IDEA is one of three DC high schools to receive a Bold Performance award from Empower K12, a nonprofit organization that supports District of Columbia public and public charter schools. Bold Performance awards recognize schools that effectively educate a high percentage of at-risk students, exceeding academic expectations while providing intensive intervention and support services to meet students’ needs.
Empower K12 defines “at-risk” as a student whose family qualifies for SNAP or TANF benefits, is placed in foster care, or is experiencing homelessness. Factors not included in this definition but still relevant include the number of students eligible for special education services, achievement gaps for entering students, and environmental factors such as the increased violence affecting DC teenagers, as reported by WUSA’s Delia Goncalves. https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/local/dc-schools-empower-k-12-award-bold-approach-to-education/65-0ede082e-205b-49ec-9b83-b2356e1f16e9
In determining the Bold Performance schools, Empowerk12 analyzed 2019 PARCC standardized test data and, according to the organization, “found that at‐risk concentration was the most predictive indicator of school‐wide PARCC proficiency. Almost 45% of DC students tested in Spring 2019 were considered at‐risk. The more at‐risk students a school serves, the fewer the number who met expectations on PARCC. Other factors with a statistically significant impact on a school’s proficiency rate after controlling for percent at‐risk served include percent special education, English language learners, race, and grade‐level configuration.”
Of the 28 DC public and public charter schools honored by Empower K12, 17 are located in Wards 7 and 8. At IDEA, more than two-thirds of students enter ninth grade performing at least two grade levels behind in math or English or both. About one-third of IDEA’s students are eligible for special education services because of intellectual or emotional disabilities.
This means IDEA teachers and staff must work harder, using the same resources, to meet students where they are and help them catch up and thrive. Using data-driven instruction and innovative incentives, offering afterschool tutoring and Saturday school, and supporting students with a four-person clinical team, IDEA continues to help students succeed despite the odds.
Understanding that students can only learn when they show up for school, IDEA has implemented an intensive attendance push this year, with noticeable results. Year-over-year attendance rates have increased dramatically, with more than 90% of scholars in their classrooms each day.
Another marked improvement in 2019 is IDEA’s graduation rate, which increased by 25 percentage points from 2018. Graduation rates rose at DC charter schools while falling slightly among traditional public schools. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/dc-graduation-rate-holds-steady-in-2019-despite-drop-in-traditional-school-system/2019/11/08/8f831950-023b-11ea-8bab-0fc209e065a8_story.html
Effective practices of Bold Performance schools such as IDEA, according to Empower K12, are to
- Use data and information in frequent and intentional ways
- Collaborate across classrooms as well as across schools
- Ensure students are ready to learn by creating a warm social‐emotional environment
- Hold the highest of expectations for all students
Empower K12 hopes that following these practices can lead DC to “become the first urban jurisdiction in America to close the national achievement gap for low‐income students.”