There are many reasons why Jefferson Academy is reaching new heights.

We all know that DC initiated major school reforms in 2007 and had persistently low test scores. We all know there is much work to be done.

Each Spring, the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) tests are administered to students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 10. The tests offer a snapshot of student learning that officials use to rate schools, principals, and teachers.

The recent release of test scores for Jefferson students has shown that the snapshot is truly coming into focus. Jefferson’s math scores improved 12.2% points to 63.4% from 51.2% – a 24% increase over last year. Jefferson’s readings scores improved 11.3% points to 45.3% from 34.0% – a 29% increase over last year. There were 30-point gains in math and 18-point gains in reading with the 7th graders! In total, 77% were proficient in math and 60% were proficient in reading.

“It’s not all about the test, but it’s a good way to show that we’re making a lot of progress and pushing them to achieve,” said seventh-grade math teacher Greg Dohmann, who wrote the lyrics for the “Rock that CAS” Video. That’s creative thinking!

According to results released by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the 2013 scores show statewide increases of 3.9 percentage points in math and 4.1 percentage points in reading – the largest gains since 2008.

Let’s talk about the winning formula at Jefferson. Principal Natalie Gordon is a dedicated, enthusiastic bundle of energy who can be seen greeting students as they arrive in the morning with her usual smile. I was at an assembly in the school’s auditorium and witnessed how well she interacts with students and teachers while simultaneously letting the room know that she is in charge.

Principal Gordon was at two DC charter schools, Friendship Tech Prep and DC Prep’s middle school, prior to going to Jefferson, which was struggling with low test scores. In 2011, she was in charge of the sixth grade academy, and beginning in 2012 she took charge of the seventh and eighth grades.

In addition, with a staff of dedicated teachers, it should be no surprise that Jefferson has raised the bar.

Combine this with the new International Baccalaureate curriculum and an extensive building renovation that is scheduled soon, and Jefferson is poised to be one of the best middle schools around.

This is especially important for our local kids in Amidon-Bowen and the soon-to-reopen Van Ness Elementary (my other pet project) over in Capitol Riverfront.

Enrollment is also up. This year, student enrollment will be 310, compared to 286 last year, and work is currently underway to renovate the 3rd floor, which was not in use.

The school’s mission statement reads, “At Jefferson Middle School, we have a strong sense of P.R.I.D.E: Prepared, Respectful, Inspiring, Determined and Engaged. Our faculty and staff exemplify these characteristics and instill them in our students through our strong academic programming. We emphasize science and technology and in addition to our core curriculum, we offer a variety of enrichment programs and extracurricular activities. At Jefferson, we challenge our students academically and teach them the life skills they will need to succeed not only in high school, but in whatever post-secondary option they pursue.”

So, a dedicated Principal plus dedicated teachers equals higher performing students; that is truly a winning formula.

By: Bruce DarConte

Education Chair


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