Student Assignment: How to Improve Our School and Community


It was a hot day in early June, but the 11th graders inside of Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, DC never seemed to sweat. They were cool, put together, looking more like policy advocates in front of congress instead of soon-to-be seniors in high school. Their task: pick a problem facing the community, develop a proposal to fix it and sell it to an audience. While some teamed up, others attacked the project solo, with all groups developing detailed plans of actions for the community.

The project was designed by former Teaching for Change staff member Jill Weiler who is now an English teacher at Capital City Public Charter School. Fitting in line with the type of expeditionary learning that Capital City prides itself upon, Weiler put her 11th grade English classes to work for their final project of the year. The students were responsible for writing a policy paper that clearly identified a problem in the community, persuaded the audience of the problem’s importance, and outlined a solution. The students’ solutions included details like budgets, timelines and expected outcomes. Then, the students had to turn their written proposals into a persuasive presentation. As an added incentive, all the proposals were competing for the coveted first and second place cash prizes of $200 and $100 to be put towards the implementation of the winning proposals.

Weiler drew on close to 20 members of the community to judge the multiple rounds of presentations. Teaching for Change staff member América Calderón, project assistant Maya Cameron, and summer intern Chelsea Caveny, all took part in helping make the tough decision of which student presentations would win the cash prize.

All of the presentations were impressive. A sense of community seemed to be the theme of the day, with several presentations touching on building an inclusive, inviting community within the walls of the upper and lower school. Presentations ranged from peer mentoring groups focused on gang prevention to an afterschool group looking to better connect the elementary and high school students. All of the presentations were thought provoking and well put together. For the Teaching for Change staff it was a delight to spend the day with students who make the future look so bright and to see a teacher build a curriculum where students learn to be agents of change with support to make their vision a reality.

Report prepared by Chelsea Caveny, Truman fellow and Teaching for Change 2011 summer intern.

Mykella Palmer