IDEA Public Charter School

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1027 45th St. NE, Washington, DC 20019 Phone: 202-399-4750
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May 2020 Message from Principal McCrae


In all of my years as an educator, I never imagined a time when we would be teaching and supporting scholars from our homes while they were in their homes.  While the seriousness and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic has come as a shock to all of us, I am not surprised by how enthusiastically and faithfully the IDEA community has rallied together to keep learning. My salute and sincere gratitude is dedicated to our resilient Class of 2020! They have continued to press towards the mark and persevere to ensure that they meet their academic goal of successfully completing their graduation requirements. We are proud of our scholars. 

I am immensely appreciative  of our teachers and staff for their creativity and tenacity in adapting their lessons to the online environment and working hard to keep scholars engaged and on track. I am equally pleased with all of our scholars for continuing to focus on their schoolwork despite the challenges of distance learning and the distractions of working from home. And I am grateful to our families for their weekly participation in our virtual townhall meetings and their creative suggestions on how we can continue to improve in these times. It truly takes a village to support our community more than it has ever been before to ensure that we are pushing past barriers and inequities that are plaguing our nation. A sincere thank you to everyone for helping make it possible for all of IDEA  scholars to have access to continue their studies online. Transforming the entire way we teach and learn in a matter of days has required collaboration and innovation, and IDEA has risen to the occasion.

We continue to maintain high expectations of all of our scholars to ensure that they are learning what they need to move on to the next grade level or to graduate and be ready for college. One tool we’ve used to assess learning is the MAP test, which IDEA has been conducting for the past several years in order to measure scholar progress and customize learning plans. 84% of our scholars have recently completed MAP testing in reading and math using their school-issued chromebooks at home, via a special application that ensures scholars can only the MAP testing software while they’re testing, and that allows teachers to proctor the exam online. The results of these tests will enable teachers and staff to identify precise areas of challenge for each scholar and tailor support for the extended school year, and credit recovery accordingly. MAP results also help us place scholars in the appropriate enrichment classes for the next school year. Special thanks to Mr. Bengoechea, Mr. Gregario, and all instructors for making this remote testing process happen.

We appreciate the participation of scholars and families in our weekly online town hall meetings, which are held every Thursday afternoon. In these meetings, we have tried to answer all the questions that scholars and families have about grades, graduation requirements, special events, credit recovery, and other topics. You can find summaries of all these discussions on our special coronavirus web page ( 

Please know that as even as the regular school year winds down, we are committed to supporting our scholars and their families throughout the summer months. We want to hear from parents about how we can work together and develop innovative ideas to best serve the IDEA community. 

Please join us in celebrating our graduating seniors during IDEA’s first virtual commencement ceremony on June 12 at 11am. Stay tuned for an invitation with details. We hope to see everyone there as we honor the achievements of the Class of 2020!


Nicole McCrae


February 2020 Message from Principal McCrae


February has been filled with all kinds of love at IDEA! We are grateful for the love and support of our IDEA family and community that makes so much possible for our scholars.


  • We love making college possible! Teachers Natalie Hinds and Heidi Simonsen organized “Make College Your Sweetheart,” a mixer for seniors and their mentors to give mentees an opportunity to check in with their mentors and make sure they’re on track for college acceptance.

  • We love creating career pathways for our scholars! While IDEA has always offered a variety of career and trade training courses (also known as CTE), we will now be focusing on four pathways. Many IDEA scholars are already enrolled in construction, computer science, entrepreneurship, and child development classes. Beginning with our next incoming class of freshmen, all scholars will choose one pathway to follow, along with traditional academics.

  • We love to improve! IDEA is currently developing a new daily schedule, which would be implemented in the 2020-2021 school year. We are considering elements such as a later start time and more periods to create additional opportunities for scholars to take CTE classes. We want to hear your opinions about our proposed schedule! Please share your voice through our online survey (link coming soon!) AND join us for a fun night out at Parent Boosters Skate Night on February 28 from 6pm-9pm at Temple Hills Skating Palace.

  • We love to listen! The IDEA suggestion box is now available in the cafeteria for scholars and families to share their suggestions about how we can improve our school community together. Every week our core leadership team will review every suggestion and share them with staff. Every month we will share suggestions we have received what actions we are taking in response. Scholars will hear updates on suggestions and resulting changes in monthly town hall meetings. The community will hear about actions we’ve taken in this monthly newsletter.

  • We love friendly competition! Last Friday IDEA staff took on IDEA scholars in two volleyball matches. The staff won the first match and the scholars won the second. Everyone enjoyed cheering on their peers.

