More Teachers, Courses, and Schools for the District of Columbia


Washington, DC's Cordozo Education Campus school has gone from six elective courses last year to 22 elective offerings this school year, indicative of DC schools' efforts to expand high school services amid a series of reforms.

Low enrollment and the high priority for remediation meant a whittled-down curriculum at many of the District's schools. But now, Cordozo is introducing courses like ceramics, debate, marching band, and choir.

Michael Alison Chandler of The Washington Post says D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson is calling the 2015-2016 school year "The Year of the High School" based on the extra funds she put toward increasing offerings in middle schools and elementary schools the past two years to make the curriculum more equitable across the city.

Now the high schools get their turn thanks to $13 million aimed at giving high school students more options citywide. Henderson hopes that the investments will bring about more student satisfaction, will improve attendance, and help traditional schools attract more students in a city where there are a number of public schools, including multiple charter schools.

All neighborhood schools are offering at least 20 electives and six Advanced Placement courses during this school year. The District is also investing in sports and fitness offerings and expanding career and technical programs.

Another bright spot for students is a program known as Kids Ride Free. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, who thinks children should not have to pay to get to school, has made it possible for kids to ride the Metro trains for free.

Two new career academies have been introduced this year, Information Technology and Engineering, and will accept students in the 2016-2017 school year. These academies will give students from the city's lowest-income neighborhoods a chance to pursue high-paying jobs in fast-growing fields.

Scheduled to open this school year are four charter schools: Children's Guild, offering specific instruction for special education and accelerated students; Monument Academy, a boarding school for children who have been affected by trauma and stress; Washington Global, a middle school with a focus on international and research-based focus; and Kingsman Academy for students who are over-age and lack credits.

WTOP-TV reports that DC's number of teachers has increased by 750. Since new courses will include subject areas such as African-American literature and journalism, finding teachers equipped to teach them could have been a difficult task, but Henderson said it was not the challenge it used to be.

"We've gone from being the lowest-paying school district in the region to being not only the highest-paying school district in the region for teacher salaries, but we're also the highest-paying first-year teacher salary in the country."

For example, a fourth-year teacher's salary, including bonuses, could exceed $100,000. Four new schools are being added in the district, and DCPS is introducing Cornerstones into the curriculum. Henderson explained that it will deepen the curriculum that is aligned with Common Core and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

All of the District's problems have not been swept away; DC has a graduation rate of approximately 58%.

"Our kids are as smart as, and as talented as, kids in Fairfax and kids in Montgomery. Our kids, I would say, come with some additional talents and resources, like perseverance and grit and determination. We're proud of that and we want to capitalize on that."

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