March 2019 Principal's Message
Spring is in the air! I hope you are enjoying the sunshine and warmer weather as much as we are. With Spring on its way, that also means that we have just over a quarter of the school year left and we aim to finish strong!
This is the beginning of testing season, where our scholars have the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve been learning all year long. Our English language learners just completed Access testing to show their improvement in English proficiency. Schoolwide exams to wrap up quarter three will take place the last week of March. Our juniors took the SAT this month to help them prepare for early college admissions. Our DC Science PARCC testing is coming soon. All of our scholars are brushing up on their test-taking strategies, and we encourage families to help scholars get rejuvenated to showcase their best efforts on the exams.
Yesterday, we celebrated Pi Day (3.14 are the first three digits of the number Pi) with exciting activities throughout the school. Scholars recited dozens of digits of Pi--which required impressive memorization--played games, made art, and more to engage their math skills.
Additionally, we are proud to announce that 100% of our seniors have been accepted to at least one college for next year! Acceptance letters and scholarship offers are still coming in, and we are excited to see where the futures of our hardworking seniors will take them. Let’s keep our seniors motivated to walk that final lap in Quarter 4.
Attendance has improved at all grade levels thanks to attendance incentives and diligence from our scholars and families. However, we are still asking for more support from families to ensure that every scholar is at school every day unless they are seriously sick or injured. To make sure scholars are learning everything they need to know to master subjects and pass their classes, they need to be in school consistently. If you have concerns about your scholar’s attendance and would like help from the school, please contact me or your child’s dean. Our key priorities for the fourth quarter are scholar growth in attendance and academics.
While we are still focusing on daily lessons in the classroom, we are also beginning to plan for this summer and fall. Scholars who will need to attend summer school should have received letters in the mail. We will provide more details about summer school in April. Ninth-, tenth-, and eleventh-grade scholars have selected their courses for the 2019-2020 school year, in consultation with administrators, to determine the next steps on their educational paths.
We have made a lot of progress this school year, but there is always room for improvement, and our team is working diligently to support and encourage all of our scholars to succeed. We rely on our families and community to join us in these efforts. For this reason, we encourage you to attend our next Parent Booster gathering on Thursday, April 4 at 5:30pm. Hope to see you there!
As always, if you have any questions, my door is always open.
Next time you’re visiting IDEA, be sure to look closely at the walls! On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, IDEA hosted 150 volunteers, coordinated by City Year DC, to help add inspiration and spirit to our building. We are grateful to everyone who came out to paint! We now have a Timberwolves mural in our gym and inspirational quotes in every hallway to help promote school pride. We are especially thankful to parents who came out to support our project. This day of service was part of an initiative between DC Public Schools and the DC Public Charter School Board to promote more collaboration among public and charter schools. At the opening ceremony for the day, we heard from DC Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee and Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray. IDEA is proud to serve the Ward 7 community and beyond.
Just as we’re improving our facility, we’re also working to strengthen our scholars’ and families’ commitment to being in school, on time, every day. We are teaching lessons about the importance of coming to class consistently and promptly, and providing parents with timely updates around their scholar’s attendance. This week we implemented a new daily bell schedule, making advisory at the start of our day. The school day still begins at 8:25, with students expected to arrive by 8:15 in order to be seated in advisory when the bell rings. Advisory period is just as critical to your child’s education as any other class. Advisory is when students receive targeted intervention to make sure they are working at grade level, and when juniors and seniors take free SAT preparation classes. All of us at IDEA are working hard to instill a love of learning and the value of education in our scholars, but we need our scholars, their families, and our community to come together to make this happen.
Not only do we demand excellence from our scholars, but we also require our teachers and staff to do their best to grow as educators. To this end, we recently completed our mid-year teacher portfolio presentations--just like we did with scholar portfolios. Teachers and school leaders went through the process of reflecting on their commitment to IDEA’s instructional principles and on their contributions to the school community. The school wide portfolio process motivates staff and scholars to take initiative and strive for continued growth. Teachers understand what it means to be an innovative teacher and we help them access the tools they need to succeed. I am proud of our staff and our scholars on their thoughtful self-reflection during this process!
We also invited the Danielson Group--an educational consulting firm--to spend time in every IDEA classroom observing the quality of teaching and learning. While we are awaiting their official report, evaluators told us that our staff is dedicated and our scholars are engaged. We look forward to receiving their detailed recommendations so we can continue to improve as a school community.
Engaged families are also essential to the growth and development of our community. We are thrilled to be seeing so many parents attend our parent boosters and parent engagement events, coordinated by our clinical staff. We had a great turnout at our January dinner and have scheduled several more events this school year. We are also conducting a parent survey to learn more about the needs of IDEA families. Please complete the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HYZL52
As always, we welcome your suggestions for improvement and appreciate your willingness to support what we do at IDEA.Yours,
December 2018 Principal’s Message
As we approach this winter holiday, IDEA scholars, staff, and families are eager for time to relax and spend time with family and friends. We welcome the opportunity to renew our spirits, celebrate the accomplishments of 2018, and come back to school refreshed in January!
