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What Are Parents Telling You?

The media has been focusing on a certain D.C. school as of late because of its instructional model. But after taking a closer look, parents hold the school in high demand because of its instruction, but also because it’s an open, safe, and diverse community that makes learning fun.

Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. has been the subject of increased media attention since it is the most in-demand charter school in the entire district. Its wait list is 1,381 children long, and has very few seats available to parents annually. As the local ABC affiliate noted, the school is harder to get into than Harvard. What makes seats at Two Rivers the most sought-after in D.C.?

The media points to the school’s expeditionary learning and project-based curriculum, which are used to engage students at a higher level. At a tour of the school this week, CER staff was able to see the project-based model in action. Kindergartners were learning about insects, second graders were conducting physics experiments, and fourth graders were mapping the Anacostia Watershed.

With the increased press pointing to project-based curriculum as the main draw, we wondered – what are parents actually saying about why they chose Two Rivers Public Charter School? CER staff brought this up with Jessica Wodatch, the school’s executive director. As it turns out, parents are looking for something else in the school that they choose for their child. Jessica says parental demand for Two Rivers is high due to the school’s welcoming, safe, and open community, and the diversity of the school. She said of the school’s instructional model, “Parents don’t come for the expeditionary learning, but they stay for it.”

Many parents are going to have the ability to stay with Two Rivers, as the school is opening a second campus

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Why D.C. Parents NEED School Vouchers

In 4th Grade, Shirley-Ann Tomdio’s life changed forever when she was accepted into the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), which allowed her to transfer from a failing D.C. public school to Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school. Shirley, the daughter of two Cameroon, African immigrants, used the voucher for nine years.

Shirley testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on May 14, 2015 at Archbishop Carroll High School in Northeast D.C. to discuss the possibility of reauthorizing the DCOSP.

“In 2009, I graduated Sacred Heart School as the valedictorian and took my Opportunity Scholarship across town to Georgetown Visitation (Prep School)!” Shirley told federal lawmakers on Thursday. “At Visitation, I made Second Honors my first two years and First Honors in my third and fourth year. I was a decorated member of the track and field team, co-editor of our school’s Art and Literary magazine, a cheerleader for our school’s pep rally, and the Secretary and Treasurer of the Black Women’s Society. In May 2013, I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma.”

The voucher program for low-income children was enacted a year after congress passed the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act of 2003. The program has been extraordinarily successful for the District’s most disadvantaged children. Consider:

The scholarship program has been under assault since President Obama took office. The program ceased to exist in the first year he took office, but came back in 2011 through passage of the bipartisan SOAR Act. Every single year since then, his Administration has proposed to

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Are We Doing Enough to Affect Change in Education?

On Thursday, May 7th, Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. hosted its 2nd Annual “My Brother’s Keeper…Responding to the Call” event focused on effective efforts to prepare young boys of color for college and community action surrounding those strategies. The forum strengthened the dialogue about key issues like inequality and the achievement gap, an especially significant discussion given the recent happenings in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jami Dunham, CEO of Paul Public Charter School, D.C. native, and Howard University alumna, explained how central education is to helping the country’s most disadvantaged communities, telling those in attendance last night, “What happened in Baltimore is a reflection of the adult culture that has failed those children. We as adults have failed to give them the tools to succeed.”

Dr. Robert Simmons, Chief Innovation Officer at D.C. Public Schools, challenged the audience, saying, “D.C. could easily become Baltimore. We need to ask ourselves if we are doing enough to affect change in education.”

And in fact, just today the Washington Post Editorial Board made this same connection, writing:

The state of Baltimore’s public schools was spotlighted in the aftermath of riots that rocked a city mourning the death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, while in police custody. Bad schools are only one element of urban dysfunction. But they are both a consequence and a cause of inequality, and improving them is essential to keeping another generation from being trapped by poverty. There’s no excusing violence. But as the attorney for Mr. Gray’s family said of the young people who took part in the rioting, “The education system has failed them.

Giving poor parents the kind of alternatives that wealthier families take for granted would help. Some competitive pressure on the school system might help, too. But Maryland is

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