By Shannon McCabe, Guest Writer and Teacher at JLA
Jefferson Leadership Academies (JLA) is a 6th-8th grade middle school serving over 1,000 students. The campus, nestled in the middle of the Greenbelt Heights’ neighborhood, has lived in the shadow of other local middle schools for the last 30 years. At one time, Jefferson was highly ranked like its other eastside counterparts. Now, the school is slowly coming out of the dark.
Recent test data has students at JLA achieving above the state average in reading and equal to the state average in math. In comparison to the district, student proficiency levels were slightly below the average in reading, and significantly below in math. “We are expanding our math program,” said Principal Constance Magee, “to help our students compete for admissions to magnet schools and pathway programs. Off the top of my head, we had several 8th graders who were accepted into SATO, the district’s top ranked math and science magnet.”
Unique to JLA, compared to nearby schools, is its diversity and inclusivity. Ninety-seven percent of its students are minorities. In a new pilot program, students enrolled in special education had the opportunity to take classes with their nondisabled peers, cotaught by a special education and general education teacher, with much success in academics and inclusion. JLA also offers opportunities for academic growth with support, extracurricular enrichment that includes student council, as well as clubs and sports. The boys soccer team had a great 2021-2022 season with a difficult loss in the finals.
The “Leadership Academies” standard of excellence has been brought back to Jefferson, and includes both academic and community initiatives that will build confidence, support competencies, and create wonderful student leaders. According to Amelia Johnson, a teacher who is on special assignment after the pandemic, “JLA is a place where students are accepted for who they are, included in all aspects of learning, and supported in becoming the leaders of tomorrow.”
JLA is home to many seasoned teachers who work collaboratively within their departments to align strategies for learning vertically for grade level achievement of the standards. Many teachers stay current in best practices and have the students foremost in their approaches.