Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - Learning (and Succeeding) on Jump Street

In a neighborhood that produces about 30% of the city's homicide victims, with the city's lowest high-school graduation rate, every member of the school's first four classes has gone on to college.

The seven-year-old charter school, named for the first African-American Supreme Court justice, is one of several programs east of the Anacostia River that are designed to break the pattern of violence in this impoverished section of the city. TMA -- as it is known -- has innovative programs, such as the self-assessments that students must do, as well as software that gives teachers a near-instantaneous look at students' learning. But the school's success isn't built on cutting-edge pedagogy but on an old-fashioned concept: high expectations.

There is no metal detector, atypical for most schools and government buildings in Washington. The students, both the boys and the girls, dress in tan slacks and white or maroon shirts with the school name on them. They move quietly from class to class beneath triangular college banners that fill the halls. "No brainer" signs, reminders of the code of behavior, are placed intermittently in the halls as well. No eating outside the cafeteria, no grooming in class, no profanity, no gum chewing.

Everything at TMA is geared toward college...

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