Collecting Input on Potential Ward 4 North Middle School

This post breaks down the details of the potential Ward 4 Middle School opening. One important note is that if the middle school is opened, it wouldn’t happen until School Year 2019-2020. Not this year, the next year, or the year after that. Current third graders at the feeder education campuses would be the first sixth graders if opened.


In 2014, the Deputy Mayor for Education’s office recommended the opening of a new middle school in Ward 4 (New North) as part of its final boundary and feeder assignment recommendations.  This recommendation would open a new middle school in northern Ward 4, converting the four education campuses that currently feed into Coolidge to elementary schools (PK-5th grade instead of PK-8th grade). Those schools are Brightwood, Whittier, Lasalle-Backus, and Takoma Education Campuses.

Two driving factors behind this recommendation were parent/community input and the space constraints at the four education campuses. During the boundary and feeder recommendation community engagement process, parents and community members expressed desire for more stand-alone middle school options, giving both elementary and middle school students more of a traditional elementary and middle school experience. In addition, the education campuses feeding into Coolidge are facing the challenge of growing enrollment that is approaching the capacity in their buildings. Opening a middle school and moving the middle grades there would relieve some of that pressure.


One of the biggest challenges in opening this potential middle school has been securing the space and capital funding to build it. The upcoming modernization of Coolidge High School is an opportunity to have both the space and funding for a middle school, by including a middle school build in the scope of the work being done on Coolidge. There is both money in Coolidge’s modernization budget of roughly $160 million, and space on Coolidge’s south lawn (see below) for middle school construction. In the recently completed feasibility study for Coolidge’s modernization, two of the three options include the construction of a middle school.

coolidge-south-lawn   The Coolidge campus has sufficient space in its south lawn to construct a middle school.

middle-school-renderingArchitect rendering from feasibility study of possible middle school build south of Coolidge High School building.

Gathering Input

In addition to securing space and budget, another important piece in the decision on whether to open a middle school is parent, staff, and community input — do the parents at Brightwood, Whittier, Lasalle-Backus, and Takoma Education Campuses want a stand-alone middle school? Do the teachers and staff? Community members living in the Coolidge boundary? We on the School Planning Team have been working to answer those questions since last spring, with parent meetings, student focus groups, regular Coolidge Community Working Group meetings, and a survey we put out to parents and staff at Coolidge feeder schools.

As the DCPS Facilities Team collects feedback on the Coolidge feasibility study, the Planning Team will continue to analyze enrollment and academic data and meet with Coolidge Community Members, particularly parents from Coolidge’s four feeder education campuses: Lasalle-Backus, Brightwood, Takoma, and Whittier. DCPS will need to make a final decision on the potential middle school by late fall in order to stay on track with Coolidge’s construction timeline. We’ve met with parents at Brightwood and Whittier already, and have upcoming meetings at Lasalle-Backus (10/6) and Takoma (10/20). We are also meeting with school staff along with regular meetings with the Coolidge Community Working Group.

whittierWhittier parents discussing potential middle school and building modernization.lbec1lbec2                                     Lasalle-Backus families filling out the survey at Back to School night

If you’d like to weigh in, please click on the relevant survey link for your language. The results of our survey up to 9/21/16 are below.

Ward 4 North Middle School Survey – English and Spanish

Ward 4 North Middle School Survey – French

Ward 4 North Middle School Survey – Amharic


Ron Brown HS Speakers Series

RBHS Speakers Series

Ron Brown College Preparatory High School will launch a weekly speakers series as part of its College and Career Exploration Program.  It is designed around the three core pillars of the school – to develop a young man’s character, academic curiosity, and service toward his community.

Sign up to share your story by visiting, emailing, or calling 202-729-4343.


Ron Brown HS June Meeting

Ron Brown HS June Meeting

Cabinet members heard updates on the school’s enrollment, facilities, and hiring plans, learned about DCPS’ 500 for 500 mentoring program in order to apply lessons learned when considering RBHS’ mentoring program concept, and provided feedback on the role of the Community Cabinet moving forward.