  • We love to travel! Several IDEA scholars and staff joined with scholars and staff from Thurgood Marshall Academy on a civil rights tour of the south to visit historical sites and museums, meet with locals, volunteer, and tour colleges. Other scholars and staff spent four days in Jamaica putting to use the skills they’ve learned in Academy of Construction and Design classes by helping build houses.

  • We love to grow! We have seen tremendous growth in reading and math skills among scholars enrolled in reading and math resource classes. Some scholars have exited the classes because they’re now up to grade level, while others are still making progress. For the second semester we added a section of reading resource so we now offer four, as well as two sections of math resource.

Mark these dates on your calendar!

  • February 21 | Parent Family Engagement Night - Skate Palace 6-10 pm 
  • February 24 | Quarter 2 Awards Ceremony - 9th grade @11:30am, 10th -12th grades @ 2:30pm  
  • February 24 | Make-up pictures for seniors
  • February 24 | One World Senior Seminar Presentations @ 5pm
  • February 25-25 | Peer Group Connectors Leadership Retreat
  • February 26 | Black History Month Assembly
  • February 27 | Junior Field Trip to Shakespeare Theater Company @ 8:30am
  • February 28 | ACAD Student Trip to Associated Builders and Contractor Studios
  • February 28 | Field trip to Delaware State University
  • February 29 | PGC Community Day @ 11am
  • February 29 | Enrollment fair

We hope your February is filled with all kinds of love too! We love to hear from you and we love the support of our community. Please come talk to us!




Nicole McCrae

January 2020 Message from Principal McCrae


Happy new year! We are excited to be back at school and hard at work, ready for the second semester to begin at the end of January. As we close out the first semester, scholars and staff have been reflecting through our portfolio process on their successes and areas for growth so far this school year. IDEA’s growth equation is reflect + refine + effort = success. We strive to develop reflective teachers and scholars, understanding that all of us need to understand our strengths and struggles in order to move forward. The portfolio process is particularly important for our senior scholars as they think seriously about what comes next after high school.


Our families play a critical role in the reflection, refinement, and effort equation, so we are looking forward to seeing parents or grandparents of all of our scholars here on Friday, January 17 for parent-teacher conferences. These conferences give families the opportunity to understand whether their scholars are on track for promotion, learn about summer school offerings if needed, and discuss strategies to help scholars thrive. 


Parents are also warmly welcomed to our Parent Boosters meeting on Wednesday, January 16 from 5:30pm-7pm where we will be providing an update on IDEA’s activities and making plans for the Spring semester. Please contact Tiffany Casey at if you have questions.


Please join us in welcoming new teachers to our staff this month! Yodit Ghebretinsae will be teaching Math II and Teisha Jackson will be teaching English I. We are excited to have them in our classrooms.


Our staff and scholars have been going the extra mile at Saturday School! Last Saturday’s session included scholars from ninth through 12th grades who were hard at work and successfully brought up their grades in a variety of subjects. Learn more about our Saturday School program here.


This Thursday at IDEA we will host our second quarterly career expo. What’s new and exciting this time around is that scholars will use customized expo passports for the event, so the guest speakers they are scheduled to hear from will be aligned with scholars’ career interests. Scholars shared with us their career aspirations so we can tailor our offerings to their needs.


Finally, I am delighted to report that our Peer Group Connections program, which we are piloting this year, has already shown great results in terms of creating a consistently positive school culture. Our senior peer leaders are helping our freshmen scholars gain the social and emotional awareness and skills needed to resolve conflicts constructively.


Please mark these important dates on your calendar:


January 13-16 | Quarter 2 exams

January 17 | Parent-teacher conferences (no school for scholars)

January 20 | Martin Luther King Jr. Day (school closed)

January 23-24 | Scholar portfolio presentations

January 27-28 | Staff professional development (no school for scholars)

January 29 | Quarter 3 begins and report cards issued

February 8 | Saturday School


As always, my door is always open. I am grateful for the opportunity to work side by side with all of you in support of our scholars. 



Nicole McCrae

December 2019 Message from Principal McCrae

Happy holidays from our entire IDEA family! We hope you find time to enjoy this special season. We know our scholars are excited for winter break (as are our teachers and staff!) but we are still teaching and learning all day every day. Attendance always matters. We strive for 95% attendance each day to ensure that scholars have as much time as possible to master their academic challenges. Remember that scholars should have no more than two absences per quarter, and seniors must demonstrate good attendance in order to graduate. 


