The Motley Fool has again chosen Thurgood Marshall Academy, a remarkably successful charter school, for our annual Foolanthropy project. Discover what makes Thurgood Marshall Academy so unique and so successful in the article below, contributed by Josh Kern, the school's co-founder and president. And keep in mind that, for each comment you post on Fool.com from Nov. 29, 2010, to Jan. 7, 2011, the Fool will contribute $0.10 to Thurgood -- up to $20,000! So get to commenting, Fools, or click here to make a direct donation now.
When we opened the doors of Thurgood Marshall Academy, a college-preparatory law-themed public charter school in Washington, D.C.'s Ward 8, in 2001, my fellow founders and I couldn't have imagined that 10 years later, Thurgood Marshall Academy would be the highest-performing non-selective public high school in the District.
We founded Thurgood Marshall Academy upon U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall's belief that all children have the right to a first-class education. Our mission is to prepare students to succeed in college and to actively engage in our democratic society. As the first and only law-related charter school in Washington, D.C., our goal is to help students develop their own voice by teaching them the skills lawyers have -- the ability to solve complex problems, think critically, and advocate persuasively for themselves and their communities.
Ninety-five percent of our students are from Wards 7 and 8, which are the District's most underserved communities. Ward 8, home to 93% of our students, has the highest rates of poverty (36%) and child poverty (47%) in Washington, D.C., as well as the lowest high school and college graduation rates in the District; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation estimates that only one in three students in this neighborhood typically graduate from high school within five years, and only one in 20 earns a college degree.
In order to accomplish our mission, Thurgood Marshall Academy functions as both a school and a youth development organization by integrating a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum with in-school and after-school support programming. As students rise through the grades and increase their proficiency in grade-level skills, the focus moves from remediation to more intense college preparation. Our curriculum is rich in electives and advanced courses, like AP U.S. Government, AP English Literature, Honors Algebra, and Art. Additionally, we offer after-school clubs like Debate and Green club as well as academic tutoring, personalized mentoring, a summer preparatory program for rising 9th graders, and one-on-one college guidance.
Our accomplishments continue as we build on our first decade of providing quality education to District youth. According to D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) results, Thurgood Marshall Academy is the highest-performing open-enrollment high school in D.C. for the second year in a row. D.C. CAS test results in 2010 showed that 62.07% of students were proficient in reading and 71.27% of students were proficient in math. These results far surpassed that of the average proficiency level among all D.C. traditional public and charter high schools, including magnet schools (41.45% in reading; 39.33% in math). Further, 100% of our six graduating classes has been accepted to college.
One of our 243 alumni, James Watkins ('08), knows the results of these statistics firsthand. During a recent visit to Bates College, where James is a junior, he reflected on the influence Thurgood Marshall Academy had on his life path. The high expectations and rules at Thurgood Marshall Academy posed challenges for him along the way; however, the support he received before and after graduation made all the difference. "Everyone has helped in one way or another, whether it was giving me infractions, telling me to tuck in my shirt, pushing me to work harder, and consoling me through my hardships back home," he said.
The Alumni Program is an important component of the support network we provide for our students, not only during their four years in high school, but throughout their college careers as well. The program helps graduates succeed in college by providing essential post-graduation support and resources. Our Alumni Coordinator distributed more than $10,000 in gap funding last year to cover the cost of unexpected college-related expenses via our Alumni Emergency Fund. Our Alumni Program also helps students learn to access resources at their universities, provides college and financial aid counseling to both enrolled students and alumni who have not yet matriculated, and organizes events where alumni share their experiences with current high school students.
In Washington, D.C., approximately 58% of high school graduates enroll in college after graduation. At Thurgood Marshall Academy, 82% of our 243 alumni are either currently enrolled in college or college graduates.
Resources like our Alumni Program make the difference for our students. As James said, "I will never forget TMA for never giving up on me when at times I wanted to give up on myself."
Help us send more students like James to college. We spend $4,000 more per student than our public funding allotment, and every donation helps give our students the education they deserve.
Donate through our website or send a check to:
Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS
2427 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE
Washington, D.C. 20020