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DCPS Creates New School Academy to Support Growing Population of New Immigrant Students

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

As the number of new immigrant students enrolling in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) continues to increase, a new International Academy at Cardozo Education Campus launched this school year to meet the unique academic, social and emotional needs of English Language Learner students (ELL).  The International Academy at Cardozo EC is based on the successful models created by the Internationals Network of Public Schools (INPS), a non-profit with expertise in design high schools for new immigrant students. DCPS tailored the program for Cardozo Education Campus students new to this country who are in the early stages of their English language development to create a highly supportive environment to help students learn English and graduate from high school.

Cardozo EC experienced the largest growth of in-boundary, recently arrived immigrant students in the 2013-14 school year, with over 90 students with beginning levels of English language proficiency registering after the start of the school year.

“Whether students are from El Salvador or Eckington, Honduras or Hillcrest, it is our responsibility to ensure they are held to the highest standards, and given the supports and resources to thrive in school and in life,” said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “The ever-growing ELL student population demanded a radical shift in our approach to serve our immigrant students who have recently arrived to this country. The International Academy is a tremendous opportunity for DCPS, and for our city.”

What is International Academy at Cardozo EC?

The academic model at the International Academy, which is based on decades of research-based approaches for ELL students, groups students into teams. Students travel as a cohort throughout the day.  The program strategically uses students’ native language when working with peers. Teachers receive intensive, on-going training and collaborative planning opportunities to support their assigned team of students.  Students learn in classrooms featuring leveled texts, bilingual quotes and messages, and culturally relevant art. In upcoming years, students will complete internships throughout the city to prepare for college and careers.

“After seeing the shift in demographics at Cardozo during the 2013-2014 school year, we knew we needed to figure out how to better support our ELL students,” said Dr. Tanya Roane, principal of Cardozo Education Campus. “I was ecstatic about bringing the International Academy to DCPS from the moment we started discussing it.  This program is exciting because it simultaneously addresses and supports the needs of a changing population, and focuses on ensuring students are proficient and will graduate within four years.”

In addition to the staff at Cardozo EC, the International Academy employs an associate principal, 12 teachers, two bilingual counselors and one instructional aid. Megan Sands is the associate principal for the International.  Ms. Sands earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland studying Spanish Language and Literature and Secondary Education.  She has taught Spanish, Italian and ESL classes and worked in the classroom and in the administrative offices in charter schools in the District of Columbia. She holds a certificate in Bilingual Special Education and a master’s degree in Minority and Urban Education.

International Academy students are part of the larger school community at Cardozo.  Currently students play on the soccer and tennis teams, and participate in many after school programs.  With the support of outside organizations, students also take part in running clubs, legal research and youth health programming, among others.

This program has been successful in other urban districts, like New York City and San Francisco, as well as Alexandria, Virginia.  DCPS hopes to expand the International Academy in the coming school years, adding 11th grade next year and 12th grade in the 2016-2017 school year.

Other English Language Learner Supports

Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC) serves the largest population of English Language Learner students in the district in grades six through 12. Similar to Cardozo, the ELL population, especially Spanish speaking students, continues to increase significantly. Under the leadership of Principal Maria Tukeva, who founded the school over 30 years ago, CHEC offers students a unique tailored dual language Spanish immersion program, as well as Advanced Placement for all students, other foreign languages and an early college program.

DCPS supports ELL students across the district in grades pre-K through grade 12, through the work of the Language Acquisition Division within the Office of Specialized Instruction.  ELL supports at the elementary and secondary levels vary to meet the needs of students.  Some schools offer classes with ESL teachers co-teaching along side general education classroom teachers, and others provide sheltered core content classes for students with less English Language proficiency, among other instruction models. DCPS also offers dual language programs at the elementary and secondary levels.

Contact: Melissa Salmanowitz (DCPS) | 202-535-1096 | Contact Email