Families will receive scholars’ progress reports, PARCC exam scores, and PSAT results in the mail soon. Please review these with your scholars so you and they understand where they are succeeding and what areas need more attention. We’ve found some great tips for reading and understanding PARCC results online at


We are particularly proud of our scholars in Mr. Nicholas Daney-Cuffie’s READ 180 class. Between their first assessment in October and their most recent December assessment, nearly half of scholars significantly improved their reading levels. We are proud of these scholars for working hard and demonstrating growth in their abilities!


Just like our scholars receive report cards, so does IDEA! We are proud to announce that IDEA was named the most improved high school in the District of Columbia on the city’s 2019 School Report Card, released recently by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). IDEA gained over 15 points on the DC School Report Card, which collects and analyzes hundreds of data points about every DC school, earning the school our first three-star rating on OSSE’s School Transparency and Reporting (STAR) Framework.


This month IDEA has hosted several exciting activities for scholars. Our seniors have been matched with staff mentors who will help guide them along the path to graduation. Seniors are also participating in a networking mixer with local professionals to help them practice the skills they will need to succeed beyond high school. Our child development associate scholars attended the District of Columbia’s Early Childhood Summit: Brighter Futures Start Here to learn about best practices in early childhood education and meet professionals in the field. And our green entrepreneurship scholars worked with our partners at Cultivate the City to sponsor a plant sale to share some of what they’ve grown with the community. 


When IDEA re-opens after winter break, there will only be two weeks before quarter two exams. We will host two Saturday School sessions in January to provide scholars with a great opportunity to refocus and prepare for exams and portfolios. As we approach the end of the first semester of the school year, we will provide letters of understanding to all scholars that show how many high school credits they have earned and how many they still need in order to graduate on time. If you have concerns about your scholars’ progress, please contact Academic Counselor Sara Sharpe at to schedule a meeting to develop a plan of action. 


Wondering what to do over winter break? In addition to spending time with family and friends, encourage your scholars to study and find opportunities for community service. Contact Ms. Gabrielle Ciarcia at for ideas for volunteer projects. 


Please mark your calendars with these important upcoming dates!


  • December 14 | Saturday School 
  • December 19 | National Honor Society inductions
  • December 23-January 1| Winter break 
  • January 4 | Saturday School
  • January 11 | Saturday School
  • January 17 | Parent-teacher conferences (no school for scholars)
  • January 20 | Martin Luther King Jr. Day (school closed)
  • January 27 & 28 | Professional development for staff (no school for scholars)

Wishing you a bright and joyful season.



Nicole McCrae

November 2019 Message from Principal McCrae

We are able to do this because of our strong focus on critical priorities--making sure scholars are in school, ready to learn in rigorous classes, receiving intensive support if they need it, and preparing for successful futures. Because of this emphasis on the basics, we are seeing great results. 


  • Our schoolwide attendance is significantly higher than last year, with more than 90% of scholars in their seats every day. Our scholars are motivated by fresh, hot donuts! (Priority #1: Students are at school.)

  • We’ve wrapped up the first quarter and are looking forward to our quarter one awards ceremony on November 20 to recognize scholars’ dedication and hard work. In addition to regular classwork, our scholars are engaging in enriching field trips to learn about tree planting, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, DC history, and more. (Priority #2: Students are focused on their work and Priority #3: The work is aligned to strong curriculum.)

  • Our Peer Group Connection program that matches trained scholar leaders with freshmen to provide emotional and academic support is thriving. Peer leaders are serving as role models and ninth graders have trusted peers to turn to for help. Next month we will invite parents of ninth graders to learn more about the PGC program.

  • We held our first Career Expo of the school year, where 24 local professionals including attorneys, electricians, and musicians, shared their experiences and advice with our scholars. (Priority #5: Career programming is in place and coherent.)

  • We’ve taken seniors on several exciting college trips this school year and we love seeing their enthusiasm when they’re meeting college students, touring campuses, and discovering possibilities for after graduation. Next semester we will expand our college trips to include 9th-, 10th-, and 11th-graders to help all of our scholars understand the importance of getting good grades in high school so they have more options later on in life. (Priority #5: Career programming is in place and coherent.)

In other college news, we congratulate our many seniors who have already received acceptance letters from colleges and universities, including Trinity Washington University, Fayetteville State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Lafayette College.

Congratulations are also in order for Andrea Ulmer and Blessen Denney, who were selected for the DC all-star volleyball team, which played at Trinity Washington University on November 8. 

In other celebrations, our scholars and staff enjoyed Spirit Week last week, dressing in outrageous outfits and IDEA swag to demonstrate our Timberwolf pride. We ended the week with our Homecoming dance where scholars performed and danced.

