Theme-Based Schools for STEM, Arts Integration, and World Cultures
On July 28, 2009, Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee announced the 13 DC Public Schools selected to transform into theme-based Catalyst Schools. Schools will spend the next year creating plans to refocus their strategic school design and content delivery, by adopting one of three themes: STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), Arts Integration, and World Cultures.
While adopting a theme is not a new educational tool, DCPS is taking a different approach by keeping all 13 schools comprehensive and not requiring a special admissions process.
The overall vision for the DC Catalyst Project includes transforming whole schools through:
1. Engaging Students
Whether it’s by engaging students’ imaginations through the arts, inspiring their curiosity through science or engaging them through exposure to new cultures, the heart of the curriculum at DC Catalyst Schools will be to inspire and motivate students through active learning.
2. Developing Educators
Professional development for teachers, teacher collaboration, leadership training, and co-planning across grades and disciplines will be inherent and core elements in the design of DC Catalyst schools. Partnerships with local experts will provide summer professional development opportunities and year-long coaching while connections to other DC Catalyst schools will provide frequent opportunities for collaboration across the city.
3. Enhancing Communities
Adopting a DC Catalyst theme affords a school the chance to build community around its distinct core focus. Opportunities abound for unique after school activities, school-wide projects, or parent and community events that can be built from the new theme. This sense of community can also extend to other schools with the same DC Catalyst theme, and can become a resource for all schools in the District.
This is the inaugural year for the DC Catalyst Project. Through an application process that opened in February 2009, design teams at DCPS schools submitted proposals that articulated their vision for how adopting one of the three Catalyst themes could enhance and transform their school both inside and outside the classroom. Up to five schools will be chosen for each Catalyst theme.
The 2009-2010 school year will be a designated Planning Year for all Catalyst Schools, which will fully implement the Catalyst theme in the fall of 2010.