The Learning Center - KIPP DC

The Learning Center educates 77 students in grades PK4 through 8 who are currently enrolled in KIPP DC schools, and whose Individualized Education Programs indicate that they require specialized instruction and related services in a full-time setting outside of general education. Michael Cordell, the founding school leader, explains the rationale behind its creation

At the time, I was the Chief Academic Officer at KIPP DC, which served more than 5,000 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. We offered a traditional continuum of special education programs. As I worked with my team, I realized we were struggling to ensure that our special education students were making yearly growth. Even with a team of service providers and teachers, students often weren’t receiving the tailored supports they needed and their teachers often felt isolated. In 2015, after a few years of studying the problem and trying to make incremental improvements, we realized we needed to do something new and innovative. We needed to reevaluate our practices and create a new program that gives all students the opportunity to succeed.

That realization led to The Learning Center, a school that is completely focused on educating children with a range of profound needs. We designed the school based on best practices from successful non-public schools, as well as insights from nationally recognized experts. Our school’s theory is that we can educate students with profound needs, give them access to experiences and resources they wouldn’t otherwise have in traditional classrooms and prepare them to succeed in less restrictive environments — either their “home” KIPP DC schools or at other schools they choose to attend when they leave us. We believe every child, regardless of his or her special needs, requires and deserves a top-notch education.


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