By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
Two years ago, the District of Columbia public schools opened up the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Ward 7, an all-boys institution and recently, the girls got theirs.
The Excel Academy, the public all-girls public school, started classes Aug. 20.
“We are thrilled to welcome Excel Academy to the DCPS family as we continue to focus on educating and empowering young women of color,” interim DCPS Chancellor Amanda Alexander said at a press conference. “Excel Academy scholars in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade will build community, confidence and leadership skills and gain the skills they need-from science and technology to literacy and the arts-to positively influence society and thrive in life.”
The Excel Academy is an outgrowth of DCPS’s initiative, “Reign: Empowering Young Women as Leaders,”- which is rooted in D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) hope to address the academic achievement gap between girls of color often experience. Bowser and then chancellor Kaya Henderson were champions of Ron Brown, which started classes in 2016, because of educational data that noted Black boys had the lowest scores throughout the District on standardized tests and tended to be disciplined more than their counterparts.
However, the ACLU and members of the D.C. Council, such as Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), argued that there should be a program that addresses the needs of girls. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) determined that Ron Brown was in compliance with federal and District laws regarding equal access to education for both genders.
In 2017, Bowser set up Reign stating that the needs of girls are different from boys. The Excel Academy is a product of Reign.
Bowser, who attended single-sex schools Elizabeth Seton High School and Chatham University, expressed satisfaction with Excel Academy.
“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,” the mayor said. “Throughout the year, our educators are working hard to ensure every day counts for our students. And together, I know we will take every opportunity to ensure that all our families and students feel supported and are connected to all the resources they need to make it to school every day, be on time for class and are on a path to success.”
Ward 8 D.C. Board of Education member Markus Batchelor visited the Excel Academy on its opening day also and was pleased with what he saw.
“I’m excited about the opportunities Excel Academy will provide for the girls of Ward 8 and those around the city as it joins the D.C. public school system,” Batchelor said in a statement to the AFRO. “I believed it was so important to maintain a program focused on the nurturing and development of our young girls and I’m glad we found a way to preserve and enhance this model. Principal Tenia Pritchard is second-to-none in our system and I am excited about her vision and leadership.
“I am looking forward to a productive year at Excel.”