Ideas in Action: Powering Up Personalized Learning with Technology

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Washington Leadership Academy

Location: Washington, DC
Founded: 2013
Enrollment: 110
Grades Served: 9-10, with 11-12 to be added
Economically Disadvantaged: 88.2%
Special Education: 20.9%
At-Risk Population: 56.4%
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“I want to be the CFO of Snapchat.”

Statements like these are common for students at the Washington Leadership Academy (WLA). WLA is a technology-focused public charter high school serving students throughout the District of Columbia. Using technology to personalize learning enables students to be creators—and not just consumers—of technology.

As the education sector works to integrate technology as a tool for learning, the voices of students who are the end users of this technology deserve more attention. Many charter school leaders have improved their approach to personalized learning to help more kids learn at their own pace and have more agency over their education.

You can hear from some of these students through a set of video case studies recently released by the National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC). Below are some of the things WLA students told us.

Photo Credit: Washington Leadership Academy

All WLA students have their own laptop, which they can bring home. WLA teachers record their lessons so that students can watch or review them at their own pace outside of class. Different technology tools are used in academic and elective courses, including virtual reality, a 3D printer, and a greenscreen for video production. All 9th graders take a certification in website development, which will make them competitive for internships and jobs in the technology field. All tenth graders take Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles. WLA leaders estimate that offering this course will triple the number of students of color and double the number of female students in D.C. taking this exam to earn college credits.  

On classes on computer sciences: 

  • “To be able to be a woman and code and know more than my parents—it’s kind of cool!”—Kalilah, 10th grade 
  • “Every single class we’re literally doing something with computers.” —Zy’Dale, 9th grade 
  • “Computer science is my favorite because it makes me learn about technology. It shows me how technology can be seen a different way.” —Raven, 10th grade 
  • “I like computer science because I can make a world of my own. One little strand of code can make something amazing and beautiful.” —Kalilah, 10th grade 

On the benefits of personalized learning: 

  • “It’s different to have a teacher standing up and talking to you versus having them at your pace teaching you. Basically, you’re teaching yourself.” —Zy’Dale, 9th grade 
  • “When I came here, I was able to catch up to my grade level—and pass!—the first year of high school.” —Kalilah, 10th grade 

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. WLA’s mission is, “to prepare students with the knowledge, skills, and habits to succeed in college and live lives of public leadership.” 

On being a student at WLA and the future: 

  • “My favorite thing about attending WLA is the courses I’m taking. I feel like they’re setting me up not just for 10th grade, but the rest of high school and onto college.” —Zy’Dale, 9th grade 
  • “This school teaches you a lot of things you didn’t have a chance to learn at your old schools. And I think that’s a great thing. At my other schools, I wasn’t interested in the class I was in. I didn’t feel very confident in myself being at those schools. When I came to this school, I noticed a talent that I have that I didn’t see before.”—Raven, 10th grade 
  • “It makes me proud to be able to say, ‘Hey, I’m a 9th grader and I take Physics.’ Because people go, ‘Physics? Whoa! That’s usually a Junior or Senior level class.’” —Zy’Dale, 9th grade
  • “At Washington Leadership Academy, it teaches you how to be a leader. And for me to be a leader, I’ve never been a leader in my other schools. To be able to have this opportunity is very mesmerizing and unforgettable.” —Kalilah, 10th grade 
  • “I’m just proud to be here. I make everyone in my family proud of me being here because I just talk about this school all the time. I don’t leave school all sad; I don’t come to school like ‘oh, I don’t want to be here.’ I love it here.” —Raven, 10th grade 

Click or tap here to view the case study videos. 


By | 2018-07-11T16:19:45+00:00 July 10th, 2018|