D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, seeking to stanch declining enrollment and the exodus of students to the District's fast-growing charter schools, announced Tuesday that 13 public schools will launch plans for specialized programs in science and technology, arts and languages.
Theme-based schools are a widely employed educational idea, and the District has several specialty high schools, including Duke Ellington School of the Arts, McKinley Technology High School and School Without Walls.
What makes Rhee's proposal different is that the "catalyst schools" will remain neighborhood schools open to all eligible students without an application or other admissions requirements. Eaton Elementary, for example, will remain the school for its Northwest D.C. neighborhood but will also develop a Chinese language and culture program.
Rhee said D.C. families should not have to look far from home to find innovative school options for their children.
"We believe that every neighborhood school across the District should offer incredibly compelling programs and initiatives within it," she said at Malcolm X Elementary School in Ward 8, where she joined Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to make the announcement. Malcolm X is one of the schools selected for a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) specialty. The school's plans include starting an elementary robotics program.
LAUSD (Los Angeles) is now the home to the Belmont Zone of Choice, an innovative pilot school program developed from the ground up by UTLA and a grassroots coalition of teachers and community groups.
The landmark agreement creates a network of autonomous college-prep schools that downtown-area families can select based on students' interests. The schools will have wide autonomy in areas such as curriculum, staffing, budget, governance, professional development, and school calendars so they can best explore ground-breaking models to improve teaching and learning. The 500-student schools will be located at either existing LAUSD campuses or at schools under construction near downtown L.A.