DC+XQ Selects Four DCPS Schools to Join Second Cohort of Redesigned High Schools

DC+XQ is a districtwide, multi-year, community-driven partnership to rethink what high schools can be…

By Team XQ

DC+XQ is a districtwide, multi-year, community-driven partnership to rethink what high schools can be for all students and to come together to make those visions a reality.

Washington, DC – Today, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and XQ Institute (XQ) are pleased to announce the second cohort of the DC+XQ partnership. XQ is a nonprofit that collaborates with communities across the nation to reimagine and redesign the high schools and school systems in their communities. The selected school communities—Calvin Coolidge High School, Columbia Heights Educational Campus, H.D. Woodson High School, and Ron Brown College Preparatory High School—will incubate and scale their bold concepts to redesign the high school experience. They join the 2022 inaugural DC+XQ cohort of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus in reimagining the approach to providing rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning experiences for all high school students in DCPS. 

Each school in the second cohort has spent the past fifteen months participating in a community-driven design journey that included educators, students, families, local nonprofits, business leaders, and experts from diverse fields. The Washington, DC community has been the driving force behind the momentum of the DC+XQ initiative, actively participating in design teams, providing invaluable design feedback, and engaging with passion and dedication. The extended design journey of these four schools results from DCPS’ commitment to supporting each school community to launch its redesign when its community is ready.

During the 2023-2024 school year, each Cohort 2 school will begin to incubate and test their design concepts, focusing on their students’ greatest areas of need and leveraging their communities’ unique strengths. In continued partnership with DCPS leadership and XQ, each school will nurture the growth of its redesign from bold idea to pilot programs and, eventually, at scale in future school years, ensuring relevant, engaging, and rigorous learning for all students.

Every school’s redesign will be unique and informed by its community’s needs, aspirations, and resources. Calvin Coolidge High School will integrate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to foster global leadership. Columbia Heights Educational Campus will become an Innovation Hub by focusing on design thinking and project-based learning. H.D. Woodson will support each student to identify and leverage their strengths and passions into earning career certifications and obtaining a head start on college. Ron Brown, a unique all-boys school, will cultivate belonging, positive identity, and future-oriented, college-ready skills so that students can tap into the power of their heritage to be the authors of their futures and leaders of their communities. 

The DC+XQ Cohort 1 schools, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus have spent the 2022-2023 school year prototyping elements of their school models, testing ideas, and gathering valuable input from their communities.

Dunbar, which is reimagining the high school experience through Afrofuturism and immersive technology, has integrated “city as classroom days,” where students learn from the assets of the Washington, DC community.

Cardozo has worked with university partners and local businesses to build an interdisciplinary approach that infuses rigorous high school academics with real-world entrepreneurship skills. Both schools have partnered with district leadership to explore policy innovations, including scheduling flexibility and competency-based learning, that create the conditions for student success. 

“As we celebrate our class of 2023 graduates and their many accomplishments, we are also excited to think about the future of high school in DC,” said Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. “The DC+XQ initiative ensures our school communities are at the center of the work to rethink and redesign the student experience. I look forward to the ideas and opportunities that will come out of Coolidge, CHEC, H.D. Woodson, and Ron Brown.”

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Coolidge, Columbia Heights, H.D. Woodson, and Ron Brown High Schools for their remarkable achievement in being selected as part of Cohort 2 of DC+XQ schools,” said Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. “This is a milestone in our ongoing mission to reimagine our schools, empower our communities, and equip our students with the skills they need for college and career success. I commend these school communities for their vision, creativity, and commitment to transformation. Together, we will continue to reimagine and rethink the high school experience, and we look forward to supporting these four schools in their next phase of excellence.”

School Design Concepts 

A diverse selection panel of individuals representing a broad spectrum of backgrounds and expertise evaluated the applications based on the bold design concepts, their potential to leverage the unique strengths of the DC community to impact students positively, and their alignment with XQ’s design principles and transformative learning outcomes.

“Throughout the review process of the redesign applications from these four DCPS high schools, it became evident that each school’s visionary and inventive designs were firmly grounded in the unique needs and possibilities of their respective communities,” expressed Karen Pittman, Partner at KP Catalyst and a member of the selection committee. “At every step of this journey, I found inspiration, and being part of this committee provided me with a firsthand experience of the transformative power that arises from a sustained community-driven effort. It reaffirmed my belief in the importance of district-level commitments to not only allow exceptions but establish expectations that every school has the potential to nurture and empower the next generation of students, fostering their growth, success, and commitment to making a difference.”

Calvin Coolidge High School has developed a design concept using the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address the holistic needs of the school community. Empowering students as global leaders, Coolidge High School will introduce an annual capstone project, enabling students to delve into their chosen SDG(s), research extensively, implement projects for change, and contribute to the global movement towards a sustainable future.

“Being selected for DC+XQ’s second cohort is a tremendous milestone for Calvin Coolidge High School, marking the start of an incredible journey over a year in the making. Our community poured their hearts and souls into redesigning our school, and now, our hard work and dedication have paid off,” said Principal Semanthe Bright. “Our design concept, rooted in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, reflects our commitment to providing our students with an education beyond the classroom, preparing them to become global leaders who will shape a better future.”

