In my first six months of working as a Communications and Marketing Assistant at the National Alliance, I have supported numerous initiatives in efforts to improve the charter school movement. I have enjoyed my time working on projects such as National Charter Schools Week, our National Charter Schools Conference, and other national campaigns like our annual #Back2School week, but none were as eye-opening as my first charter school visit to Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.
Eagle Academy serves pre-k through third grade students with a mission “... to build the foundation for a promising future for all students in a rich, robust learning environment that fosters creativity and problem-solving abilities.”
The first stop on my tour, at Eagle Academy’s swimming facility showed me how they tackle emotional and physical growth. Most urban communities in D.C. don’t have access to public swimming pools, so the thought of swimming can be daunting for some children. However, Eagle Academy helps students overcome swimming fears at an early age and gives them an accomplishment to be proud of.
It’s little things like these that make Eagle Academy stand out from other schools. In addition to a unique physical education program they also provide resources for students to manage emotional education. Like many other schools in low-income areas, many students arrive at Eagle Academy while dealing with toxic stress – something children experience as a result of frequent or prolonged adversity. Despite the best efforts of many families in Congress Heights, resources are limited and many children must bare this reality along with economic instability. Eagle Academy provides students with a strong support staff, including a counselor with significant experience managing toxic stress from his time working at a correctional facility.
Many charter schools in Washington, D.C. and across the United States have proven to perform just as well if not better than district schools academically. What is not always shown on paper is the impact charter schools can have on the health of a surrounding community. Eagle Academy hosts community events and makes a major effort to build a sense of community in their neighborhood, making it a more attractive place for students to attend school and families to live. The community investment is paying off, with a new town home development popping up near the campus.
I was fortunate enough to go to great public schools in the Richmond, VA suburbs. Unfortunately, many students in Virginia are stuck in failing public school districts and don’t have the means to move into a different school district or transfer to a private school. Seeing firsthand how a charter school like Eagle Academy can provide a high-quality education option to a community in need while also supporting the social and emotional growth of it students was awe-inspiring. I hope one day soon Virginia can improve their charter school law to look more like D.C.’s so that charter schools can expand and give every child an opportunity at the great education they deserve.