Please mark your calendars with these important upcoming events:

  • Saturday, November 16 | 8:30am-noon | Saturday School
  • Saturday, November 23 | 8:30am-noon | Saturday School
  • Tuesday, November 26 | Harvest Dinner at IDEA 
  • Wednesday, November 27-Friday, November 29 | Thanksgiving Break
  • Monday, December 16 | MySchool DC Lottery opens--fill out your application online and make IDEA your #1 choice!

A special invitation to our families--let us know what matters to you in your child’s education. Please take our brief parent survey at to share your feedback. We take your opinions seriously.

As always, my door is always open if you have questions or concerns.


Nicole McCrae


October 2019 Message from Principal McCrae

Fall is finally here, and with it comes PSAT/SAT tests, quarter one exams, Spirit Week, Homecoming, Career Expo, and our Fall Festival! 

Last week all IDEA scholars took the PSAT or SAT test, depending on grade level. Performance on this test is one of many indicators of college readiness, and IDEA has helped scholars prepare to do their best on the tests. After results come in, scholars will have the opportunity to participate in intensive SAT workshops to help them prepare for future tests if they need to take them. 

This week scholars will demonstrate what they’ve learned over the course of the first quarter, and teachers will use the results of those assessments to tailor quarter two lessons to ensure scholars are on track. Please make sure your scholars are well rested before exams. As always, IDEA provides free nutritious breakfast to all scholars every day, so they will be fueled for exams.

On Thursday we will host our first Career Expo of the school year, where scholars will have the opportunity to meet with dozens of professionals from our community who work in a variety of diverse fields. 

Please join me in welcoming two new members to the IDEA community--Sybil Pernell, director of special education, and Naomi Afari, English IV teacher. We are excited to add these two energetic and creative women to our faculty. We hope you have the opportunity to get to know them soon.

Thank you to all the parents who came out last week for parent-teacher conferences so parents, scholars, and teachers can effectively work together to help scholars succeed. We are pleased that our parent engagement is always increasing. More than 80 parents attended conferences, which is our highest participation rate to date. 

Daily attendance has been consistently high, with classes earning hot and fresh Krispy Kreme donuts for 95% attendance. Attendance at Saturday School has also been strong. One recent session included 78 scholars motivated to make up work, improve their grades, or support their classmates. Our next Saturday School session will be Nov 16 from 8:30am-12:30pm. 

After all this hard work, we want to make sure our scholars have the chance to celebrate! On Friday, October 25 we will host a Hallowed-Themed Fall Festival for our scholars to enjoy after they've completed their exams. Students will rotate through a variety of stations and participate in games and arts and crafts activities. The following week, October 28-November 1, will be Spirit Week, where scholars can participate in themed outfit days including Twin Day (dress like your favorite IDEA teacher or staff member), Jersey Day (show your favorite sport team pride), and Breast Cancer Awareness Day (wear pink). Finally, the last day of Spirit Week on November 1 will include our Homecoming Dance, from 6-9pm at IDEA with the theme, Lights, Camera, Action!

My door is always open if you have any questions about IDEA.


Nicole McCrae

September 2019 Message from Principal McCrae


Welcome back to school, Timberwolves!


This is our fourth week of instruction for this school year! We have completed our MAP testing for 9th and 10th graders and 11th and 12th graders who are new to IDEA to assess their current reading and math levels. This information enables us to tailor teaching to the needs of our students and provides a baseline so we can see how much they’ve grown by the end of the year. Scholars received their first progress reports of the school year this week. We encourage families to pay close attention to the progress reports so they can support their scholar in improving or maintaining their performance in school.


Our new Dean’s List initiative encourages scholars to earn Guiding Five Principle Points through excellent attendance and behavior. Scholars who attend school on time every day will be rewarded for their dedication. Principle Points can be redeemed for IDEA swag, food, headphones, and more. Our school store is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 3:30pm-4:30pm. 


This year on Wednesdays we are focusing on school culture activities instead of clubs to ensure that our scholars are thriving socially and emotionally as well as academically. During this period, ninth graders meet with their Peer Group Connection peer leaders. Other opportunities for scholars’ enrichment include restorative justice circles, town hall meetings, schoolwide assemblies, and Workforce Wednesdays, where scholars can meet professionals from a variety of fields to explore possible careers.


We are excited that so many scholars are enrolled in our career and technical education classesthis fall, including carpentry, child development, video game design, print entrepreneurship, and green entrepreneurship. The University of the District of Columbia Community College is offering a college-level course in personal finance at IDEA on Wednesdays, taught by UDCCC business professor Albert Pearsall.


Already preparing for their upcoming internships, 13 scholars were accepted by Urban Alliance for year-long internships. Scholars will receive their internship placements soon. Right now they are learning about professional dress and behavior and the expectations for interns.


