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Archive for August, 2016

Thurgood Marshall Academy Students Outperform Peers on PARCC

WASHINGTON – Results on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) show that Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) is the best high school East of the River, and remains one of the top-performing high schools in the District of Columbia.

TMA’s tenth graders took the PARCC exam and outperformed their peers across all subgroups; most notably, on the math portion, students had a 15% gain from last year. The chart below shows the percentage of TMA students who met or exceeded expectations (Level 4+), compared to all high schools city-wide.

PARCC 2016

“These results are a testament to our students’ hard work and the teachers and staff who prepared them,” said Richard Pohlman, TMA’s Executive Director. “While a great number of our students are on track to graduate college-ready, we continue to focus on ensuring that all of our students have the tools necessary to succeed in college and beyond.”

Each year, more than half of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s incoming students arrive with math and reading skills below grade level; yet by the time they graduate, they are enrolling and attending college at rates far above the District and national averages. For the past 12 years, 100% of TMA’s graduates have been accepted to college. Last year, more than 85% of graduating students enrolled in college within one year of graduation. More than 62% of our graduates successfully complete college within five years, compared to 5% from Wards 7 and 8.

This is the second year for PARCC exams – the Common Core-aligned assessment of K-12 students in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics, which replaced the DC CAS. Because it is more rigorous and presents a fuller picture of student learning, PARCC is considered to be a better indicator of college and career readiness for students. Results are scored on a level of 1 to 5; for tenth graders, a Level 4 or 5 indicates they are on track to leave high school college and career ready.

When the District announced the transition to PARCC in 2011, Thurgood Marshall Academy took a number of steps to prepare, including aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessments with the new, more rigorous Common Core standards. “We are so proud of our students’ academic progress – there is much to celebrate,” said Melanie Sala, Head of School. “We will continue to refine our curriculum to meet the needs of all students, and are focusing on areas of growth.”
More information about PARCC can be found at


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.

Positive Role Models Keep Students on Track


Mr. Bruno works closely with students in Senior Seminar and helps them navigate the college application process.

After leaving a government contractor job at the Pentagon in 2015, Kevin Bruno didn’t know what was next. He just knew that the “routine position” left him feeling unfulfilled and in search for something more rewarding. During the summer of that year, Mr. Bruno applied for open substitute teacher positions at high schools in East of the River communities—neighborhoods where “students see more negativity than success.” Though Mr. Bruno had very little teaching experience, he believed that just being a school presence and a positive role model as a black man could be helpful to students from Wards 7 and 8.

“When I was in high school, there was only one black male teacher in the school,” he said. Mr. Bruno credits Justin Williams, Special Education Teacher, Sanjay Mitchell, Director of College and Alumni Programming, and other African-American longtime faculty and staff who, he says, gives students a positive image of black men. “For the young boys who don’t have a father-figure in the home or positive male influences in their communities, they have a hard time believing that they can be different because they don’t see it.”

When Mr. Bruno took on a long-term substitute position at Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA), he learned quickly about TMA’s tier 1 status and the school’s expectations of students. He taught mostly freshmen classes, filling in for English teachers and he even taught Summer Prep English this past summer. “By the time freshmen make it to senior year, they have proven to be scholars. After four years of TMA’s rigorous curriculum, students are ready for college,” he says.

Mr. Bruno’s long-term sub position opened the door to infinite possibilities and now Mr. Bruno is a full-time staff member at TMA, supporting the College Counseling Department as the Alumni Program and College Counseling Associate. Shifting from the day-to-day classroom experience to the office setting, Mr. Bruno says that he’s looking forward to the challenge. “In my new role, I interact mostly with alumni.”

Mr. Bruno also teaches Senior Seminar, a course where 12th graders delve into the college application process. This part of the position has come full circle for Mr. Bruno, who worked in the admissions office at Virginia State University. As a Student Ambassador, he led guided tours, scheduled and coordinated open houses, oversaw freshmen orientation, and assessed applications. Mr. Bruno advises students to “just be yourself” when completing college applications. “Yes, your transcript is important but it’s the things you’ve done outside of the classroom that will set you apart.”

Shifting to the college counseling side, Mr. Bruno sees how TMA’s family culture doesn’t end once students head off to college. He oversees the school’s Emergency Alumni Fund and has already assisted alumni from four different classes with books and travel expenses to campus. Currently, he’s planning Senior Parent College Night, which, for the first time, will feature TMA alumni and their parents who will share how the college experience is very much a family commitment.

“Senior year can be very stressful for students but when they have a community of support at school and at home, that takes a lot of pressure off. Once they’re accepted to college, everyone in their circle realizes that the hard work really was worth it,” he ends.


Executive Director Pens Open Letter to TMA Teachers


Richard Pohlman, TMA’s Executive Director, is excited to see how the school year unfolds.

