I regret to inform everyone that has heard such rave reviews about this school that they are not very accurate. Unfortunately, I have been told by some of the staff that it may be a result of the principal change to Ms. Lyons-Lucas. She is unresponsive to emails, a tad bit condescending and seems to be more interested in funding, not the actual students. My wife and I have had to go to the school board and superintendent several times to get responses from the school in just the first half of the school year. We have two children in the school, PK3 and 4th grade. I have little to no complaints about the PK program. The teachers are a pleasure to deal with and seem to be motivated to teach, very interactive with the parents and our child enjoys the class. On the other hand, 4th grade has been a nightmare! Our child was erroneously placed in the dual language program due to the school not ensuring they received an accurate assessment from their assessment center, then tried to blame us for the mishap. Furthermore, they took their own assessment, which my child failed and decided it was best to keep her enrolled to satisfy their federal requirements for funding even though my child was frustrated and struggling. After fighting tooth and nail with Ms. Lyons-Lucas for the change, my child was finally switched to an English speaking class that was overcrowded. My child was told she had to share a textbook with another child because there was not enough for every child to take one home. Therefore, homework could not be completed in that class for a week until I sent another email. Overall, it has been a nightmare and more importantly, academically devastating for a child that has always been on the honor roll. The only reason they are getting an average rating is because the teachers enjoy and are good at their job. Ms. Lyons-Lucas needs to refocus her attention to her students, their needs and resources available to them.
We are very excited to learn that on Nov 20th our kid's principal at Powell won the 2014 DCPS Principal of the Year award. We would like to share with potential parents looking at Powell that Ms. Docal is very attentive to the needs of the students, parents, and her staff. She has set a high bar for standards and turned this DCPS around. My spouse, who is an educator at UMD, is very impressed by what he's seen in the classroom in terms of class management, positive learning environment, and academic rigor. We both had the chance to visit a Kinder class and a 5th-grade class (both dual language/bilingual classrooms) and I personally enjoyed the lots of examples of individualized attention for students, and seeing the high participation level of the different students. We love that the school educates students in English and Spanish-still a rarity in the U.S. at this level. Most or all classes have 2 teachers. Impressive! If you are not interested in that, Powell also has an English-only track in every grade. Our 4-year-old even has yoga classes on Wednesday afternoon, a really nice perk. Again, we are very impressed by the Powell team and by everything happening in this school.
I am very impressed by Principal Docal and Vice Principal Sanders. They have high standards for the students and teachers. After witnessing several interactions between them and students at the school, I am convinced that they enjoy children and sincerely want them to succeed. I am also very impressed with our daughter's preschool teacher. She is the perfect match for our daughter, who needs a lot of structure with a touch of strict discipline to keep her in line and to encourage her to learn. Our daughter entered the spring term late, and once she was in class, she truly flourished both personally and academically. I only wish the bilingual support structure were more effective. Right now, I don't perceive of it as very strong, in part because the teacher's aide's verbal acumen and lexical register could be higher. That being said, our daughter is being taught Spanish and she has improved over the course of several months. At Powell, we have found the right fit for our daughter and a school that will nurture that relationship.
I believe that the right school leader is the key ingredient to school turnaround. And Powell ES has an outstanding school leader who is so clearly focused on ensuring all students at Powell have a high-quality education. Our child (in english/spanish PK3) is thriving. And, we've seen remarkable progress by all the students in the class, regardless of race or socio-economic background, even those who started off way behind at the top of the year. What we most appreciate about Powell: 1. The principal 2. The teachers - dedicated, attentive. focused on student growth and continual progress 3. Tools of the Mind - we didn't have a strong preference before but we now really appreciate the foundation for self-discipline and focus that our child is building 4. The focus on parent engagement through the Flamboyan Foundation programs 5. The diversity - at a glance, the school is most obviously diverse in the youngest classrooms. But if you look more closely, there is great diversity across all grades and that diversity is explored and celebrated 6. The sense of community Truly, Powell is a wonderful, learning-rich school.
My kids (second grade and Pre-K 4) started attending Powell this year and I simply cannot say enough good things about this school! My son especially has come a long way academically; he was a below-average student in his previous school (in Maryland), and has made significant strides this year to catch up to his peers. My daughter is doing great academically as well, and is growing in fluency in Spanish daily (she is in the dual language program). I love the teachers, staff and administration and they really do work well with the parents. Our school has a wonderful community. Next year my son will be in the Pre-K 3 program at Powell, and I can't wait. It's a real shame that Powell's 5 star rating is being dragged down by one 1 star comment (that honestly could have been written by my 2nd grader...). I do encourage anyone who doubts Powell's ratings to come and tour the school and see all that has been accomplished. This is truly a shining star among DCPS Schools.
I love that the school is so welcoming. There is an amazing community and they are working hard to improve the test scores. Kids are happy. Teachers seem happy. They have practically done a home visit of about 95% of the students at the school. Great programs. And happy about the appropriation passed to remodel the school.
Powell is a wonderful school. The following is an excerpt from a note is we sent to the principal: We are writing to express how much we appreciate the teaching team of Mr. X and Ms. Y. Our son is learning so much, from starting to sound out words and speaking Spanish in full sentences to learning to better regulate his emotions and exhibiting increased self confidence. Most importantly, he is happy and looks forward to going to school every day. Mr. X is a gem, and we tell this to everyone who asks us about our experience at Powell. He has an amazing ability to connect with his students. He talks to them and shows that he cares about what they are doing and how they are feeling. He works creatively with his students to solve conflicts in the classroom and on the playground, and we have seen the role playing he directs being put into action. Mr. X also goes above and beyond to communicate any issues or positive feedback related to our son. We even recall receiving a call on a Friday evening, long after the call of duty had ended. We feel very lucky that our son was placed in Mr. X's classroom and are happy we made the decision to enroll at Powell.
Powell is a great school, their bilingual and early childhood education programs are strong. Powell is one of DCPS success stories with great gain in Math this year from 48% last year to 63% Proficient , and in Reading from 37% to 45% Proficient. Powell is one of the top 12 DCPS schools showing DC-CAS improvement in 2013. Our enrollment increased exponentially, from 219 in 2009 to 407 in 2013. The Embassy of Spain names Powell the second best bilingual school in the US. Principal Docal just won one of the seven 2013 Rubenstein Awards for DC Schools Leadership.
Powell is a great place to have a child in early childhood education and parents should see it for themselves. We looked all over DC - DCPS, charter and private - and were thrilled with what they are actually doing in our child's class. Your sense of "reputation" or a quick look at "demographics" should not, I repeat, not, keep you from seeing what is going on at Powell. The Tools of the Mind curriculum for small kids is so fun, and engaging, and based on brain science. I feel jealous of my child! And the upper grades are doing well, with very, very fast gains in test scores. And the principal is very engaging and pouring her heart into this school and it is working. The parent organization is up and coming but still has improvements to make. All in all, a school like this is heartening for those who wonder if DCPS can succeed. Powell certainly can.