DC’s First Girl-Only Public School Goes From Charter To Public

Rob Shimshock | Education Reporter

Washington, D.C.’s first female-only school will switch from charter to public when it opens in late August and will focus on getting black students interested in math and science.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board closed Excel Academy in 2018 after 10 years of operating as a charter school, citing poor performance. Excel recruited former D.C.’s Whittier Education Campus principal Tenia Pritchard, who won the city’s 2018 principal of the year award, to head the school, according to The Washington Post.

“We will expose young women of color to careers where they are historically underrepresented, especially science, technology, engineering, and math,” Pritchard told The Post, mentioning that the school will also focus on students’ emotional and social development. “At Excel Academy, we will sweat the small stuff from how students transition in the hallway, to the level of empathy we share through sisterhood and leadership when interacting with one another daily.”

Excel, which enrolls students in preschool through eighth grade, will teach courses in computer science, architecture, photography, and even robotics. The school’s enrollment is expected to plummet from 700 students during the 2017-2018 school year to 300 students for the 2018-2019 school year, though officials were not sure why. The Post speculated that the slack in enrollment could be due to D.C. Public Schools’ announcement concerning Excel’s transition from charter to public, which came in March around the deadline of the school lottery.

“We have a lot of feminists coming in,” Excel preschool teacher Erika Blackburn, who is aiding with recruitment, said. “They want their daughters to know they are ­superheroes.”

DCPS has only ever assumed control of one other charter school, Petworth’s Community Academy Public Charter School — which became Dorothy I. Height Elementary School — after the charter board closed it in 2015 during the school’s mismanagement of funds. The school’s enrollment and standardized test scores improved following its takeover by DCPS.

“I can learn more at this school,” Excel rising seventh-grader Demoni Hunter said. “Because the kids will be like a sisterhood.”

But not all stakeholders are pleased with the girl-only nature of the school. The ACLU’s D.C. executive director, Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, wants families to consider suing the district if Excel rejects their sons.

“The issue still remains that segregated schools reinforce single-sex stereotypes and promote sexism,” Hopkins-Maxwell noted.

DCPS has faced its own hardships during the 2017-2018 school year, with grading and truancy scandals preceding the departure of several high-level officials. (RELATED: DC Graduation Rate Cut Nearly In Half After Corruption Scandal)

While the district’s graduation rate had increased from 53 percent in 2011 to 73 percent in 2017, its projected 2018 graduation rate was 42 percent.

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