At TMA, students are continuously give the opportunity to be active citizens and help put democracy in action. On Election Day, 46 Thurgood Marshall Academy seniors were placed at different voting locations to be poll workers. Prior to becoming poll workers, students spent 2.5 hours in a training learning how elections are conducted and received hands on experience on how to provide assistance to voters at the polls. This experience allowed our students to be exposed and gain a lifelong appreciation for the democratic process.
News & Current Events
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.
“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 www.osse.dc.gov/parcc.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Melanie 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.
Longtime faculty and staff Tara Allen, Kena Allison, and Renee Short have done more than their day-to-day duties at Thurgood Marshall Academy. Allen, a 9th grade math teacher, was the first girls’ volleyball coach in 2009. Allison, physics teacher and former interim Head of School, coached the girls’ basketball team in 2005-06. Short, TMA’s Office Manager, coached the first cheerleading squad that same year.
While the skill-set required to coach volleyball, basketball, and cheer may vary, Allen, Allison, and Short all mentored the girls on the court so that they can use their athletic drive to make invaluable life decisions. In their own words, they share how they made their teams see the connection between having a passion to excel in sports and having a passion to excel in life.
Tara Allen, Math Teacher; Girls Volleyball Coach, 2009:
I was never an athlete but through practice and perseverance, I got good at volleyball. That’s what I brought to the girls. If you want to be good at something, you have to practice. That’s the building block of math – you have to practice or you can’t be great at it, or even good at it for that matter. If you’re willing to study the ‘game,’ be willing to study math and know its foundation so you can begin to master it.
Kena Allison, Physics Teacher; Girls Basketball Coach, 2006:
I was so inspired by how the girls would continue to come to practice even though we had a losing season. The best moment was watching them improve and win our very last game. The same goes for them in life. There will be moments when you feel like you’re losing at life, but I wanted the girls to understand that if you keep going, there will be a winning moment.
Renee Short, Office Manager; Cheer Coach, 2006:
I remember when the cheerleaders performed at TMA’s first homecoming. They had practiced, but they were still very nervous because performing in front of a lot people was new to them. Then it was ‘showtime.’ The squad performed without one mistake. Despite the fear and nerves, they did it. Taking that same energy and conquering trials, tribulations, and other adversity is the bigger lesson that they learned in that very moment.
Girls Volleyball, Basketball, and the cheer squad will start practice in the fall and winter seasons.
The Class of 2016 applied to more than 250 colleges and universities across the country, and 85% of TMA seniors were accepted to two colleges or more. The College Counseling Department partners with college and universities across the country to give students access to the resources that prepare them for the college application process. In addition to on-site information sessions and workshops hosted by college representatives, the College Counseling Team coordinates several college trips and tours throughout the school year as a way to give students a hands-on experience of campus life.
Below is a full list of colleges and universities accepting the Class of 2016 and a photo gallery from graduation:
|Albany State University||University of Miami|
|Albright College||Monroe Community College|
|Allegany College of Maryland||Montgomery College|
|Baldwin Wallace University||Morehouse College|
|Bates College||Morgan State University|
|Bennett College||Morris College|
|Bethune-Cookman University||Morthland College|
|Bryant University||Mount St. Mary’s University|
|Capitol Technology University||Norfolk State University|
|Cedar Crest College||North Carolina Central University|
|Central State University||Northern Virginia Community College – Alexandria Campus|
|Chatham University||Ohio University|
|Claflin University||University of Oklahoma|
|Clark Atlanta University||Old Dominion University|
|University of Colorado at Boulder||Pennsylvania State University, York|
|University of Colorado at Denver||University of Pittsburgh at Bradford|
|Colorado State University||University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg|
|Columbia College Chicago||University of Pittsburgh at Titusville|
|Delaware State University||Potomac State College of West Virginia University|
|Dillard University||Prescott College|
|University of the District of Columbia||Radford University|
|Drexel University||University of Rochester|
|Elon University||University of San Diego|
|Emory University||Shaw University|
|Fairleigh Dickinson University – Metropolitan Campus||Shenandoah University|
|Franklin Pierce University||Spelman College|
|The George Washington University||St. John’s University – Queens Campus|
|Georgia State University||State University of New York at Albany|
|Glenville State College||Stevenson University|
|Hampden-Sydney College||Stevenson University (Stevenson University – Owing Mills)|
|Hampton University||Strayer University|
|Hanover College||SUNY Oswego|
|University of Hartford||The University of Tampa|
|Hawaii Pacific University||Temple University|
|Hofstra University||Towson University|
|Hult International Business School in San Francisco and London||Trinity University in Washington, DC|
|James Madison University||Tuskegee University|
|Johnson & Wales University (Charlotte)||University of the Virgin Islands-St. Thomas|
|Johnson & Wales University (Providence)||Virginia State University|
|Johnson C. Smith University||Virginia Union University|
|Langston University||Virginia University of Lynchburg|
|Livingstone College||Wagner College|
|Longwood University||Wake Forest University|
|Marshall University||Wesleyan University|
|Mary Baldwin College||West Virginia State University|
|University of Maryland, Eastern Shore||West Virginia University|
|University of Maryland, Baltimore County||Wilmington University|
|Xavier University of Louisiana|
In 2015, Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) graduated its first student with a full athletic scholarship to college. Malik McMillian (TMA ’15) currently plays basketball at Barton College, a division II junior college in Kansas. McMillian, who plans to study engineering when he transfers to a four-year university in 2017, admits that balancing both basketball and academics was challenging his first year.