A few dates to remember:


  • Our next Saturday School session is September 21. Saturday School is open to all scholars from 8:30am to noon and includes a free hot breakfast. 
  • Parent Boosters meets Thursday, September 19 from 6pm-7pm in room 108 to discuss how families can work together with our staff this year to support our scholars.
  • College financial aid information session for senior families will be held September 24from 5-6:30pm to provide guidance on how to apply for financial aid with the FAFSA.
  • Trinity University will visit IDEA September 24.
  • Prince George’s Community College will visit IDEA September 25.
  • Morgan State University will visit IDEA October 1.
  • Our school-wide SAT test is October 16. Seniors who attend Saturday School and take practice SAT tests to prepare for the SAT receive gift cards and other incentives. 
  • Eligible scholars will visit Towson University and Goucher College on October 18 
  • Eligible seniors will visit the University of Maryland Eastern Shore on October 23 

So many exciting opportunities are available for our scholars. We hope our families and our community will continue to support our scholars in taking advantage of everything IDEA has to offer.



Nicole McCrae


August 2019 Message from Principal McCrae


Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year! We look forward to seeing all of our new and returning families at our back to school bash on August 21 from 5pm to 7:30pm at IDEA. We will be serving a delicious catered dinner, playing great music, hosting games, and giving away prizes! Come meet our teachers and staff and see what's planned for this school year.

One of the challenges in education is how to make learning fresh and engaging for scholars while ensuring that we always cover the basics and provide a strong foundation for every scholar’s future. At IDEA we consistently strive to improve our teaching and enhance learning and growth opportunities for our scholars. We realize, however, that in order to make the most of their education, scholars must show up ready to learn.


2019-2020 Priorities

IDEA has established five priorities for this school year:

  • Students are at school.
  • Students are focused on their work.
  • The work is aligned to strong curriculum.
  • Reading interventions are in place for (new) students 2+ grade levels behind.
  • Career programming is in place and coherent

College and Career Readiness

We want our scholars to leave IDEA with a diploma in one hand and a plan in the other. In recognition of the variety of pathways available to reach success, we’ve hired Andrea Zimmermann as our new Director of Career and Technical Education. Ms. Zimmerman will oversee our current career and technical education programs including the Academy of Construction and Design, the Child Development Associate program, video game design and coding with TAG Labs, and our newer environmental entrepreneurship and print and graphic design entrepreneurship classes. Opportunities for scholars to explore additional career pathways through Urban Alliance internships, and college-level classes through the University of the District of Columbia Community College, also fall under Ms. Zimmermann’s purview. While we have supported IDEA scholars taking classes at UDCCC for several years, this semester we will be bringing UDCCC to IDEA. Professor Albert Pearsall will be teaching a college course in personal finance Wednesdays at IDEA at no cost to scholars. Interested scholars should see Ms. Zimmermann for details. 


New Teachers

We are excited to welcome two new science teachers--Andrew Christian and Gabrielle Ciarcia to our staff this year. IDEA is expanding our partnership with Urban Teachers as we welcome three new teaching residents into our classrooms. Julia Matthews and Julie Payne will be assisting in English classes and Carly Klinenberg will be helping in math classes. They will be learning as they go from their IDEA co-teachers and taking a full course load of education classes in the master’s degree program at Johns Hopkins University’s Washington, DC campus. Please join me in welcoming our new teachers to the IDEA family!


Professional Development

To better support our teachers in their work, we have created new professional development models based on input from teachers about specific challenges they have and areas where they want to grow. Led by Vice Principal Shomari Jennings, newer teachers will be paired with more experienced educators, all staff will receive coaching, and teachers will be able to share their areas of expertise with their peers. 



Remember that the reason for school uniforms is to avoid the distraction and sense of competition that wearing the latest clothes or sporting expensive accessories can bring to school. We require scholars to come to school in full uniform, but we offer flexible options so scholars can feel comfortable in what they’re wearing. Your scholar is in uniform when they are wearing

  • IDEA logo polo, button down shirt or fleece
  • Black or tan khaki pants or skirt (no holes or rips) 
  • Sneakers, flats, black dress shoes, ankle boots 
  • Black belt (if pants or skirt goes below waist) 


For a complete list of our uniform guidelines, please visit


MAP Testing

Finally, note that scholars will take MAP assessments at the beginning of the school year. These tests will not count toward their grades, but will provide a benchmark of what they know and where they need to grow, so that we can use all of the tools and techniques at our disposal to help strengthen scholars minds, abilities, and futures this school year.


I look forward to working with all of you this year.




Nicole McCrae