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Archive for July, 2015

Thurgood Marshall Academy names Richard Pohlman Interim Executive Director

WASHINGTON — Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Board of Trustees announced that Richard Pohlman has been named as the school’s Interim Executive Director.

Mr. Pohlman is an experienced leader with more than a decade of experience in the Washington, D.C., education, legal, and policy sectors. He is currently serving as the Chief of Operations and Policy at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, overseeing the daily operations and budgets across three schools, and served as its Acting Head of School with the departure of founder Jennie Niles. He previously worked at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education as a legal advisor. Prior to his work there, he was a Presidential Fellow at the United States Department of Education. He also has classroom experience working with upper elementary and middle school students.

Mr. Pohlman will be the school’s third Executive Director since its founding in 2001, succeeding Alexandra Pardo, who worked at the school for nine years and served as its Executive Director since 2011. Since its founding in 2001, Thurgood Marshall Academy has become one of the highest-performing high schools in the District. The school boasts a 100% college acceptance rate, and its alumni graduation rates exceed the national average.

“We are thrilled that Rich has agreed to join TMA.  With his extensive experience and dedication to public education, Rich will ensure the school continues to fulfill its mission,” said Kannon Shanmugam, Chair of the Board.  “I am grateful to the staff and leadership of the school for their participation in the search process and for their help in bringing that process to such a successful conclusion. On behalf of the Board and staff, I also want to thank Alexandra for her service as Executive Director.”

Ms. Pardo will continue in her current role through August 14.  Mr. Pohlman will start at TMA in his new role on August 17.


About Thurgood Marshall Academy: Founded in 2001, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s mission is to prepare students to succeed in college and actively engage in our democratic society. Thurgood Marshall Academy is an open enrollment public charter high school in Ward 8’s Anacostia. It is one of the highest performing non-selective high schools in the District and serves 400 students. The school upholds Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s legacy of equal opportunity through its commitment to providing an excellent education for all students.

A Journey from Average to Great: Aris’ Story

Aris Morrison, Class of 2010

Aris Morrison, Class of 2010

Thurgood Marshall Academy is proud of its 100% college acceptance rate among graduating seniors. To carry on this 11-year tradition, the College Counseling office works strategically with students to guide them along the application process. The efforts ensure that seniors apply for schools in three specific buckets: reach, target, and safety. Aris Morrison (TMA ‘10) remembers being introduced to this idea in Senior Seminar, a required course for 12th graders. He learned that reach schools were more competitive to gain acceptance into and target schools are often a student’s top choice because they meet the standards in most, if not all, of the required areas. However, the class lesson became a life-lesson when Morrison realized he identified with students more likely to be accepted into safety schools, colleges or universities for students who have not performed well academically.


Students Transform into World Leaders During Trip to Spain & Morocco

Five Thurgood Marshall Academy students ignited their passion for cultural enrichment when they signed up for an intensive 18-month long program with the Global Scholars Foundation (GSF). GSF is dedicated to transforming District youth, many of whom are first generation college students and residents of DC’s most underserved Wards, into culturally competent world travelers.

After identifying students who have expressed interest in learning a foreign language and exploring a new culture, GSF introduces them to the language and cultural practices of the country they will travel in the summer. This year, after five students in the sophomore and junior classes persisted through the enrichment programs provided by GSF throughout the year, they joined their peers from neighborhood schools for a 12-day exploration throughout Spain and Morocco.

Our students’ participation in the program aligns with Thurgood Marshall Academy’s two-part mission that prepares students to succeed in college and actively engage in our democratic society. Not only have these students excelled academically, but their desire to delve into issues that provide the opportunity to be world leaders is impressive. The experience, according to GSF, is intended to open local teens’ eyes to the world as they know it and open their minds to the global world of which they belong.

The journey started off in Spain where the students went on a guided tour in some of the country’s famous and historic cities including Madrid, Seville, and Andalucía. In Madrid, the group enjoyed a panoramic city tour and got up close and personal with The Royal Palace, Cibeles and Neptuno Fountains, and other attractions.


Darrius Cook (right), 2015 GSF Scholar

“Madrid feels like a foreign New York, and I love that,” said Darrius Cook, 11th grader at Thurgood Marshall Academy. “My favorite part of the trip so far is the tour of the Mosques and Jewish Quarter. It was out of this world. The architecture of the buildings, the halls, and the pillars were breathtaking.”

In Seville, students brushed up on their dancing skills during an interactive Flamenco tour. Andalucía led students to Ronda just before they made way to Costa Del Sol where they boarded a Ferry that took them into Morocco. Keeping Thurgood Marshall Academy’s goal to prepare students for college at the center of the trip, students visited the oldest existing, continually operating and the first degree awarding university in the world, located in Fes, Morocco.


