At the age of 11, Marco Clark was misdiagnosed by a teacher as having some educational challenges. At the age of 11, Marco Clark was misdiagnosed by a teache
This led to him graduating high school in five years instead of four, with a 1.6 grade point average and scoring 480 on the SATs. But he didn’t give up.
“In college, I realized I had a challenge in reading comprehension and part of that was that I lived out the label given to me at 11-years old around the ability to comprehend appropriately based on a misdiagnosis on an assessment,” he says. These miscues and systemic failings inspired him to double down and work harder to become an educator, working as a teacher, dean, assistant principal and then principal.
But at every turn, he found that students didn’t have enough of a voice in their own education to really get what they needed out of schools.
Now he’s the founder and CEO of the Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts in Washington, D.C., a school established to help students learn how to gain the skills they need to be good writers and producers and to pursue careers in journalism.
“I decided to open a school in some of the poorest areas of the District, in Wards 7 and 8, recognizing that these students would have an issue with reading and writing and math,” Clark says. “I figured if we came up with a thematic base that would say we can focus on journalism, which, in turn, our hope would be, if you improve their reading skills, their writing would improve. They would develop a voice and begin to uplift people one person at a time.”
The school is named after Richard Wright, “a great writer and advocate for his community,” Clark says. “Now you have the school and it encompasses the name of a person who fought for the same exact thing I do.”
Charter schools are public schools that students can apply to attend, without restrictions or requirements based on grades, abilities or where they live. Students apply to attend and, if there’s a seat for them, they’re allowed to enroll.
“Whether bright or broken or behavioral issues, we serve them and we do it well,” he says. Charter schools also have more accountability than public schools, in that while they have autonomous control over the students’ curriculum, a failing charter school will be closed down while failing traditional schools will remain open.
The curriculum at the Richard Wright Charter School focuses on writing and photojournalism, in addition to production and behind-the-scenes technology.
“We have kids now working on podcasts,” Clark says. “We have a radio station where we’re putting the communications out there. As they walk away, they will have a wealth of this information and knowledge that will hopefully navigate them to a career in journalism and mass communications.”
It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell talks with Dr. Marco Clark, founder and CEO of the Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts in Washington, D.C. He explains how educational issues in his own childhood made him passionate about helping students have more of a voice in their own education and why charter schools are held more accountable in exchange for more autonomy.