Developing Life-long Leaders in the Elementary Grades

Aaron Cuny began his career in education with the goal of opening of school and after 12 years in the field, with 3 of them as a resident principal at another charter organization, Aaron knew that time had come. He  wanted to build something exemplary and believed his best chance to achieve that would be to start from scratch. With this experience in teaching and instructional leadership, he partnered with Will Stoetzer, Ingenuity Prep’s Co-Founder and Director of Business & Operations, to launch the school.

Ingenuity Prep is an elementary school in Washington DC that opened it’s doors to students in the fall of 2013. Cuny had taught in Oakland, CA and Mexico but picked DC as the ideal location because, not only was it the place he wanted to settle, but it had the favourable climate needed to be able to open a successful school. DC offers a lot of autonomy and Aaron feels he has been blessed, “often times you hear folks blaming external factors, I really believe that this not the case in DC.” He believes that there the onus is on the adults. Although they have the freedom to create something, it is their responsibility to ensure that it provides for student success.

Launching with PreK3- kindergarten, Ingenuity Prep’s halls do not have many students that currently stand taller than four feet, but that will soon change. Next year, 1st grade will be added, continuing on with one grade each year- building on the solid foundation of a strong early childhood education. While staying centered in Southeast DC, Ingenuity Prep would like to add 1-2 more preK-8th grade sites in the next 5 years, as well as, eventually, a high school.

Success in college and developing into impactful civic leaders is the end goal for the Ingenuity Prep students, even though they are currently only 3, 4 or 5 years old. Rigorous literacy and math content is introduced immediately combined with learning the skills needed to emerge as strong citizens and skilled leaders. Collaboration and other socio-emotional literacy skills are intertwined with the academics to help students develop into the types of leaders our world needs.

iPads are working for these elementary students right now. Providing content such as Lexia Core 5 and ST Math, these young students are just getting their toes wet with technology and the learning practices that work best. The PreK students use devices for at most 15 minutes a day, while Kindergarteners use a lab rotation model, spending set time working on their math and literacy skills online.  Cuny and the staff are being very thoughtful as they look to the future and the older grades, “things evolve so fast, we want students to be fluent in a range of devices, whatever hardware allows students to be successful in the future” is what they will use.

The teacher path at Ingenuity Prep looks different than the traditional model. The career ladder builds with experience, from resident, to associate, to lead teacher, to master teacher- with the goal that most teachers will eventually loop with students across multiple grade levels. As the grades start to build and needs around content knowledge start to shift, the model may be adjusted, depending on what works best for the students. A position fairly unique to a start-up school such as Ingenuity Prep is its Curator of Institutional Practice.  In this role, Adam Hill leverage video to support teachers’ instructional self-reflection, leaderships’ instructional coaching, and the organization’s development of a video playbook of exemplary practice.  All this feeds a strong culture of growth mindset and continuous improvement.

The NGLC Launch Grant has positioned Ingenuity Prep in the right position to grow and scale success. It seems rare to see new schools starting with preschoolers with the intention to bring them through their entire PreK-12 career. It may be rare, but it feels very logical.


MIND Research is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.


Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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