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Archive for August, 2014

What's New in After-School for 2014-15?

With each new school year comes new enrichment activities! Check out some of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s newest programs launching in September 2014. For more information, or to meet the club advisors, be sure to check out our annual Clubs Fair on September 11th, 2014.

The Aspen Challenge

This year, Thurgood Marshall Academy will be participating in The Aspen Challenge. Launched in a new U.S. city each year, The Aspen Challenge will take place in Washington, DC in 2014. The Aspen Challenge begins with a city-wide forum for students and teachers from partner high schools throughout DC. At the forum, leaders pioneering change to some of the world’s most pressing social, educational, or economic issues present a challenge to the teams: to devise a solution to an issue affecting their communities. Equipped with tools and support, teams then design a solution to their selected challenge. Seven weeks later, they present their solutions on stage in a daylong competition. Teams who demonstrate the most innovative and effective solutions are selected to advance and showcase their work at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2015.

One Hundred Hours

Thurgood Marshall Academy’s newest volunteerism-oriented club will assist students in meeting the 100 community service needed to earn a high school diploma, while exposing them to the myriad of service opportunities within their communities. Club members will commit at least one weekend day per month to community service, and will research different non-profit and community-based organizations throughout DC to determine host sites their work. Prior to each community service trip, they will lead a discussion session during the club meeting to talk about the issue they plan to work on, the strategies they will use to provide service, and what they hope to get out of the experience. One Hundred Hours will be open to upperclassmen.

Library Internship Program

With the support of the DC Public Library, Thurgood Marshall Academy will launch a library internship program in Fall 2014 – the first such program for public or public charter high schools in DC. The program, intended to bolster minority student interest and participation in the in-demand field of library sciences, will offer students a background in the inner-workings of a library, and connect them to library sciences professionals working in a variety of different settings – including a law firm, museum, and local elementary school.

A Parent's Perspective: Interview with Mrs. Betty Jackson

As her daughter MaKayla Jackson kicks off her final year of high school, Mrs. Betty Jackson reflects on her experience as a Thurgood Marshall Academy parent.

When researching MaKayla’s options for high school, Mrs. Jackson notes that her family specifically sought Thurgood Marshall Academy because of its Tier 1 status, the highest designation from the DC Public Charter School Board, “[because] private school was not an option for our family.” Thurgood Marshall Academy wasn’t the only top-school the Jacksons considered when making the decision of where MaKayla would attend high school. MaKayla was offered interview opportunities at Banneker High School, McKinley Tech, and other selective DCPS high schools. But based on their interactions with the school’s faculty and staff – particularly with Executive Director Alexandra Pardo – the Jacksons decided that Thurgood Marshall Academy would be the best option for their family. “Mrs. Pardo goes out of her way, pulls up her sleeves, and truly listens to the concerns of her parents and her students. She knows her students. She knows their struggles and is genuinely concerned about every single one of them,” Mrs. Jackson explains.

The family was also impressed by the differentiated instruction that students received at Thurgood Marshall Academy. At other schools, says Mrs. Jackson, “there was a cookie-cutter method” to the educational models where “you either fit in or you did not,” while Thurgood Marshall Academy programs were tailored to each student’s strengths and weaknesses.

With its rigorous academics and wide range of out-of-school programs, “Thurgood Marshall Academy has provided so many opportunities for MaKayla,” including the chance to take college courses at University of the District of Columbia. “She wouldn’t have that option at other schools,” says Mrs. Jackson. Outside the classroom, MaKayla is a member of SASS – “Sister Action, Sister Strength” – an after-school club that empowers young women and focuses on building health relationships. She’s also a member of the Green Club, and a regular fixture after school, remaining in the building at the end of the day to volunteer with teachers and the programs staff, earning community service hours for her efforts.

It’s not just the students who benefit from wrap-around support programs; Thurgood Marshall Academy plans workshops that empower families as well. Mrs. Jackson is a regular attendee at Thurgood Marshall Academy’s parent and family workshops, and has committed to a leadership position within the school as a member of the Board of Trustees. In particular, she highlights her experiences at the school’s College Nights, which prepare families for the college application process, and the financial commitments of an undergraduate education. “I have thoroughly enjoyed the information provided,” says Mrs. Jackson. “These discussions allow me to see and meet some one of my daughter’s classmates, in addition to setting goals for MaKayla as we prepare for the next steps.”

