A look into public charter school success: E.L. Haynes

“Gotta read, baby read (clap clap!). Gotta read, baby read (clap clap!). The more I read, the more I know, the more I know, the further I go (clap clap!). You gotta read, baby read . . . .”

Kids who read more do better, and reading is only one of the many good habits that E.L. Haynes instills in its students. After the students chant this rhyme (with huge smiles on their faces), they participate in five minutes of silent sustained reading as a large group.  This time, combined with the students’ independent reading, goes towards the school’s goal of logging three-million minutes of reading this school year. Three-million minutes may sound like a lot, but these kids are already just short of one-million minutes, and it’s only November!

E.L. Haynes is a public charter school in Ward 4 that serves 800 students on two campuses in grades preschool through 9 and will grow, adding a grade each year until it servers students in grades preschool through 12.  E.L. Haynes is relentlessly pursuing the mission that every E.L. Haynes student - no matter what race, socioeconomic status or native language - will reach high levels of academic achievement and be prepared to succeed at the college of his or her choice.

What sets E.L. Haynes apart is that it recognizes that this goal goes beyond just getting students into college. It’s about preparing kids to be successful once they’re in college. And how do they do this? Teachers set high expectations and show kids that they can meet these expectations. At E.L. Haynes, students are introduced to colleges in pre-K and start AP courses in the ninth grade.

These high expectations seem to be working. In 2011, 90 percent of E.L. Haynes eighth graders scored proficient or advanced in math and 75 percent scored proficient or advanced in reading.  These percentages are outstanding in comparison to DC as a whole.  (You can see our data snapshot on DC CAS scores here.)

Last month, we attended a First Friday’s tour at Achievement Prep, another high performing public charter school in DC.  DC Action’s Policy Analyst Kate Kairys and others on the tour wanted to know “what’s the secret sauce?”

At E.L. Haynes, Founder and Head of School Jennifer Niles eagerly shared the ingredients to their recipe for success: “What we are best at is stealing good ideas from smart people.”  E.L. Haynes is a prime example of how sharing good ideas and executing best practices really works, which is probably why so many people showed up for the tour. This exchange of knowledge is important and essential if we want our DC kids to thrive.

Now the real question is: How can we get all DC schools to be as successful as E.L. Haynes? Let us know what you think by sharing a comment on this blog post.