The Atlantic

Computer Science for Everyone

A new middle school in Washington, D.C., wants to help bridge the racial and economic gaps in tech.
Source: Lola Fadulu / The Atlantic

On the second floor of a brick building on Branch Avenue in Washington, D.C., green and white signs celebrating innovation and professionalism decorate the classrooms of Digital Pioneers Academy, the first computer-science–focused middle school in the nation’s capital. One early afternoon, students at DPA worked on Scratch, an animation-based coding platform, to make a virtual cat move around in a box. When Crystal Bryant, one of the school’s STEM teachers, told the students it was time to close their Google Chromebooks—class was over—they groaned.

The school’s founder and principal, Mashea Ashton, has almost 20 years of experience teaching at and running charter schools. She grew up in New Jersey but has been in and around D.C. for more than

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