New Teacher Meet and Greet: Ms. Gamoran Joins TMA's History Department

Thurgood Marshall Academy has a new history teacher this year: Ms. Naomi Gamoran will be joining the Social Studies Department as the World History I and Psychology teacher. Though Ms. Gamoran is new to the Social Studies Department, she’s not new to Thurgood Marshall Academy. She served as an Academics Associate during the 2013-14 school year through Avodah, a Jewish Service Corps, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013.

Avodah, an AmeriCorp-style program, places recent college graduates in high-impact organization that fights the causes and effects of poverty. With an interest in education and academics, Ms. Gamoran found a placement in Thurgood Marshall Academy as an Academics Associate. In this role, she provided support to teachers, and planned academic-related events – such as Thurgood Marshall Academy’s first annual STEM fair in April 2014. “Avodah allowed me to gain experience working in a school beyond classroom teaching. I was able to see the entirety of how the school operates,” Ms. Gamoran says of her experience. Her year-long Avodah commitment reinforced what she already knew about her goals: “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, even though I didn’t study education in college.” She chose to study history “because I love the subject. It’s the story of humanity. You can’t understand the present unless you understand the past.”

Avodah volunteers typically spend only one year with the organizations they serve. But Ms. Gamoran knew she wasn’t ready to leave Thurgood Marshall Academy: “it’s such an incredible school,” she says. “There’s a wonderful support structure for faculty and staff, impressive peer support, and a lot of energy in the building. There are high expectations for students, and I couldn’t imagine leaving after just one year.”

Ms. Gamoran hopes that, as a history teacher, she’ll be able to share her passion for the subject with her students. “I think a lot of students believe history is boring – they don’t understand why it’s important to learn about what happened in the past. And if you present it that way, it can be boring,” she admits. “As a history teacher, I want my students to be able to make connections between the past and the present.” She’s most excited to teach her students about the Renaissance and Reformation: “I love all things British history, and they are a major component of that.”

Thurgood Marshall Academy Celebrates Student Achievements on the 2014 DC CAS

The results of the 2014 DC Comprehensive Assessment (DC CAS) are in, and school-level scores confirm what we already knew: Thurgood Marshall Academy continues to be one of the highest performing non-selective high schools in the District of Columbia. We provide, to students and families in Ward 8, a local, high-quality option where all students can succeed.

With an overall index score of 79.4 – a composite of the school’s subject-area scores (math, reading, composition, biology) – Thurgood Marshall Academy earned the status of Rising school this year, falling just short of the 80.0 target for Reward school classification. Thurgood Marshall Academy’s overall index score averaged 55 percentage points higher than neighboring District of Columbia Public High Schools (DCPS) in Ward 8, an indication of the significant need for high performing high schools for youth in this community.

Our DC CAS results showcase the tremendous effort of the school’s students, faculty, and staff during the 2013-14 school year. Thurgood Marshall Academy had the highest composition proficiency score of all non-selective high schools in the District and ranked 5th city-wide behind four selective DCPS magnet schools (Banneker High School, School Without Walls, Ellington School for the Arts, and McKinley Technology High School) – all of which require students to go through a rigorous application process prior to admission. Thurgood Marshall Academy also had the 2nd highest math proficiency score, 3rd highest reading proficiency score, and 4th highest biology score of all non-selective public high schools.

As a non-selective high school, Thurgood Marshall Academy works with students who enter 9th grade representing over 60 different middle schools; students come to Thurgood Marshall Academy with a wide range of proficiency levels and a disparate range of pedagogical experiences. Excluding the four highly selective DCPS magnet high schools, Thurgood Marshall Academy, along with Ward 8 neighbor KIPP DC College Prep, are the only non-selective high schools (in a field of 31 high schools, both DCPS and Public Charter), to approach the 80-point mark for overall index scores. It is clear, from this score, that Thurgood Marshall Academy is committed to providing an effective education to all students, regardless of their incoming ability.