Success at Frederick Douglass High School

Topics: Education Policy, ESSA

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. are visiting Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland, today, where they will discuss new guidelines from the federal government about discipline policies in schools. The goal of the policies include keeping more students in class, avoiding unnecessary out-of-school suspensions and reducing racial disparities in punishment.

When Duncan and Holder walk through the doors of historic Frederick Douglass High School, a KnowledgeWorks partner school, they’re in for a pleasant surprise. While the school can boast of being the the second oldest historically integrated public high school in the United States and having alumni like Thurgood Marshall and Cab Calloway, it also bears the legacy of being highlighted in the HBO documentary: “Hard Times at Douglass High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card,” which came out in 2008. A lot has changed in the last six years.

KnowledgeWorks started working with Frederick Douglass High School in 2010. Building on the school’s proximity to the nation’s capital, famous graduates and wonderful community resources, we helped establish The Academy of Innovation and The Academy for Global Leadership and Public Policy. Students can self-select from these two interest-based academies and participate in a rigorous curriculum geared towards personal interests.

We worked side-by-side with the school’s leadership team and teachers at school, as well as the very active alumni base. We helped leveraged existing school and partner resources to chart pathways to achievement and success.

And what success!

Frederick Douglass High School has cut that dropout rate in half and seen test scores rise dramatically since 2011. In 2012, Frederick Douglass hit its state academic targets for the first time in 15 years and they did so again in 2013, with 19 percentage point gains in math and 17 percentage point gains in English since 2010. Frederick Douglass High School is on the fast track towards success.

“The secret to Frederick Douglass’ success is both wildly simple and immensely difficult,” said Deborah Howard of KnowledgeWorks. “It’s courage. The leadership team and staff at Douglass display the courage to do the right thing for their students at the right time. Period. No excuses.”