Case Study: Two Rivers

24 Jun, 2015


Two Rivers Public Charter School is a high-performing PK-8 school located in Washington, D.C. More than three dozen parents from the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood founded the school, which was awarded its charter by the D.C. Public Charter School Board in August 2003 and opened in the fall of 2004. The school has grown from serving 150 PK-3 students operating in a wing of a D.C. Public School building to a school of 516 PK-8 students on a two-building campus of its own.

The school’s mission is to nurture a diverse group of students to become lifelong, active participants in their own education, develop a sense of self and community, and become responsible and compassionate members of society. Two Rivers is a rigorous standards-based school that also emphasizes social skills and character development. The school’s Expeditionary Learning model emphasizes interactive, hands-on, project-based learning and encourages students to consistently model the Two Rivers Scholarly Habits in their interactions with others and in their learning. The Two Rivers Scholarly Habits are:

  • I work hard
  • I am a team player
  • I am responsible and independent
  • I care for our community

Two Rivers has an inclusive education model, where the instruction of students with disabilities is integrated with general education. The school uses a flexible grouping approach to classroom instruction. Throughout the day, students are regrouped and they cycle through learning stations based on their need for additional review of lessons, regardless of whether they have an identified disability. Each grade is made up of two classes, with roughly 25 students, using a co-teaching model. Each class has a lead teacher and an assistant. In grades 2 - 8, each grade has a special education teacher to support students with disabilities or other students who might need further instructional assistance. An early childhood special education teacher also supports grades PK-1.

A key component of the school program is building students’ capacity to advocate for themselves and contribute to their own learning plans, an effort that includes enabling students with disabilities to participate in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) development meetings. The school also focuses on making sure that IEPs are high quality and tailored to the specific needs of the student, goals are tied to clear standards and data, and goals allow tracking of progress and adjustment of instruction to meet changing needs. The school plans to replicate its model at a new campus in 2015.

The school’s enrollment is 63 percent African-American, 9 percent Hispanic/Latino, 1 percent Asian, and 26 percent White. About 5 percent of the school’s students are English Language Learners, 49 percent Economically Disadvantaged, and 22 percent Special Education.

Awards and Recognition

  • Master Teacher William Day, a middle school math instructor, was named D.C.’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.
  • Two Rivers was selected in 2012-2013 to participate in a pilot project developed by the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to involve students with disabilities in the creation and discussion of their IEP. The school is expanding the program based on its success.
  • In 2013, Two Rivers was honored to host five members from the U.S. House of Representatives – House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, Rep. John Kline, Chair of the Education and Workforce Committee, and committee members Rep. Todd Rokita, Rep. Martha Roby, and Rep. Luke Messer – for a tour of the school and then a press conference highlighting the proposed Student Success Act.
  • Two Rivers is accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education.
  • Two Rivers was identified as a 21st Century Learning Exemplar School by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
  • Two Rivers is a member of the Ashoka Changemaker Schools Network, a selective network of elementary schools that strive to cultivate empathy, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving in their students.
  • Two Rivers was featured in Education Week as a school with intellectual courage. Contributing writer and Chief Academic Officer for Expeditionary Learning Ron Berger noted “The uncommon success of Two Rivers is based primarily on one thing: the commitment, growth mindset and intellectual courage of its teachers.”


  • Two Rivers has been rated a Tier One, high performing school by the D.C. Public Charter School Board for four years in a row (every year that the PCSB has used this performance measurement) and has been named one of the top ten schools in the city by OSSE.
  • Two Rivers students have gone on to top-performing schools around the city, including School Without Walls, McKinley Technology High School, DeMatha Catholic High School, St. John's College High School, Duke Ellington School for the Arts, and Benjamin Banneker Academic High School.
  • Two Rivers has one of the highest re-enrollment rates among charter schools in Washington, D.C. Two Rivers participates in the My School DC common lottery and, for the past two years, since the existence of the common lottery, Two Rivers has had the longest wait list, which reached 1,381 in 2015.

For more information, visit the school’s website.

Tools and Resources

Tools and Resources
Two Rivers Effective Teacher Rubric

This document covers the skills and rating standards used to guide teacher effectiveness in areas such as planning and preparation for learning, delivery of instruction, and classroom community and culture.

Two Rivers 2015-2016 Org Chart

This document is a chart of the organizational structure of the school’s leadership and staff.

Student Led IEP Questions and Goal Sheet

This document offers guiding questions for beginning the Student-led IEP process and prompts for establishing goals.

Student Led IEP Demonstration Project

This document provides a description of a Student-led IEP Demonstration Project that the school participated in and that was supported with a grant from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.