2013 Grant Recipient – The SEED Public Charter School of Washington, D.C.

The SEED School of Washington, D.C. (SEED DC) is a public, college-preparatory boarding school whose primary mission is to provide an outstanding, intensive educational program that prepares children, both academically and socially, for success in college and life beyond. SEED Schools are more than simply schools — SEED is an integrated program that brings, under one roof, the critical 24-hour support necessary for underserved children to realize their potential. More than 330 students in grades six through twelve attend SEED DC. All students live on campus Sunday through Friday, enabling them to benefit from an innovative curriculum that incorporates academic, extracurricular, and life skills learning.

The SEED Foundation was established in 1997 by Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota on the belief that children in an urban environment could benefit from a public, boarding educational program. In 1998, The SEED Foundation established SEED DC as the nation’s first urban public boarding school. SEED DC opened its doors with 40 seventh grade students in July 1998, at The Capital Children’s Museum and added students to the seventh grade each subsequent year. In 2001, the school moved to its permanent campus located in Marshall Heights, a neighborhood in Ward 7 of the District.  In 2004, SEED DC reached full capacity and graduated its first class of seniors, all of whom were accepted to college. In 2009, SEED DC introduced sixth grade to its program.

The vast majority of students entering SEED DC in the sixth grade — 75 percent — read at a third grade reading level. This significant skill deficit cannot be overcome in one year, nor can it be resolved by forcing students to read and write papers on books they cannot understand. Literacy skill deficits must be addressed as early as possible and the students must build literacy skills by working from their current skill level. Founded on the belief that the more students read, the more they will read on their own, the better readers they will become, SEED DC implemented a daily 40-minute reading requirement for every student beyond what he or she must read for class. As the campus is “home” to all of students for 120 hours per week, Sunday through Friday, students need to have access to books that meet a broad range of reading levels, in every classroom, the library and the dorms, which will ultimately, help to foster a culture of literacy. Students who lack access to reading materials in their home can borrow books from the SEED DC library all year round (including summer). Through its literacy program, SEED DC also makes sure that students are familiar with the public library system and own library cards.

85 percent of SEED DC’s students come from Wards 5, 7 and 8.  99 percent of the student body is African American and one percent Latino. 73 percent of SEED DC’s students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Approximately 85 percent of SEED DC graduates will be the first in their families to attend and graduate from college.

The JLW’s $25,000 grant will expand and build capacity of SEED DC’s Tools for Literacy Program – to help every student that enters SEED DC’s doors attain grade-level reading skills by the time they enter high school and ultimately ensure that every SEED DC graduate gain acceptance into college and graduate.  The Tools for Literacy Program is the center of the School’s efforts to improve literacy skills among all students.  SEED DC is unique for being one of a small group of schools in the District of Columbia to integrate the Reading and Writing Workshop into middle school English and Language Arts Curriculum due to the JLW’s past support.  Specifically, this year’s grant will be used to provide professional development to instructors which is required to remain current and continuously analyze and improve programming, to purchase a large number of books to have leveled libraries in the dormitories and every classroom, and to support the literacy coordinator who will oversee the development and implementation of the program.

For more information about the JLW’s 2013-2014 grant cycle, including the availability of and deadline for submission, please email grantsandvolunteers@jlw.org or visit our website at http://www.jlw.org/?nd=grants_scholars.