Dear TMA Warriors:

For the past two weeks, during Teacher Academy and as we prepared ourselves to be and do our best for students, I was reminded why the work we do as educators is important. Our namesake, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, is the driving force behind our mission—to prepare students to succeed in college and to actively engage in our democratic society. I know that each of you are here to do the work that matters for our students and families—to make sure that the education inequity that has persisted for years for many of our students ends when they walk through our doors.

It is so inspiring to watch all of you, a capable group of dedicated teachers and school leaders, work increasingly hard to make sure that each of our students is pushed to be great and given a place to be themselves. In 1954, the year Justice Marshall won Brown v. Board of Education, the historic case that outlawed ‘separate but equal’ schools in America, Mr. Marshall celebrated the milestone but acknowledged that, as a nation, “our work has just begun.”

While we still have work to do so that all students have access to an excellent education no matter where she or he might reside, I am proud of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s commitment to student success. Every day, your role as a devoted educator carries on the ‘work’ that Mr. Marshall advocated for more than 60 years ago.

Thank you all for all that you do, and happy first day of 2016-2017!



Richard Pohlman
Executive Director

TMA Continues to Include Families in Students’ College Career Planning

For 15 years, Thurgood Marshall Academy has been providing college preparatory resources to students from Wards 7 and 8, DC’s most underserved neighborhoods. In addition to academically rigorous courses, a law-themed curriculum, and free after-school enrichment activities, TMA is one of a handful of schools in Southeast, DC that offers a full-service College Counseling Department. The College and Alumni team give students the tools they need to get into, enroll and succeed in, and graduate from college. Now, with a new partnership with Flamboyan Foundation’s Family Engagement in College Readiness Learning Program, TMA can continue to extend college access services to families by including parents and guardians in their student’s college career planning.

“Most of our students are first-generation college goers,” said Sanjay Mitchell, TMA’s Director of College and Alumni Programming. “Therefore, it’s key that their parents understand not just the college application process, but other elements like financing college, scholarship opportunities, financial aid requirements, and so much more.”

Working alongside Flamboyan Foundation, Mr. Mitchell developed a new family engagement initiative to incorporate into TMA’s college access program. Last year, parents were invited to join students on a five-day college tour for the junior class. Forty-four families participated in college programs that were specific to 11th graders, and 13 family members attended a TMA-coordinated college trip with their student.

TMA’s list of annual family engagement college activities also include Senior Parent College Night, Application Help Night, FAFSA Informational Night, Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Day, and FAFSA Tax Night. Approximately 90% of parents and families attended local in-school activities and college-planning workshops. “These programs shed light on the avenues that parents and families need to take so that they can be advocates for their student’s post-secondary career,” said Mr. Mitchell.


Ty Harris, who parents two recent TMA graduates, participated in Flamboyan Foundation’s focus group interview.

Recently, Flamboyan Foundation conducted focus group interviews with 12 TMA parents and families to learn how TMA makes them feel ‘welcomed,’ how this quality is influential in helping them, as parents, take an active role in their child’s academic success, and what areas TMA can improve upon to better engage families this school year. During the focus group interviews, which were hosted on-site at TMA, parents and students alike shared that teachers have proven to have the ability to address academic challenges and work closely with students to develop a plan of action.

Flamboyan Foundation partners with TMA and college counselors from four other high schools that participate in a professional learning community to share best practices and findings about family engagement in college readiness programs across the District.

This year, Mr. Mitchell will continue to develop a program for families to help students persist at the college where they originally enroll.


Meet Melanie Sala, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Head of School

Melanie Sala2Melanie Sala, Head of School, holds a Bachelor of Science from The Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Education from the University of Massachusetts, and a post-graduate certificate in Educational Leadership from George Washington University. Ms. Sala began her career in education as a middle and high school English teacher, for which she received the Rubenstein and Impact Awards for Highly Effective Teaching. Prior to joining the Thurgood Marshall Academy family, Ms. Sala also served as a department chair, an instructional and literacy coach, an assistant principal and central office administrator. She has taught Master’s candidates at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development and worked to prepare new teachers through The New Teacher Project.  After working to strategically support student achievement and the growth of teachers in these contexts, Ms. Sala is excited to return to her true passion, working directly with students, teachers and families in a mission driven high school committed to excellence. At the heart of Ms. Sala’s work is her unwavering commitment to securing equity, equality, social and economic justice by providing every student with an exceptional and compelling high school experience that leads to college, career and engaged, empowered citizenship.

The Head of School is a critical member of the executive leadership team at Thurgood Marshall Academy. In this full-time, supervisory position Ms. Sala is responsible for daily instruction, curriculum development, teacher observation and feedback, academic assessments, and overall academic performance at the school.