Coolidge Community Working Group Reviews Feasibility Study

The Coolidge Community Working Group met last week to review the feasibility study for Coolidge’s building modernization, providing feedback on three different options for the modernization. The three options are for a comprehensive high school, and two different possibilities for a potential middle school on Coolidge’s grounds at 5th and Sheridan. Stay tuned to the planning blog for more on the potential middle school option.

See below for meeting notes and the full feasibility study.

Coolidge Feasibility Study

Coolidge Working Group – Feasibility Study Review Meeting Notes

DCPS Dual Language Planning

Over the past two months, the DCPS Planning Team has been meeting with stakeholders to discuss dual language in DCPS and possible ways to expand programming in the future. We’re meeting with parents, community members, school leaders, and dual language advocates to hear thoughts on what’s working, what’s not, and where DCPS should go next with dual language.

Last year we worked to open three new dual language programs at Roosevelt High School, MacFarland Middle School, and Houston Elementary School, making 11 total in DCPS. Still, we continue to hear demand from parents for more bilingual programs in more languages across the city. While we are not able to open a new dual language program at every school we hear support for it, our goal for this process is to develop a plan for expanding bilingual programming in a more systematic way over multiple years. This plan should lead to increased equity of access to dual language programs across the city and more complete feeder patterns, while taking into account the input of our stakeholders over the coming months.

We plan to continue engaging with folks over the coming months and develop some initial recommendations for next steps in late October/early November. Please see below for the presentation we used at a recent meeting with leaders of ward education concils, and as always, reach out to us with any questions or comments at

DCPS Dual Language Planning


Dual Language Interview Series: Katarina Brito

In School Year 2016-2017, DCPS will have dual language at 11 schools with new programs at Houston Elementary School, MacFarland Middle School, and Roosevelt High School. We’ve heard a lot of interest from parents across the city about these programs, and will start sharing some information about plans to expand bilingual education at DCPS over the coming months.

We got to sit down with Katarina Brito, a Dual Language Developer in DCPS’ Language Acquisition Division, to talk about dual-language in DCPS! Katarina got her start with us after teaching in California and now works to provide high-quality bilingual education to a growing number of DC Public School students.


School Planning: What do Dual Language programs look like at DCPS?

Katarina Brito: All of our programs are Spanish-English dual language programs; they’re fifty-fifty models which mean that at least fifty percent of instruction is offered in the non-English language starting at kindergarten. Within the fifty-fifty model, there’s another model that is known as “two-way immersion”, where kids who speak both languages learn together in the classroom. There are also one-way programs, in which a majority of students speak English or the non-English language. In DCPS we have all of those models; Tyler Elementary has 90% English speaking kids and a few Spanish-speakers, Powell is 85% Spanish-speaking, and most of our other schools are a mix of Spanish- and English-dominant students – all with half of the instruction in English and half in Spanish.

One thing that’s important to emphasize is that our dual-language schools, no matter the model, all have the same four goals: bilingualism (speaking fluently in two languages), biliteracy (reading and writing in two languages), academic achievement, and cultural competency. Those are our driving forces whenever we’re making decisions. We ask ourselves, “How does this change that we’re making bring us closer to meeting or exceeding our goals?”

Within our schools we have a lot of variety. For example, a school might switch the language of instruction by week, day, half-day, or even classroom. We have a set of non-negotiables which makes sure we have stability in place to meet our goals. In fact, we were just complimented in an article in New America, which highlighted how the dual-language programs at DCPS are particularly responsive to their communities, which calls attention to why we have so many models across the District.

School Planning: Is there data that supports dual-language education models?

Katarina pointed us to some research done on elementary and middle school students, which shows that dual-language programs can provide major benefits for native English-speakers and non-native English-speakers. English Language Learners (ELLs) in dual-language tend to have higher test-scores than students in English-Only programs, and English dominant students in dual-language programs tend to perform at or above the level of peers in English-only classrooms. Additionally, dual-language students show higher rates of self-esteem and self-confidence, drop out of school at lower rates, and experience a smaller achievement gap between English-learners and English dominant students.



