Our History

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.

Recent Milestones:


  • AppleTree Institute develops and pilots its Every Child Ready program for teacher effectiveness. AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School fully implements the program during the 2011-12 school year.
  • The US Department of Education awards AppleTree an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to implement Every Child Ready. AppleTree is one of the 49 applicants funded out of 1,698 applications received.
  • AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School expands from 10 to 16 classrooms to serve 320 students across three campuses and a temporary site.


  • AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School opens four new campuses (Lincoln Park and Oklahoma Avenue on Capitol Hill in Northeast and Douglas Knoll and Parklands in Southeast) nearly doubling its enrollment from 320 to 620 students, with a presence in all four DC quadrants.


  • NewSchools Venture Fund identifies Every Child Ready as a research-based, data-driven model and selects AppleTree to strengthen three DC public charter schools in need of improvement.


  • AppleTree educates 480 students at six AppleTree Early Learning PCS campuses and 10 schools and community organizations implementing Every Child Ready.


  • AppleTree opens a new Southwest campus (replacing Riverside and Amidon) on the campus of Jefferson Middle School.
  • At the request of the DC Public Charter School Board and with support from NewSchools Venture Fund, AppleTree creates its AppleTree@ model, where AppleTree collaborates with a turnaround or high-performing new partner, to operate AppleTree preschool allowing the host school to focus on kindergarten and above, while AppleTree provides a high quality preschool education. AppleTree launches AppleTree@Democracy Prep in Southeast.
  • The DC Public Charter School Board approved AppleTree’s progress monitoring tools (ECR Language and Literacy, ECR Math and ECR Positive Behaviors Rating Scale) for use by any charter preschool’s Performance Management Framework.


  • AppleTree launches its second AppleTree@ model school at Perry Street Prep in Northeast.
  • AppleTree’s Every Child Ready instructional model is implemented for the first time outside Washington, DC by Dream Charter School in Harlem.
  • AppleTree educates almost 1,800 students or about one out of seven preschool students in the District of Columbia.


  • AppleTree doubles the number of AppleTree@ model schools by opening AppleTree@Achievement Prep and AppleTree@Rocketship, deepening its presence in Ward 8 and bringing the total number of students AppleTree reaches to more than 2,000 at 10 campuses and nine other public charter schools or community-based organizations.


  • AppleTree broadens its network by adding E.L. Haynes Public Charter School as an Every Child Ready implementation partner.
  • AppleTree partners with Medstar Georgetown to pilot an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program.


  • AppleTree Institute and the AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School Parklands campus move to THEARC West in SE D.C.
  • AppleTree’s CEO, Jack McCarthy, is inducted into FOCUS’s DC Charter Hall of Fame
  • AppleTree@ Rocketship Legacy opens
  • DC PAVE (Parents Amplifying Voices in Education) awards AppleTree their Parent PowerED School Partner Award
  • Four of AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School Campuses earn Tier 1 status rating from DC Public Charter School Board.
  • Successful roll-out of the Every Child Ready instructional model platform to AppleTree Early Learning, AppleTree@, and Every Child Ready implementation partners.
  • AppleTree Institute was recognized as an innovative provider of early childhood education solutions and invited to present Every Child Ready‘s value proposition at the Early Futures event in San Jose, California hosted by Omidyar Network, Sesame Workshop, and Promise Venture Studio.