AppleTree has been an innovator from the start, merging proven strategies in education with best practices in business and entrepreneurship.
Social entrepreneurs Lex Towle and Jack McCarthy (now president and CEO) created AppleTree in 1996 to “increase the supply of effective schools through innovation.” AppleTree, FOCUS and a small group of entrepreneurial non-profits established a strong foundation for the DC charter schools movement through advocacy and action. AppleTree created America’s first charter-school incubator, which launched three high-performing middle and high schools: Washington Mathematics Science PCS, Cesar Chavez Public Policy PCS and Paul PCS. Each has been a Tier 1 (high-performing) school through most of their history.
When these schools were in their early years, McCarthy was struck by the number of students entering with low reading skills and asked, “What if we could provide these children with quality early learning from the start so they could enter kindergarten ready to thrive?”
AppleTree pivoted into preschool in 2001, and opened a tuition-free laboratory preschool in Southwest DC serving 36 children. AppleTree’s mission became closing the achievement gap before children enter kindergarten. From 2001 to 2005, AppleTree worked with leading experts in early language and literacy instruction, including Dr. Judy Schickedanz and Dr. David Dickinson, to develop an evidence-based early learning program. In 2005, AppleTree created AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School (AELPCS) as a scalable, multi-site preschool. Today, AppleTree Early Learning PCS educates over 1,300 children
AppleTree competed successfully for federal research and private funding to support research and development in early learning. In 2010, AppleTree won a prestigious Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to catalogue and document a comprehensive, evidence-based preschool instructional model called Every Child Ready (ECR). Evaluations of ECR provided evidence of effectiveness in developing critical language, literacy and numeracy skills identified with school readiness. In 2012 with support from New Schools Venture Fund and the DC Office of the State Superintendent for Education, AppleTree began supporting community based organizations and charter schools to implement all or parts of ECR in their preschool classrooms. These organizations currently enroll about 900 children.
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