Columbia Heights Educational Campus (CHEC) has undertaken a redesign plan to establish itself as an innovation hub, transforming education delivery and nurturing the next generation of design thinkers and problem solvers. Students will become designers of their learning experiences, shaping learning paths aligned with their goals while engaging in relevant, rigorous, authentic, and problem-focused courses.

“As part of DC+XQ, we are forging the path towards an even brighter future at CHEC. Our school will focus on design thinking, elevating student voice and choice in co-designing the curriculum through project-based learning,” said Principal Maria Tukeva. “Students will also use design thinking to research school and community needs and design innovative approaches to their challenges. We look forward to seeing CHEC’s impact as we strive for excellence and innovation in education. Our students deserve nothing less; we will unlock their limitless potential together.”

With a focus on cultivating student passions, HD Woodson High School will ensure that every graduate earns career certifications or an associate degree that aligns with their interests. Students will also be encouraged to chart their paths by creating individualized roadmaps, participating in experiential learning-including internships, apprenticeships, and travel opportunities-and igniting inspiration within their community. 

“I am immensely proud to present HD Woodson High School’s design concept as we eagerly embark on this journey alongside the four schools selected for DC+XQ’s second cohort. This journey has been a labor of love, requiring unwavering commitment and tremendous community support, ” Principal William Massey expressed. “At HD Woodson, we have crafted a concept that places our students at the forefront as Passion Activators—empowering them to harness their unique passions and ignite inspiration within our community. We are honored to be part of DC+XQ and excited to join forces with like-minded schools as we collectively shape a brighter future for our students and our community.”

Ron Brown College Preparatory High School’s redesign focuses on providing their young male students with a throughline to college excellence.​ Ron Brown High School is committed to ensuring its students are seen, heard, and valued throughout their high school experience. Ron Brown will design an experiential curriculum to support students’ learning through dual enrollment to graduate with an associate’s degree.

“At Ron Brown, we are designing an oasis where our Young Kings actively immerse themselves in experiential learning, empowering them to become influential societal figures,” said Principal Reggie Hunt II. “Our unwavering commitment is to ensure that every student finds their voice and contributes to their high school journey while also ensuring they graduate with an advantage. We eagerly look forward to the incredible possibilities for our students and their bright futures.”

“The selection of the second DC+XQ high school redesign cohort is a tremendous opportunity. The work ahead is to ensure that each community’s bold ideas do not stay at the margins but infuse every element of student learning with experiences that are relevant, engaging, and rigorous,” stated Keith Dysarz, Head of State and Local Partnerships at XQ Institute. “The promise of rethinking high school is to ensure that students across every Ward in the District of Columbia graduate prepared for success in a rapidly changing world.” 

The School Redesign Journey So Far 

In February 2022, DPCS and XQ launched “DC+XQ,” a multi-year partnership to reimagine the high school experience in the nation’s capital. This community-led initiative has brought together educators, families, students, and community members with bold ideas for what is possible for DC’s high school students. Seven months later, a panel of local and national education experts selected Dunbar High School and Cardozo Education Campus as the first cohort of DC+XQ. 

DC+XQ provided each of the four schools that were not initially selected (Columbia Heights Education Campus, Coolidge High School, HD Woodson High School, and Ron Brown College Preparatory High School) with the resources and support to spend the 2022-2023 school year continuing to refine their designs and learn from their communities. Each of these communities redoubled their commitment to the future of their high schools and earned selection for the second DC+XQ cohort. 

Across both DC+XQ cohorts, the teams at six DCPS high schools used an Equity Opportunity Audit to determine which students were and were not benefiting from the existing educational model and visited innovative high schools throughout the nation to gain inspiration of what is possible when communities come together to dream big and turn those dreams into reality. DC+XQ engaged with thousands of community members who generously shared their ideas for high school redesign. Each school team used XQ’s design principles and learner outcomes to develop a redesign concept that captured the assets and dreams of their community. 

DC+XQ stands on the foundation of decades of progress at DCPS, honoring its rich history and harnessing the extraordinary talent already inherent in DC’s vibrant communities. DCPS initiated a redesign process at Anacostia and Ballou High Schools in 2019, exemplifying their commitment to community-driven change—a shared value embraced by both DCPS and the XQ Institute. This shared belief, rooted in the understanding that the community is the driving force behind high school transformation, lies at the core of the DC+XQ partnership.

All DC+XQ schools will receive continued support to drive the realization of their school models. This support will include policy flexibilities and the autonomy to actualize school designs, human talent capacity through the Design Lab and XQ Institute to power the partnership further, and the monetary commitment to resource school models through the prototyping and implementation stages.

DC+XQ is a districtwide, multi-year, community-driven partnership to rethink what high schools can be for all students and come together to make those visions a reality. DC+XQ provides support to design teams made up of educators, students, families, and community members so that they can define their biggest challenges and develop their best and boldest ideas into solutions. Through a collaborative design process, all DCPS high schools will design and implement innovative, rigorous learning models ensuring all students are prepared to succeed in college, career, and in life. This bold initiative in our nation’s capital can inspire communities everywhere and illustrate what is possible when an entire community and city come together for students. Learn more at DCXQ.US

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