“Coats off, scarves off, hats off! Belts on; shirts tucked,” Stacey Stewart, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s director of student affairs, yells at the two lines of students waiting to check-in and begin the school day.
“Ms. Stewart, I’m early today,” a student says as he approaches check-in.
“It’s 8:29. You are not early; you are on time,” she says, exasperated and amused. Check-in runs from 8 to 8:30 a.m. After students check in, they head downstairs for breakfast.
Nothing about morning check-in at Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) hints that there’s anything exceptional about the school, but a glass case near Stewart, filled with academic awards, reveals the truth: this is an extraordinary school.
Consistently ranked as a top-tier public charter school in Washington, D.C., Thurgood Marshall Academy is a law-themed school that serves about 400 students in 9th through 12th grade. Over 90 percent of students live in Wards 7 and 8, the city’s two poorest neighborhoods. Nearly 100 percent are African American, and 61 percent are designated “at-risk” by the Office of the State Superintendent, meaning they are at greater risk of dropping out based on their receipt of public assistance, food stamps, involvement with the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, homeless status, or being older than expected for their grade.
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