- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2018

D.C. officials marked the first day of school in the District by opening two new single-sex schools in Southeast — one for girls and one for boys.

Excel Academy Public School for Girls near Barry Farm and Statesmen College Preparatory Academy for Boys Public Charter School near Fort Davis Park opened their doors Monday to welcome some of the D.C. Public Schools system’s nearly 45,000 students returning from summer break.

“I am so excited to celebrate this first day of school at Excel and remind all of our children that their job is to get to school each and every day,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said, obliquely referring to a truancy scandal that emerged amid tumult over inflated graduation rates that has plagued the school system over the past year.

Formerly a charter school, Excel Academy is the District’s first public school exclusively for girls. With an enrollment of more than 600 students, the academy teaches girls from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as Common Core courses.

In January, the D.C. Public Charter School Board voted unanimously to revoke Excel Academy’s charter, citing poor school performance and low student proficiency in standardized tests. Board spokeswoman Tomeika Bowden said enrollment specialists had to help Excel’s students find replacement school option for the new academic year, noting how rare it is for DCPS to take over a charter school.

Tenia Pritchard, principal of Excel Academy, said the school’s revival under new management signifies “a fight for social justice and education,” WTOP Radio reported.

“Our children are still victims of institutionalized racism because of implicit and explicit biases … which negatively impact their outcomes in achievement,” Ms. Pritchard said, according to WTOP.

Interim schools Chancellor Amanda Alexander attended Excel’s opening ceremony Monday and said in a statement that she was “proud” to see the new school welcome students.

Meanwhile, Statesmen College Preparatory Academy has become the District’s second all-boys school. (Ron Brown College Preparatory High School for boys in Northeast opened in 2016.) The charter school opened Monday with 63 fourth-graders and eventually will grow to include the fifth through eighth grades, Ms. Bowden said.

Ms. Alexander noted Monday that D.C. students’ “significant progress” on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) standardized tests. DCPS released the most recent test scores last week.

City educators have long struggled to narrow the achievement gap in testing scores between white students and students of color. It’s a mission that spawned the creation of schools like Excel and Statesman, which aim to narrow the gap by focusing on girls and boys of color in some of the District’s most financially disadvantaged areas.

Betsy Wolf, a D.C. parent and researcher, tweeted her analysis of the PARCC exam scores last week, noting that over the past year the gap in math scores between white students and students of color increased by 0.1 percentage points in public schools and increased by 0.8 percentage point in charter schools.

Ms. Wolf also noted that the achievement gap decreased for English scores since last year, down by 2.1 percentage points in public schools and down by 01. percentage points in charter schools.

Ms. Alexander was named interim chancellor in February after former schools chief Antwan Wilson was fired for breaking his own rule on school transfers to let his daughter skip a waiting list to attend a popular high school. Since then, she has steered DCPS through scandals involving widespread residency fraud and inflated graduation rates that left many unable to graduate last spring.

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