The public conversation around schools returning to campus continues to frame current education options as a simple choice: on-campus or remote, with the further suggestion that on-campus is good and remote learning is not. The reality, of course, is much more nuanced and since March 2020, every school has been challenged to find the best educational model that meets the needs of their school community. Would we all like to return to pre-pandemic times when schools were open and social distancing wasn’t part of our vocabulary? Of course, yes! But since that is an unrealistic option now, it is important for every school to find the best way for them to bring forward an educational program for their students.


At WSG, our decision making over the past several months has been clearly driven by our school mission, recognizing that meeting our students’ needs would require flexibility and a shift in resource strategy. Through ongoing surveys with our families beginning last Spring and continuing through the end of 2020, we heard our families’ concerns about students being in-person on campus. Most notably, families have felt the disproportionate impact that COVID has placed on the Black community and in particular, the high rate of unfavorable COVID metrics in Ward 8 in DC, where we are located. Families wanted to ensure a strong educational program for their daughters, while also recognizing the very real concern of keeping their families and communities healthy and safe.


As a result, we established a robust distance learning program for our students, ensuring that every girl had access to technology, reliable wifi (providing hotspots when needed), and a quiet space to work (with noise cancelling devices if needed). Our teachers have live instructional classes each day with our students, offering office hours for individual and small group support in the afternoons. The weekly schedule was rearranged to allow for social-emotional and organization skills learning and extracurricular activities on Mondays to start the week. Daily morning prayer led by students, a critically important part of our faith based school, continues virtually, allowing students and staff to come together in quiet meditation and prayer to start the school day. If students need additional support, they can meet with academic coaches individually throughout the week. The student supports available on campus have been replicated online, and our students take advantage of those opportunities. Finally, we recognize that many of our families have been particularly impacted during the pandemic, through loss of employment, food insecurity, economic vulnerabilities and so much more. With the generous support of our benefactors we’ve provided some emergency crisis funding to our families to help. We know that partnership with our families is critical to having our students show up ready to learn each day.


It is this intensive and comprehensive program that comprises WSG now - and we are proud of our results!

  • Daily attendance by students in our distance learning program averages 98% each day

  • Fall and Winter MAP testing results of students returning to WSG for this current school year indicate academic progress and growth in both reading and math, when compared to testing done in Winter 2020, testing completed pre-pandemic

  • Extracurricular activities continue, with students virtually exploring robotics, entrepreneurship, leadership, newspaper writing and more

  • Family support is strong, with continued participation in recent virtual parent teacher conferences and our Family Engagement meetings and parent education webinars, focusing on topics of interest, such as Financial Literacy


Anecdotal evidence suggests that our students feel engaged with their teachers (dropping by office hours just to chat) and continue to experience the joy of learning remotely, while also still desiring to be back on campus with their peers and teachers in person. And we agree! You can both miss being in person AND reap the benefits of a well organized virtual program.


In February, we initiated a very limited return to campus with small groups of girls, specifically focusing on those students identified who could benefit the most from the structured environment of on campus learning. We hope to continue to increase the number of students and time on campus over the next few months. Meanwhile, our primary method of education remains a robust online learning program. With both options our school families continue to be supportive and active participants in making sure our students show up for learning each day. Our teachers continue to find new ways to make learning engaging and relevant for our students and keep the connections going.


As our country continues to navigate through pandemic life, it could be that a full return to pre-pandemic operations is not likely to come for quite some time. The vaccine is promising news, but as with other COVID news, the positive indicators do not seem as widely relevant to the Black community (where the vaccination rate is lower at this early stage) - and thus our school planning acknowledges that fact. We will continue to make decisions that reflect and honor our school community - and navigate the combination of online and in-person learning that serves our students and families well. When the time is right, we look forward to a full return on campus, joyfully celebrating with our students.


Educational equity has been a tenet of WSG’s mission since the school’s founding over 20 years ago. Sr. Mary Bourdon, RJM and the school’s co-founders recognized the need to provide an educational environment for girls in Ward 8 and the surrounding communities that supported their success - leading to equitable opportunities in life.


Fast forward to 2020 and educational equity continues to be a concern in our country. Schools are being challenged to demonstrate their commitment to equity by sharing how their program creates inclusion and opportunities for all of their students. WSG has taken this moment to concretely define our commitment to equity for our students by creating a statement to share throughout our community. This statement serves as our community agreement regarding educational equity.