Thomas Dabney, 2015 GSF scholar

While all the students were fascinated with the cultured and historical landmarks and attractions, some students were able to reconnect with loved ones. “I am excited to continue traveling. In Morocco, I hope to see my Uncle Moe. He lives in Rabat,” said Thomas Dabney, rising senior at Thurgood Marshall Academy.

For more of our students’ reactions to and experiences from Spain and Morocco, read their travel blog online at:   




Thurgood Marshall Academy Received National Media Coverage in Politico Magazine

Politco Mag

Read more.

Politico Magazine spotlights Thurgood Marshall Academy in “You’re Not Going to Give Up,” an informative piece that showcases the evolution of the Charter School movement in Washington, DC.

The article is part of a larger series titled “What Works” and features Thurgood Marshall Academy alumni, dedicated volunteers, the organizer of the unique Law Day program, and other key staff and faculty. Co-founder of the school, Josh Kern, even addresses the naysayers who attempted to corrupt his vision – to open a high school to any student and have them prepared to be successful in college.

Under the current leadership of Executive Director Alexandra Pardo, Thurgood Marshall Academy underwent a vast transformation that is relived in the article. Pardo and Kern candidly uncover lessons learned and the challenges they faced on the way to meeting and exceeding their goals. Today, students’ success is no longer confined to a small corner of DC, but to a much broader context that shapes their academic journeys.

Check out our favorite tidbits from the article, which explores Thurgood Marshall Academy and delves into the Charter School movement that started almost 25 years ago.

  • Thurgood Marshall Academy is located in Anacostia, one of the most underserved areas of Washington, D.C.
  • D.C. today stands out because a whopping 44 percent of all its public school students—36,565 young people in 112 schools—are enrolled in charter schools, the highest state percentage in the nation.
  • The hallways [in Thurgood Marshall Academy] are hushed. There are no jangling PA announcements, no clanging bell to mark the end of class, no metal detectors at the front door.
  • At Thurgood Marshall Academy, 100 percent of the school’s graduates are accepted into college. And two-thirds of those students finish college, a rate that is higher than the national average.
  • The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in an October 2014 report monitoring the health of public charter schools in terms of growth, innovation and quality, ranked D.C. number one in the nation.
  • Thurgood Marshall Academy graduates have gone on to—and graduated from—Bates, Temple, the University of Vermont, the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin and dozens of other universities.
  • Thurgood Marshall Academy has had the highest test scores among open-enrollment public schools.
  • Thurgood Marshall Academy’s teachers average about seven years of teaching experience, and 80 percent of them have graduate degrees.
  • TMA graduates go on to finish college within five years at a rate of 65-68 percent in comparison to the national college graduation rate within five years of 55 percent.
politico2 Photos by: Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for Politico Magazine

Read more and see our students in action in the interactive gallery featured with the article.

Juniors Have Law Firm Tutoring to Thank for Success

P1020574Now that most students are home for the summer, they have time to reflect on some of the achievements that they’ve accomplished this past school year.

Juniors who were promoted are preparing for senior year. They forged through a challenging curriculum that included SAT preparation, AP and Honors courses, and portfolio presentations. Among the extra supports that keep students on track at TMA, juniors have the opportunity to get additional guidance alongside lawyers during bi-weekly Law Firm Tutoring.

An after-school program built into Thurgood Marshall Academy’s law-themed curriculum, Law Firm Tutoring is an enrichment activity that gives 11th graders access to knowledgeable legal professionals who help them apply legal skills to their school work and civic engagement efforts. The seasoned lawyers, all of whom work one-on-one with students, exhibit and apply the same legal skills that students are required to implement throughout their academic performance.

Pairing students with like-minded professionals ensures that they develop and learn the skills that lawyers have – the ability to solve complex problems, think critically, and advocate persuasively. Students come prepared to go over classwork, edit college essays, research scholarship opportunities, or talk about current events and other topics they discover they have in common with tutors.

P1020575“Even though they [law firm tutors] are intellectuals, they are easy to gel with and will help break you out of your shell,” said Jibri Tucker, 11th grader. “I see Law Firm Tutoring as a good experience because law firm tutors encourage students to pick up the slack – if there is any. They really care.”

This school year, six law firms participated in the program and provided public support to the junior class. Each tutor imparted not just academic knowledge, but sound advice that can guide college and career choices and student efforts to serve our democratic society.


  • Blank Rome
  • Crowell & Moring
  • Jenner & Block
  • King & Spalding
  • Vinson & Elkins
  • Williams & Connolly