Our Parent Boosters organization, led by our school counselor Ms. Casey and our parent representative Mr. Townsend, continues to gain momentum in the area of parent involvement. Parent Boosters invites all families to our Parent Engagement Dinner the first Friday of January. We can always use more family presence and participation in our scholars’ lives, both in and out of the classroom! Our scholars will flourish when they know that teachers, staff, parents, and grandparents are all on the same page about their education, behavior, and social development. IDEA depends on families to reinforce our high expectations for scholars to help them succeed.
For example, attendance is always critically important, no matter what time of year it is. We ask that scholars miss no more than two days of school per quarter to ensure they have every opportunity to learn and stay on track. As a reward for scholars who have had perfect attendance for the past two weeks of school, we will hold a Winter Ball on Friday, December 21 from 2:30-5:30. Scholars and parents should note that IDEA provides perfect attendance incentives throughout the year.
It’s hard to believe it, but the halfway point of the school year is coming up January 18, when the second quarter and first semester come to a close. Scholars who need a little extra help to improve their grades or pass their classes are invited to our last two sessions of Saturday School for the semester, on January 5 and January 12. As always, free hot breakfast is provided!
Starting next semester, our test preparation partner Transcend will be back at IDEA to support scholars who are planning to take the PSAT or SAT this spring. We are proud of 11 IDEA juniors who earned 860 or higher on the PSAT. Juniors will take the SAT in school on March 6. Any seniors who did not earn 890 or higher on the October SAT will have the opportunity to take SAT prep in order to try to improve their scores during the next test on March 9, held at other DC locations.
We are delighted that American Sign Language is back at IDEA, being taught by visiting instructor Ms. Whittaker. Scholars learning sign language recently took a field trip to a local nursing home to sing and sign Christmas Carols for the residents. Sign language provides scholars of varying abilities with an excellent opportunity to learn a new, hands-on way to communicate and express themselves.
Mark your calendars now to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. day of service with IDEA as we welcome volunteers from City Year to help us beautify our hallways with colorful murals and positive messages. Stay tuned for details!
From the entire IDEA family, happy holidays to you and your family! We look forward to seeing you in 2019.
November Principal's Message
While the excitement of the season is upon us, and there are only a few weeks left until Winter break, every single hour spent in the classroom is still essential to our scholars’ success. We are so proud of scholars who are putting in the extra effort by attending Saturday school. We average more than 50 scholars each session, and a record number of teachers are assisting, alongside volunteers from Peace Fellowship Church who are coming to tutor.
Earlier this month we celebrated 61 scholars who earned a place on the Honor Roll with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and Principal’s Honor Roll with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. More scholars are making the honor roll than ever before! Our seniors received their results from the October SAT test, and 17 scored higher than 890. Five seniors--Faith Brooks, Kyeon Ford, Malaysia Johnson, Markese Stephens, and Kaziah White--scored more than 1000! Sometimes you need a second try to get the score you want, so 13 of our seniors will be retaking the test to improve their scores. We commend our scholars on their hard work and perseverance.
Reaching this level of achievement requires an early start and consistent attendance and dedication. Our teachers have noticed a slide in attendance in recent weeks, and we ask scholars and families to reverse this trend! Important teaching and learning happen every single day, and scholars can easily fall behind if they miss several days. Our goal is for scholars to be absent no more than two days each quarter to ensure that they are keeping up with their work and taking advantage of the educational opportunities offered to them.
It is especially important that families of ninth graders check to make sure their scholars are on track for graduation within four years. Even though graduation sounds far away now, if a scholar fails several classes for the first two quarters of high school, he will likely be required to repeat ninth grade. How can ninth grade scholars and their families make sure they’re on the right track? Parents should ask their children what their homework is each day and whether they’ve completed it. Offer to help or encourage scholars to attend tutoring or Saturday School if necessary. We are always willing to help scholars who are struggling, as long as they’re making a good faith effort to improve. Log in to PowerSchool to monitor your children's progress. Call the main office if you need help logging in. Scholars can download the PowerSchool app on their phones so they will have 24/7 access to assignments and grades. Scholars can use online tools--also available on their phones--such as IXL for math and Achieve 3000 for reading to improve their skills even when they’re not in school.
Teachers and staff at IDEA have high expectations of our scholars intellectually, socially, and behaviorally. We strive to promote a positive learning culture in and out of the classroom. Our current instructional emphasis is academic discourse--encouraging scholars to engage in high-level conversations about what they’re learning. We want scholars to be engaging with the material they’re learning, their teachers, and their peers to help create a vibrant academic community.
I am thankful for our scholars, families, staff, and community, and I appreciate the privilege of serving as IDEA’s principal. My door is always open if you have questions or concerns.
