DC's first computer-science middle school opens its doors in Ward 7 - Technical.ly DC

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Aug. 21, 2018 12:58 pm

DC’s first computer-science middle school opens its doors in Ward 7

Digital Pioneers Academy is the first school in the District with an institutional focus on computer-science education — and one of only a handful across the nation.

Mashea Ashton, DPA founder and principal, speaks with students on the first day of school.

(Courtesy photo)

Digital Pioneers Academy, a new middle school with a specific focus on computer science, opened up in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 7 on Aug. 13, welcoming 120 sixth-graders.

Ward 7, D.C.’s second poorest neighborhood, has high schools with some of the city’s lowest graduation rates, according to a report from District of Columbia Public Schools.

The academy was created to provide more opportunities to underserved students by equipping them early with the technical skills they’ll need to enter higher education and/or the tech sector. The academy has a one-to-one technology policy, providing a personal computer to every single student to work on during the school day.

“Providing quality, college preparatory education for all students has long been a dream of mine,” Digital Pioneers Academy Founder and Principal Mashea Ashton said. “It is my hope that Digital Pioneers Academy will show what amazing things can happen when students receive the tools and instruction they need to achieve success.”

Ashton, a D.C. native, served as the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund and an entrepreneur-in-residence with CityBridge Education before returning home to serve her community.

The academy estimates that two-thirds of its students are starting the school year below grade level and that one-third will have special needs, according to a DPA press release. DPA reported that D.C. has more than 10, 000 open computing jobs and that 65 percent of children in school today will end up in one of them in the future.

Each school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., which includes a mandatory extracurricular club or activity for students to partake in after class and an optional study hall until 6 p.m. When students graduate, the goal is for them to have mastered at least two programming languages and passed the AP Computer Science Principles Exam.

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“After just one week in school, I can see that each of these 120 remarkable students have the determination and drive to succeed in and outside of the classroom,” Ashton said.

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