Erika Harrell
Erika Harrell is the parent of a third-grader at Rocketship Public Schools' Rise Academy in southeast D.C. (Courtesy 74 Million project)

The D.C. Public Charter School Board celebrates the 74 educators, lawmakers, students, and parents who were recently interviewed for the survey project, “Reinventing America’s Schools,” and their commitment being at the forefront of pushing their communities to rethink and reinvent their schools.

The project, by the education-focused website 74 Million, is a survey of dramatic improvements currently taking place in urban public education in cities as diverse as New Orleans, Denver, D.C. and Indianapolis.

D.C. has offered education stakeholders across the country at what two school systems — with different governance models but of roughly equal size and occupying the same space — can do to transform and improve the quality of education students receive, regardless of a student’s race, gender, or economic circumstance.

Meanwhile DCPCSB members continue to collaborate with city officials, the traditional District of Columbia Public School system, and their own educational leaders to determine how to best strengthen and improve academic and non-academic oversight of public charter schools without impeding school leaders’ freedom to make their own decisions.

Overall, the goal is to hold D.C.’s public charter schools system accountable to high standards, which helps ensure schools are holding students to the same high standards.

Erika Harrell, a founding parent of Rocketship Public Schools’ Rise Academy in southeast D.C. and parent of a third-grader there, said she likes being included her child’s learning process.

“I like to know what’s going on with them so that I can be supportive at home, and to me, the charter model just has been the most beneficial. Aside from cutting down on the bureaucracy, I feel like teachers have more freedom to connect with parents without so much red tape,” said Harrell. “Having choice really feels like I have the stronger freedom to determine and act on the kind of parent I want to be. I think of myself as a teacher first when it comes to my kids. Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom, and I believe that teachers and parents and schools should have a strong partnership. For me, it’s about finding the best partner for my kids so that they can be the best that they can be.”

The entire “Reinventing America’s Schools” series can be read at

Veterans Day Observance

No classes for DCPS students on Nov. 10

Teacher of the Year

Paul Howard, a history instructor at LaSalle-Backus Education Campus in northeast D.C., has been named the 2018 D.C. Teacher of the Year.

Howard was surprised with a $7,500 check on Nov. 6 when he thought he was attending an end-of-the day assembly for an attendance count.

Howard said the honor means he has the students of the year.

“We’ve been labeled among the bottom 40 of schools, and oftentimes there’s a stigma put on lower-performing schools and the children who are in them,” Howard said in a broadcast interview. “But to get recognized is to recognize the work my students [and administrative staff] have been doing as well. To get Teacher of the Year validates decisions I’ve made as a teacher.”

Howard plans to use some of his prize money to attend a history conference in Scotland.

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