The WSG Equity statement consists of 4 parts:

  • Introduction

  • Our pledge

  • Equity questions

  • A call to action

Following is a description of the statement, broken down into those parts in order to share the thinking behind each section.


Introduction

This overarching statement indicates our long standing commitment to being a school specifically focused on gender and racial equity.


We believe that students of all backgrounds deserve to be challenged, supported, and inspired in school; but educational equity is not yet a reality for Black and Brown girls. They urgently need schools that believe in their gifts, talents, and potential, and are designed specifically for their success. For over 20 years, WSG has been steadfast in our commitment to racial and gender equity.



Our Pledge

A pledge is a promise or agreement to action. Our pledge reflects our commitment to our students as their educators and partners in their educational journeys. The pledge signifies the many ways we will honor our students’ hopes and dreams for their lives and recognizes the responsibility we hold as a school. We also indicate our understanding of the need to continually self-reflect and connect our broader community in discussion and learning.


To live up to our values, we pledge:

  • To celebrate our students for their achievements and aspirations, rather than define them by society’s failure to support them

  • To challenge them, rather than practice the racism of low expectations

  • To design and deliver teaching and learning that is culturally responsive, and accurately depicts the presence and contributions of Black and Brown people in our society

  • To engage ourselves personally and professionally in continuous learning about equity

  • To engage our partners and stakeholders in equity conversations to share our knowledge and contribute to progress in our broader community.

  • To ensure that our students regularly see and engage with adults who look like them in a variety of positions both within the school and within our community of stakeholders.


Probing Questions

Critical thinking involves questioning aspects of an issue to explore, probe and test the basis. As a way to think critically about what equity means at WSG, we used a lens of questioning. How might we ensure our program is aligned to create the best outcomes for our students? What is needed to connect families with our vision? How can we ensure that WSG retains the components needed to ensure racial and gender equity in an ever changing world? Through continual questioning, we are able to refine and adapt our program as needed to support our school mission.


From admissions to graduate support, our programs are intentionally designed to combat the inequity our students and families experience elsewhere. When making a decision, we interrogate it through the lens of equity: is student enrollment accessible for a guardian who is unfamiliar with a private school admissions process? Are family engagement opportunities flexible and abundant for parents with challenging and unpredictable work schedules? Do disciplinary actions remove students from the classroom unnecessarily, taking away opportunity for academic growth? Does our language as a school community reinforce or challenge racial and gender stereotypes? Do students have the opportunity to experience various world views and perspectives beyond their community?


A Call to Action

Our equity statement is for WSG and all who support our mission and our students. A supportive and growing community surrounding our students can only help to elevate their voices and impact in the world. We close with a call to action for us all.


While WSG is an affirming community for our students, we can only do so much to prepare students for an inequitable world. We rely on our friends and partners to do their part to eradicate injustice and racism in our larger community, to make the world a better place for our students.


In closing, our Equity Statement is not just a statement on paper or our website, but rather a confirmation of our work at WSG to create true equity for our students.




WSG Equity Statement

We believe that students of all backgrounds deserve to be challenged, supported, and inspired in school; but educational equity is not yet a reality for Black and Brown girls. They urgently need schools that believe in their gifts, talents, and potential, and are designed specifically for their success. For over 20 years, WSG has been steadfast in our commitment to racial and gender equity.


To live up to our values, we pledge:

  • To celebrate our students for their achievements and aspirations, rather than define them by society’s failure to support them

  • To challenge them, rather than practice the racism of low expectations

  • To design and deliver teaching and learning that is culturally responsive, and accurately depicts the presence and contributions of Black and Brown people in our society

  • To engage ourselves personally and professionally in continuous learning about equity

  • To engage our partners and stakeholders in equity conversations to share our knowledge and contribute to progress in our broader community.


From admissions to graduate support, our programs are intentionally designed to combat the inequity our students and families experience elsewhere. When making a decision, we interrogate it through the lens of equity: is student enrollment accessible for a guardian who is unfamiliar with a private school admissions process? Are family engagement opportunities flexible and abundant for parents with challenging and unpredictable work schedules? Do disciplinary actions remove students from the classroom unnecessarily, taking away opportunity for academic growth? Does our language as a school community reinforce or challenge racial and gender stereotypes? Do students have the opportunity to experience various world views and perspectives beyond their community?


While WSG is an affirming community for our students, we can only do so much to prepare students for an inequitable world. We rely on our friends and partners to do their part to eradicate injustice and racism in our larger community, to make the world a better place for our students.


