Generations ago, three school buildings, Van Buren on W Street, Ketcham on 15th Street and St. Teresa on V Street SE, served the Anacostia neighborhood. After being the lone school within the historic district for more than a decade, Ketcham Elementary School was joined this fall with the opening of DC Prep’s Anacostia Elementary Campus in the renovated and modernized St. Teresa School, which closed in 2006 as Our Lady of Perpetual Help School.
Around the corner from each other, Ketcham, a traditional public school, and DC Prep, a charter school with multiple campuses around the city, have supported each other and the collective work of uplifting their students.
“When we opened our newly renovated doors on the first day of school this past August, there was such a feeling of excitement,” says Emily Lawson, founder and CEO of DC Prep. After enduring two school years in portable classrooms on W Street behind the Big Chair, the new Anacostia Elementary Campus was recently dedicated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with key supporters including philanthropist Josh Rales and members of his family, building teams and parents.
“Father Raymond East of St. Teresa of Avila was one of our speakers and we were honored to have community partners and neighbors there as well,” Lawson says. “One of our guests had attended the school back in the 1960s. She was in awe of the revitalized space and was so pleased that future generations of children would get to learn in the building. It was very moving.”
Others have taken notice of the new school and its import. “DC Prep did an outstanding job in restoring the school building to its former glory,” observes Charles Wilson, a neighbor and former member of the Historic Preservation Review Board. “The new building has brought some positive energy to the block that I am sure will be infectious to the rest of the neighborhood.”
While an exponential increase in space has been a positive experience, Lawson says students and facility are still getting acclimated to the extra elbow room. “Our preppies love the new playground, full gym and amenities. I think teachers love the workroom where they have space for meetings with team members and families alike. There is limitless potential for the facility.”
Lawson confirms, “Our DC Prep team has always wanted the campus to serve as a key partner in the neighborhood.”
True to the that spirit, in December the campus will host a Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Community Conference and on Jan. 27 will be home to a Ward 8 education fair, with schools in the area gathering to give families information about their educational choices.
DC Prep’s Anacostia Elementary Campus will be accepting new students, pre-K3 through second grade, via My School DC in the upcoming 2018-19 enrollment cycle. Consistent with its model across five schools, DC Prep opened the Anacostia Elementary Campus in 2015-16 with the earliest grades and is “growing up” a grade each year. At full scale in the 2019-20 school year, the Anacostia Elementary Campus will serve 450 pre-K3 through third-graders.
For more information about DC Prep’s Anacostia Elementary Campus, visit www.dcprep.org/ or call 202-729-3500.
Ketcham Math Teacher Wins National Award
At the long-standing and locally revered Ketcham Elementary School, on the corner of Good Hope Road and 15th Street, nearly every student is enrolled in the free lunch program and around one-fifth are considered homeless, yet those statistics mean nothing to Milton Bryant and his young fourth- and fifth-grade mathematicians.
In recent years, with the guidance of Maisha Riddlesprigger, in her fifth year as principal at Ketcham, and dedicated staff, standardized test scores at Ketcham have elevated above their public school contemporaries in Wards 7 and 8.
Bryant, known in the classroom and community as Mr. B, wrote an essay explaining his innovative methods and approach to student achievement, which was selected as one of four winners of the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice.
When asked what distinguishes Bryant’s classroom, a number of students agreed he connects with them in unique ways, expects learning to be exciting and has used technology to support the traditional pencil and paper calculations.
“He breaks things down, so it can be easier,” says Tayania Taylor. “Mr. B was fun because he made games and activities that made us distracted and not notice that we were learning.”
Students like Clifton Covington praised Mr. B’s creativity. “He makes class fun by playing games like Survivor’s Island where we got to stand in chairs and work on our math.”
On occasion, Bryant has been known to take his students on field trips down the street to the 7-Eleven, as he explains in his essay, “to help students solidify their understanding of estimates, rounding and exact numbers.”
Due to teaching methods that transcend the four walls of his classroom, Bryant has achieved significant gains with his fourth- and fifth-graders. Whereas public schools in Ward 7 and Ward 8 typically score between nine and 16 percent proficiency on the national Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam, last year’s average at Ketcham was 34 percent. In Mr. B’s class, 72 percent of students were proficient – more than twice the school average and four times the average of neighboring schools.
No stranger to fellowships and awards, Bryant, takes the accolades in stride. “Being a teacher isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle,” he explains. “Teaching at Ketcham is special to me because I see so much of myself in many of the scholars whom I support daily. I had a similar upbringing to many of the scholars I work with, and I am committed to providing them with a high-quality learning experience that promotes thinking, creativity and exploring ideas. I know that our scholars can be successful and become anything they want to be if we build up their self-esteem and ability to think.”
For more information on the goings on at Ketcham, follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/ketchameagles or on Twitter at @KetchamEs.