October Principal’s Message
Outside it finally feels like fall; our scholars have been building, digging, planting, reenacting, volunteering, singing, and so much more; and we’re closing in on the end of the first quarter of the school year!
We are proud that on October 10th, IDEA hosted our first ever schoolwide PSAT/SAT day, during which nearly all of our scholars completed this important college admission test, through a partnership with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the College Board. The test was given to scholars for free, and scholars were able to request that their results be sent directly to colleges and universities they may be interested in attending. By giving scholars the opportunity to take these tests during the school day at no cost to families, IDEA is eliminating a possible barrier to college, to clear the path for our scholars to succeed.
Nearly every day we receive good news in the mail as college acceptances for our seniors come rolling in. As of mid-October, nearly half of our seniors have been admitted to at least one college or university. While we recognize that not every scholar will pursue the same post-secondary path, it is our responsibility to ensure that our graduates have options.
To help our scholars envision their futures, our Workforce Friday program is going strong, with several local organizations meeting with scholars each month. This Friday we welcome the Metropolitan Police Department introducing its MPD Cadet Program, DC Fire & EMS introducing its FEMS Cadet Program, Bank of America providing financial literacy tips, the DC Department of Employment Services’ Office of Youth Programs, and SchoolTalk to introduce its Youth Leadership Network and Music Production & Career program.
This month the DC Public Charter School Board will send a team of reviewers to our campus to conduct a Qualitative Site Review. This process supports our application to renew our charter, required every five years, since we are now in our 20th year of operations. Visitors will be making classroom observations and will report back to our administrative team and the DCPCSB to provide insights into what’s working well at IDEA and areas where we can improve.
Finally, next time you stop by the school, please take the time to visit our new garden, which scholars, staff, and community partners worked hard down in the dirt to build and plant. The garden is part of our RiverSmart Schools grant from the DC Department of Energy and the Environment, and will improve the health of the Anacostia River by reducing storm runoff, provide a new destination for pollinators which benefits our food supply, and serve as a living classroom for our scholars. Creating the garden was truly a collaborative effort, and we especially thank Trinh Doan of DCDEE, Lauren Wheeler of Natural Resources Design, Lauren Meyer of Casey Trees, and our own ACAD instructor Ian Milne for their leadership.
Parents are an essential part of our support system for scholars, and we welcome and encourage parent involvement at IDEA! Please plan to attend our next Parent Boosters meeting on Thursday, November 8 at 5:30pm in room 100. We have a wide variety of areas where we would love help from parents and appreciate any assistance you can offer.
My door is always open and I love to hear from our families and community supporters.
September Principal’s Message
Welcome back to IDEA! Our 2018-2019 school year has gotten off to a fantastic start, with 319 scholars enrolled, supported by 67 faculty and staff members. Our focus this year is Engaging Scholars through Academic Rigor. Every teacher and staff member will be working to challenge our scholars, demonstrate high expectations, and do whatever it takes to motivate and inspire scholars to do their best.
We’ve expanded our teaching staff in English and math to ensure small class sizes. Our teacher-scholar ratio for 9th and 10th grades is 1 to 18. Many scholars arrive at IDEA with significant gaps in their education, and it’s up to IDEA to not only fill those gaps but extend their learning to new heights to prepare them for college and careers. Across the District of Columbia, scholars are most at risk of failing or dropping out of school in 9th grade, and one of our primary goals is to provide every scholar in our freshman class with the support they need to succeed and stay on track for graduation in 2022.
Scholars are learning that excellent attendance is essential to academic progress. Our goal this year is that scholars are absent no more than two days per quarter to ensure that they miss as little instructional time as possible. The more they’re in school, the more they will learn and the greater chances they will have of future success.
IDEA has also expanded our clinical team to meet the needs of the whole scholar and support their families. Our team now includes Director of Student Support Services Melody Washington, School Counselors Yvette Brown and Tiffany Casey, and School Psychologist Jennifer Smith.
This year four grade-level deans will serve as the direct line for scholar support, to engage with scholars, support families, help with grade-level events, and communicate academic progress. We encourage scholars and families to cultivate relationships with their deans: Germaine Jenkins—9th grade, Morrell Miles—10th grade, Ulises Bengoechoa—11th grade, and Lori Briscoe—12th grade.
Our early childhood education program has expanded to a graded course taught by professional educators from OSSE. Scholars will have the opportunity to earn valuable career certification and gain hands-on experience working with young children in child care settings in addition to their classroom learning. In collaboration with Dexterity Driving School, we will be offering driver’s education as a graded course where scholars can work toward earning their learner’s permit or driver’s license.
More opportunities for our scholars will be created and unveiled throughout the school year, and we are looking forward to sharing them with you. We appreciate your support and enthusiasm as we begin this year of learning together.
If you have any questions or concerns about your scholar’s educational experience or any of our programs at IDEA, please contact me or any member of our team.