Updated: Nov 20, 2020



The Washington School for Girls is pleased to announce its new mission statement, adopted recently by the Board of Trustees, developed with robust stakeholder input, and rooted in our commitment to educational equity and racial justice:


Washington School for Girls ignites the joyful pursuit of learning and inspires lives of faith-filled purpose, leadership, and service.


A mission statement is central to an organization - succinctly explaining its purpose in a way that resonates throughout the entire community. In a school setting, a mission statement is a unifying vision for teachers and administrators, guiding the school’s work with students and families and informing program design. The mission serves as an expression of the school’s values and beliefs, so that students and families can be sure they align with their own.


Most importantly, students must be able to see themselves reflected in the mission of the school in a way that honors their contribution to the community and their potential for growth. It must also be a call to action for all stakeholders: students, families, staff, volunteers, supporters, and partners. While it may be considered an inward statement for a school, the impact of the mission statement reverberates throughout the community.


As part of our recent re-accreditation and strategic planning processes at WSG, we conducted a comprehensive review of our mission statement. This review included community surveys to various stakeholder groups including students, families, faculty/staff and our Board of Trustees. A common theme arose from the surveys: while the WSG community is unified in our shared purpose, our statement focused too much on defining our students and not enough on our bold vision for their success.


In January, armed with this feedback, we gathered a cross section of our stakeholders together for a strategic planning retreat and to discuss a revision to the mission statement. We wanted to ensure our mission statement would connect internally with our faculty and staff, feel relevant and aspirational to our families and students, and be compelling to our external stakeholders. Most critically, we wanted to ensure that our mission statement would reflect our commitment to equity through its language and framing.


Language is incredibly powerful and, as evidenced by ongoing national conversations about racial equity, can impact the way we think about the world around us. To inform our discussion on how we describe our students and our work, we learned about the concept of asset framing - you can learn more by watching this short video by Trabian Shorters. In summary, Shorters’ work calls on organizations to describe those they serve in terms of their aspirations and their contributions rather than their challenges and deficits. In doing so, organizations like WSG can affirm the dignity and worth of their students and avoid setting any unintended limitations on them.


Our group of stakeholders tested and evaluated several versions of our mission statement, with specific focus on the fidelity to our founding values, the connection with our students and families, and faithfulness to our vision and goals. We are extremely proud of the resulting statement: one that draws on our school history and founding vision, reflects our partnership with students and families, and authentically describes our aspirations for our school and our students.


Read on to learn more about why the committee chose each component of our new statement:


Washington School for Girls ignites...

We chose “ignites” as our leading verb, rather than something like “empowers” or “uplifts”, because we acknowledge that young girls of color have fortitude and power within themselves. We don’t need to give them power or lift them - rather, we play a role in activating a potential that already exists within each student. We ignite this potential, but it is the student herself who, through realizing her own power and ability, engages proactively in her education.


… the joyful pursuit of learning...


Joy has been a core value at WSG since its founding - and one that is visibly present within our school. Our students are young girls: elementary and middle school aged. Schools should be supportive, encouraging, safe spaces where students want to be; classrooms should encourage students to want to learn. Embracing learning can be a beautiful and yes, joyful, experience.


We also chose “pursuit” to reflect that there is no endpoint for learning. We want our students to continue to learn throughout their lives, through higher education, professional growth, and in their personal and spiritual lives. The joyful pursuit of learning is not a chore, rather, it is to delight in the discovery of something new.


… and inspires lives of faith-filled purpose...


As a Catholic school, we believe that God is the source of our lives and strength and so we support all faith expressions. We encourage each student’s deepening of her spirituality through the Catholic faith tradition, shared prayer experiences and our school culture. We believe that this helps students find purpose and meaning in their own lives, and was critical to include in our mission statement.


… leadership...


WSG is developing tomorrow’s leadership. We want our girls to understand that they can be leaders in their schools and in their communities as they mature and head into high school. Leadership development is woven throughout the WSG experience for students, with a range of opportunities for them to use their voices for good.


… and service.


Our desire is that WSG students contribute positively to society and the world. Stewardship and a spirit of generosity are important tenets of our program, helping our students to understand they have much to share with others.

Washington School for Girls

THEARC Campus / 1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20020 / Phone: 202-678-1113 / Fax: 202-678-1114

The VIEW Campus / 1604 Morris Road SE, Washington, DC 20020 / Phone: 202-678-1714 / Fax: 202-678-5422

EIN: 52-2031849