On June 10, Thurgood Marshall Academy celebrated seniors’ academic success and applauded their 100% college acceptance rate during the 12th annual graduation ceremony. More than 800 guests, family and friends, and faculty and staff gathered at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church to honor students who were awarded nearly $6 million in scholarships. Collectively, the Class of 2016 applied to more than 250 colleges and universities across the country. After breaking TMA college-related records, the group of 70-plus graduates have proven to be true ‘LIVING LE6ENDS (Living Legends)’, a name chosen by the seniors to represent their class.
The day began at the lower level of the church where seniors were steaming their robes, figuring out which side of their caps the tassel belonged, and taking selfies with their favorite teachers and peers. Promptly at 10am, Ms. Stewart, 12th-grade Dean and Director of Student Affairs, assembled the class for the last time, instructing them to line up behind this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian, Erica Foster and Daynna Stewart respectively. Erica and Daynna, who are both members of the National Honor Society, led their fellow graduates in the sanctuary. They were greeted with whistles, horns, personalized signs, and a roar of cheers and applause as they filed in two-by-two.
The program began with Mr. Pohlman’s, TMA’s Executive Director, opening remarks followed by candid speeches by Erica and Daynna, and an emotional account from Taylor Middleton (TMA ’12), who gave the Almuni Address and recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from Syracuse University. Councilmember LaRuby May, a longtime supporter of TMA, also spoke at this year’s graduation and called the Class of 2016 “The Greatest,” a reference to Muhammed Ali’s legacy. She encouraged parents, mentors, and educators to play a role in ensuring each student remains “great” by holding them accountable and supporting their goals.
Mr. Mitchell, TMA’s Director of College and Alumni Programming, had the pleasure of acknowledging every student who received a scholarship during the Special Awards Presentation. Shawná Lenoir-Harris, who will attend Elon University in the fall, was awarded more than $1 million in scholarships. Some of her awards include the Beat the Odds scholarship from the Children’s Defense Fund and a slew of private scholarships from organizations that were impressed by her community service efforts, academic excellence, and perseverance to succeed despite the challenges she faced.
Shawná’s story is like most TMA students who reside in East of the River communities, neighborhoods where the graduation rate is among the lowest in the District. However, TMA graduates continue to perform well academically and go on to graduate college at rates five times higher than their neighborhood peers. In addition to preparing students to succeed in college, TMA also provides students with the resources they need to engage in democratic society and make a difference in the community.
Jenner and Block, a TMA law-firm partner that helps to reinforce the school’s unique law-theme curriculum, surprised four graduates with a scholarship for $1600. The scholarship was created in memory of a Jenner and Block employee who embodied generosity and who was inspired by individuals who give back to society.
While graduation was the last time that the Class of 2016 will convene as a group, Mr. Pohlman was sure to invite every student back to TMA with hopes that they will share how they are excelling in college and beyond. “No matter what happens after TMA, there will always be a group of teachers and staff who are rooting for you and who will support your endeavors even after graduation,” he reminded them.