 30 percent met or exceeded expectations on the grades 3-8 and high school math assessments.

“Today marks the beginning of what will be a school year full of joyful and rigorous learning for students throughout the District, and I am proud that we are kicking off the year by launching Excel Academy,” said DCPS Interim Chancellor Amanda Alexander. “Our students continue to make significant progress on the PARCC exams, and I know that we have outstanding educators and school leaders in every school building working to make overachievement the new normal in DCPS. I look forward to working even harder to ensure all of our young people have the opportunities and supports they need to thrive.” 

Ensuring Excellent Schools

DCPS’ strategic plan outlined five strategic priorities: Promote Equity, Empower Our People, Ensure Excellent Schools, Educate the Whole Child, and Engage Families. With an emphasis on ensuring excellent schools and promoting equity, DCPS launched Excel Academy in the Anacostia neighborhood of Ward 8. DCPS’ first all-girls school opened its doors to nearly 500 young women and girls in grades Pre-K3-8 today. Excel will offer science, technology, engineering, and STEM-focused courses such as computer science, robotics, and architecture, to expose young women of color to careers where they are historically underrepresented. Excel will also offer arts-focused courses, such as photography. The school builds on DCPS’ Reign: Empowering Young Women as Leaders initiative, launched by Mayor Bowser in 2017, to support young women of color. 

“At Excel Academy, we will focus on increasing student achievement across all grade levels and content areas, while empowering our scholars and strengthening their self-esteem,” said Tenia Pritchard, principal of Excel Academy. “Since the first time I entered the school as a visitor, there was a heavy weight placed on my heart to assume leadership for our young women of color. I am committed to ensuring that our scholars and our staff have the supports they need to thrive in this environment. Excel Academy will be a pillar of excellence in this nation.”

Many DCPS schools opened with brand new school buildings and facilities that will transform learning environments and support high-quality instruction for thousands of students.

  • Bruce-Monroe at Park-View (Ward 1) received a new cafeteria and kitchen that will accommodate more students, a new gymnasium, and exterior site improvements;
  • Bancroft Elementary School (Ward 1) saw the complete modernization of its historic facility, with an addition that features updated classrooms and outdoor learning spaces;
  • Murch Elementary School (Ward 3) was fully renovated with an addition. The building features unique collaborative learning spaces for students, new exterior play features, and an outdoor classroom;
  • MacFarland Middle School (Ward 4) was transformed to meet 21st century learning needs. The dual-language middle school features updated classrooms, art spaces, and an inspiring library with state-of-the-art technology;
  • Boone Elementary School (Ward 8) received a complete transformation. In addition to new classrooms, music, art, and library spaces, the building is now home to DCPS’ largest rooftop outdoor classroom.

Preparing Students for College and Career

DCPS is also kicking this school year off with a new partnership with American University that will allow students to take courses in the School of Education. Students will have the opportunity to earn college credit and gain exposure that will empower graduates to come back to DCPS classrooms to teach and lead in our schools. DCPS is proud to welcome American University as a partner and will continue to expose students to meaningful opportunities through local partnerships with the Catholic University, Georgetown University, the George Washington University, Howard University, and the University of the District of Columbia Community College.

In addition, DCPS is supporting graduation and post-secondary planning through the launch of the online platform Naviance for students, families, and staff, with a new graduation profile that provides an intuitive way to review student data and progress.

DCPS also continues to grow and add grades:

  • Ron Brown College Preparatory High School (Ward 7) is adding the 11th grade;
  • MacFarland Middle School (Ward 4) is adding the 8th grade;
  • Van Ness Elementary School (Ward 6) is adding a 3rd grade; and
  • Ketcham Elementary School (Ward 8) is adding a child development center for babies and infants ages 0-3 years old.

Transparency and Accountability

As School Year 2018-2019 begins, DCPS remains committed to rebuilding trust, enhancing transparency, and setting clear expectations for our students, teachers, and administrators. After a series of public engagement events, DCPS released changes to attendance, grading, promotion, and graduation policies that set clear expectations about the standards of excellence students must meet and what supports DCPS will provide along the way. DCPS will continue to engage the community throughout the school year and looks forward to empowering students and families on their paths to graduation.

For more information, follow @DCPublicSchools on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and use #DCPSRising to see the learning happening at our schools.