DC + XQ
A partnership to transform high school learning.
DC+XQ Design Journey
In February 2022, DCPS 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 remaining schools that applied to join the first cohort (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 Educational 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.
“This is a step forward in our work to reimagine what is possible for our schools and students while ensuring we are preparing our young people for college and career pathways. We are inspired by the creative energy and advocacy from the community, and we look forward to supporting our schools in the next legs of their journeys to rethink and redesign the high school experience.”
Dr. Lewis Ferebee
Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools
About the Partnership
DC+XQ is a districtwide, multi-year, community-driven partnership to rethink what high schools can be and come together to make those visions a reality—so all students graduate ready for college, career, and life.
We are at a moment of incredible opportunity for thoughtful and lasting change for our schools. Now is the time to reimagine high school learning environments that are rigorous, relevant, and honor all students’ potential and ambition.
By bringing together the vast talent and ingenuity of the DCPS community, DC+XQ will make that vision a reality in every district high school.
Meet the Second DC+XQ Cohort
Calvin Coolidge High School
Calvin Coolidge High School has developed a design concept using the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) 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 SDGs, research extensively, implement projects for change, and contribute to the global movement towards a sustainable future.
Columbia Heights Educational Campus (CHEC)
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.
HD Woodson High School
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.
Ron Brown College Preparatory High School
Ron Brown College Preparatory High School’s redesign application focuses on developing Young Kings into Renaissance Men with a throughline to college excellence. Ron Brown High School is committed to ensuring these young male students are seen, heard, and valued throughout their high school experience. Ron Brown will design an experiential curriculum with four pillars—leadership, storytelling, financial literacy, and wellness—and then use these experiences to support student learning through dual enrollment, so students will ultimately graduate with an associate’s degree.
Meet the First DC+XQ Cohort
During a seven-month design journey, teams at six DCPS high schools immersed themselves in XQ’s research-based Design Principles and Learner Outcomes. They conducted equity audits to ensure all learners are given equal opportunities to succeed, deeply engaged their communities and students, and studied XQ school models across the country to understand what’s possible. These school-based teams included educators, families, students, and community members. Ultimately, each school developed a core design concept that identified the greatest areas of need for their students, the assets of their communities, and the boldest opportunities to rethink the high school experience for students. After a broad group of experts and stakeholders reviewed the final proposals, two high schools were selected as the first cohort to spend the 2023-2024 school year prototyping and piloting elements of their school models, testing ideas, and gathering further input from their communities. All six schools that applied for the first cohort received continued support to drive the realization of their school models. Meet Cohort 1!
Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus
The “Cardozo School of Business” will center its student experience on entrepreneurship. Students will become inventors of their own learning paths, careers, and lives, and address the next century of challenges in our ever-changing world. Students will develop and implement small business plans that build year-over-year through their high school journeys—infusing rigorous high school academics with real-world business and financial skills.
As the nation’s first all-Black business high school, dating to the early 1940s, Cardozo’s student population is now more than 50 percent English Language Learners. In redesigning their school, the Cardozo EC team devised a model highlighting their history while being responsive to the needs and interests of their current community.
Cardozo’s community-designed model focuses on entrepreneurship, working to prepare students with the necessary skills and opportunities to break the chains of institutional poverty, disenfranchisement, and racism that have left too many families unable to achieve the American Dream. Students will select one of four Houses, or small learning communities, in which they’ll explore a career pathway in entrepreneurship. They’ll develop and refine their business plans during their four years at Cardozo, including launching their businesses, while taking courses in financial literacy and business foundations. Every course will integrate at least one e-skill (entrepreneurial skills necessary to use information and communication technologies) for every unit for all students. Students will also experience learning opportunities throughout the city to continue developing their understanding of these skills. And students will have academic, financial, and mental health advisors to support them and their families throughout these experiences in Cardozo and beyond.
Dunbar High School
Dunbar High School was the first public high school for African-Americans in the United States when it opened in 1870. Now, its school community is looking ahead. Educators, students, parents, and neighbors chose an Afrofuturist Learning Utopia as its redesign theme.
To learn about their histories as they reimagine their futures, students will explore Afrofuturism competencies through a new course sequence, including the Foundations of Dunbar, Tenacity, African-American History, and a “Futuring” capstone. Their education at Dunbar will give students the voice, knowledge, and skills to dismantle systemic inequities.
Dunbar’s educators will utilize the city as their classroom through experiential learning and project-based learning so students feel more engaged and connected to their immediate world. Students will learn the history of themselves in their school community, take micro-courses designed by local partners, and spend regular time in their community. Students will also use an academy structure focusing on service learning projects and digital integration, or technology in their daily lives. Courses will integrate immersive technology and the metaverse to launch units, take “field trips” across the world, or virtual college tours and experiences of different career paths. And all students will have daily time for individualized support and self-directed learning, planned in advance during weekly village time.
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