Thomas and Collier research results: 40,000 ELLs, proficiency on standardized tests in English. The arrow indicates at about 6th grade, English Language Learners in two-way bilingual immersion begin to perform better academically than the 50th percentile of native English speakers.

School Planning: How have parents and communities responded to Dual-Language?

KB: They’re hugely popular among both English Language Learners and English-dominant students. All of this information has come out on the benefits of bilingualism, and families, especially English-speaking families, are excited to immerse their children in such a program and to have their kids develop second-language proficiency.

We also have a sizable number of students who speak another language at home, like Vietnamese or Amharic, and they’re participating in the dual-language program as well, so they’re actually becoming trilingual.

School Planning: What are some of the biggest obstacles facing Dual-Language in DCPS?

KB: There are big obstacles, but there used to be huge obstacles. We’ve been able to find creative ways around staffing and now have no teaching vacancies in any of our schools. We’ve been able to make this possible through partnerships with foreign countries and recruiting from Puerto Rico and the rest of the US. DCPS is really building a name for itself, so people are coming to us after hearing about our programs. Materials are another issue because we’re working within a system that is designed for English instruction, so there’s a need to be creative to make sure we have appropriate and adequate materials in the non-English language.

Additionally, all of the DCPS Dual-Language schools have just been combined into one cluster, which means that they are grouped together and run by one superintendent. This means that all the DL schools can learn from each other, ask questions based on experience, and provide each other resources that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s been really powerful.

School Planning: Are DL programs being piloted anywhere else in the country?

KB: Yes. There’s a huge upswing of DL programs in the nation because of all the research and articles which have come out, proving the benefits of bilingualism. Places like Oregon, and North Carolina are on the cutting edge. In the state of Utah, the governor has committed to opening 100 dual language programs in the year and the state of Delaware is doing the same. California, Texas, and New Mexico all have strong programs as well. It’s popping up everywhere.

School Planning: How do dual-language programs integrate “cultural competency” in schools?

KB: Last year was our first year to offer the Seal of Biliteracy award to high school students who can prove bilingualism and biliteracy. To get the Seal, students have to prove that they’ve taken coursework in English, taken coursework in the non-English language, and have evidence of a cultural competency activity. For example, one recipient did an internship in Mandarin, one student did volunteer work in a French-speaking country, and another went to baseball camp in the Dominican Republic.

The award serves as well-earned recognition for these students that have continued their bilingualism beyond their dual-language programs. It really shows that these programs can have an impact beyond the years students are enrolled in DL programs. We want to keep kids motivated to pursue their dual-language fluency.

School Planning: Is there anything else you’d like the DCPS community to know about dual language programs?

KB: In 2005, there were maybe 500 kids in DL and this year we have 3000 plus. There’s a lot of talk about how there aren’t enough programs out there, but we’ve expanded six-fold. We also didn’t used to have early-childhood, we didn’t used to have high school or middle school programs and now we have it from Pre-K through 12th grades. We’ve grown a great deal over the past ten years and are continuing to explore where we go from here.

MacFarland and Roosevelt Community Cabinet Meeting Notes

Both the Roosevelt and the MacFarland Community Cabinets met the last week of June to wrap up a school year’s worth of work on their neighborhood schools. The Roosevelt Cabinet discussed a number of updates regarding school facilities, uniforms, and an introduction of new administrators. MacFarland Cabinet members discussed facility updates and weighed in on how MacFarland should brand and market itself as a neighborhood school with both dual language and comprehensive programs. It was especially helpful to have parent representatives from all DCPS elementary schools with both dual language and comprehensive tracks.

Principal James even closed us out with a nice little surprise! Much needed on an approximately one billion degree afternoon. Thank you to all our Cabinet members for a year of hard work — we can’t wait to see what the next year holds for your neighborhood schools! Find the Roosevelt notes HERE, and MacFarland notes HERE.