D.C. Public Schools plans to spend $6.2 million in its 2018 budget to bring algebra classes, engineering and computer science electives, coding clubs, lacrosse and archery to its middle schools.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson announced the proposed spending Friday, marking another year of the school system putting emphasis on resources for middle and high schools. The city has spent millions of dollars in the past few years to expand Advanced Placement courses, add career academies and open alternative high schools to help more students get diplomas.
Bowser has sought to focus on middle schools during her time in office. Her 2014 mayoral campaign featured the slogan “Alice Deal for All,” a reference to a campus in Northwest that is home to the most-sought-after middle school in the city. But the school system still struggles to retain students as they transition from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school.
“These investments will transform the middle and high school experience for students throughout D.C., and ensure that we are setting more students up for success,” Bowser said in a statement. “By adding more extracurriculars, more STEM classes, and additional college and career support, we will be able to engage more students and keep them on track to succeed beyond high school.” STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and math.
The proposal would be in addition to at least $25 million in spending growth in the next fiscal year to cover enrollment increases and other costs, school officials say. The current year’s spending plan totals $910 million.
The school system has not yet released its final proposed budget for 2018, which must be approved by the D.C. Council.
DCPS has 13 middle schools, 14 schools with elementary and middle grades and two with middle and high school grades.
The school system plans to increase extracurricular activities in middle schools to give every student the option to participate in at least one program outside the regular school day. The new programs will include coding clubs, lacrosse, wrestling, rugby, archery, and hockey, as well as wheelchair track and field and basketball for students with disabilities.
DCPS plans to purchase 750 new computers and add engineering and computer science electives to its middle schools. All DCPS middle schools also plan to offer algebra in the 2017-18 school year.
“These budget priorities focus on making school joyful for students and providing supports for all students to be successful in school, no matter their path,” Wilson said.
Wilson has been in charge of DCPS for nearly a month. During his confirmation process, he told the D.C. Council that adding extracurricular activities was a way to keep students engaged and in school.
For high schools, DCPS will hire college-and-career coordinators to help students create a personal plan for their future after graduation. It also plans to put more resources into its four alternative high schools, which enroll students who once dropped out or are far behind in traditional school.
The school system estimates it has more than 1,300 students who are at least two years behind in progress toward graduation, with an additional 10,000 residents in the District who have dropped out of school and are eligible to enroll in alternative schools.