Washington Leadership Academy (WLA) is a technology-focused public charter high school serving students throughout the District of Columbia. WLA’s mission is, “To prepare students with the knowledge, skills and habits to succeed in college and live lives of public leadership.” Using technology to personalize learning enables students to become owners of their learning and growth.
“I want to be the CFO of Snapchat.” Statements like these are common at WLA. WLA is one of ten XQ Super Schools in the U.S., an award that challenges educators to rethink high school design and envision the high school of the future. In this case study, interviewees provide their perspectives and insights on the challenges and benefits of reimagining high school through a technology lens. It also describes the challenges charter school founders face around obtaining a building in which to run their schools, and how funding through the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) Credit Enhancement (CE) for Charter School Facilities Program helped WLA secure a building that supports its educational model. This case study features interviews with (in alphabetical order):
- Kalee Barbis, WLA Assistant Principal
- Tabitha Johnson, WLA Parent
- Stacy Kane, WLA Co-Founder & Executive Director
- Khalilah, WLA 10th Grade Student
- Kamaria Mabry, WLA Parent
- Mark Medema, Building Hope Director of Strategic Initiatives
- Christina Moore, WLA Director of Student Services and Special Education
- Raven, WLA 10th Grade Student
- Joseph Webb, WLA Founding Principal
- Zy’Dale, WLA 9th Grade Student
Video 1. Introduction: Washington Leadership Academy: Launching a New High School Model
WLA students, parents, and instructional and administrative staff introduce the school’s mission and history as well as the student and broader community it serves. WLA founders describe what inspired them to open the school. Parents share how they learned about the school and what attracted them to it. This segment highlights personalized learning at WLA and how the school’s technology focus benefits its students.
Video 2. Using Technology to Improve Outcomes
This segment explores WLA students’ academic and non-academic results, how WLA staff see their technology and academic programs and practices continuing to evolve, and how other charter schools can access WLA’s materials, resources, and best practices. Members of the WLA community reflect on their experiences of using technology to empower students through improved academic results and career opportunities.
Video 3. The High School of the Future
In this segment, members of the WLA community describe the technology tools and classes that students can access, how teachers are trained to use these tools to meet students’ needs, and how parents can use technology to monitor student progress. WLA’s academic model includes personalized learning, and students take courses in web development, coding, and Advanced Placement Computer Science to enable them to be creators—and not just consumers—of technology. Creating a technology-focused school requires that students and staff make constant adaptations to keep pace with the ever-changing technology landscape. The WLA community explains how they developed and maintain a school culture that supports continuous improvement and student agency.
Video 4. Facilities Innovations to Match Instructional Innovations
WLA received support for its facilities through Building Hope, a nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI). Building Hope was awarded funding through federal CSP credit enhancement (CE)program, and used CE funds to help WLA acquire an affordable and appropriate facility. Building Hope leaders explain the organization’s mission, impact in the D.C. charter school facilities landscape, its CSP CE grant, and unique facilities programs in D.C. WLA leaders describe how the school’s facility supports its mission and operations.
The content of this case study does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), nor does any mention of curricula, trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsements by the U.S. government. This case study does not constitute a formal statement of federal law, legal requirements, or ED policy and should not be construed as creating or articulating the legal requirements or policy from ED.