Last week, CER Interns attended a First Fridays Tour at D.C. International Public Charter School (DCI). Mary Shaffner, the Executive Director, founded the school in 2014 with “the mission of training students to become multilingual, culturally competent and capable of taking their learning to the next level.” Each student engages in partial language immersion in content-based instruction classes in Spanish, French, or Mandarin Chinese.
During the tour, one aspect of DCI that struck us the most was the considerable amount of racial, intellectual, and economic diversity. Forty percent of students are African American, 27 percent are Latino/a, 26 percent are Caucasian, and 7 percent are Asian. A majority of students take part in the free and reduced meals program, and 20 percent of students receive special education. The tour showcased this variety by bringing us to different classes, and focused on the school’s distinctive elements, like its concentration on language and effective implementation of technology in the classroom.
DCI heavily relies on intensive language immersion. Students take language classes every day, and take other classes in in the student’s target language. Roughly 50 percent of a student’s day involves using their target language to, for example, discuss controversial topics, write reports, or read articles about current events.
Technology is also highly used in the classroom. Each student has their own Chromebook that can be used for independent projects, homework, assessments, and research. Technology gives students access to a wealth of information and resources. In addition, it instills a sense of responsibility in each of the students.
“We believe that a student who embraces culture is best prepared for future success. While our world grows more interconnected, the job market of the future has yet to be defined. But we know that