The Wash
Cardozo’s castle-like school

Ward 1 high schools hope for a change with a new education grant

A wind of change is blowing over high schools in Ward 1, as Cardozo Education Campus won a grant two weeks ago to redesign its curriculum for the next school year. The other high school in Ward 1, Columbia Heights Educational Center, will have to wait. 

High schools in Ward 1 plan to change their curricula thanks to the XQ grant, which would impact the education of hundreds of students, and maybe more in the coming years. 

The XQ Association encourages public high schools to rethink and redesign their educational program. XQ partnered with D.C. for the first time in February 2022, and six high schools applied for the grant. Dunbar High School (Ward 5) and Cardozo Education Campus are the two high schools of the first DC+XQ cohort, earning a $25 million grant. Cardozo has been selected by XQ for its project of enhancing students’ business and financial skills

It comes at a good time for Cardozo. The campus has both a middle school and a high school, but it faces a continuing decrease in enrollment. From 2019 to 2021, Cardozo welcomed over 700 students. Last year, 620 students enrolled, and the school is expected to keep losing students. Emily Gasoi, Ward 1 representative on the D.C. Board of Education, said the grant could prevent this trend. 

Entrance of Cardozo

“I do worry about Cardozo. If Cardozo keeps losing students, even though some students came in the middle of the year, they get fewer kids enrolling at the beginning of the year,” she said. 

“So, few Ward 1 residents actually go to middle or high school in our Ward. And so, what I am hoping is that this new grant will change that.” And having specialized schools could end up helping parents to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs, she said.

Arthur Mola, the principal of Cardozo, emphasized the same thing. He said the school’s curriculum will begin its shift to a business focus next year and will fully become Cardozo Business School in five years.

“Why would you send your child to Cardozo? Well, when you look at the coursework that we’re going to be offering, I would want to get parents very excited because the courses that students will be taking have everything to do with developing financial independence and financial freedom for years to come,” said Mola.

Students will follow traditional classes, such as mathematics and English, with a focus on business. Mola also said that this knowledge would be helpful both for those who want to pursue a college degree and those who don’t.  

Rethinking high schools is the bottom line of the XQ campaign, and this is absolutely necessary, according to Karim Marshall, a candidate for D.C. Council at-large seat, who is endorsed by the Washington Teachers Union. “Our current high school education system is based on the Industrial Revolution when we were training people to work in factories. That’s not what work looks like anymore,” he said. 

Front of Columbia Heights High School

CHEC is not facing the same issues as Cardozo, with almost 1,500 students enrolled last school year. The school, which also includes a middle school and high school, is the second-largest public school in Washington, D.C.

While CHEC didn’t get the grant this year, it is refining its objectives for the next cohort of DC-XQ, said Percia Williams, the representative of the Parent-Teacher Association for the school.

The school plans an improvement in terms of technology. “You have to rethink high school to a much bigger one. When it comes to learning and technology, the world is getting wider and bigger,” she said. 

But developing a business component is the priority. “The school will become like a business park. Students can create a business and make money that they can use inside the school,” she said. 

The XQ grant could also be used for a greater purpose. “And if it works, then we use that as a proof of concept to see if we can roll it out and other schools, and then we can talk about actually using part of the district budget in order to fund the change,” Marshall said. 

For now, it is still undetermined when the next cohort will be selected. But D.C. public high schools will have several chances to get the grant, as DC+XQ is a multiyear partnership. 

Solène Guarinos

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