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5 Of The Best Public Elementary Schools in Washington, DC

Kristen Marrs
by Kristen Marrs on January 9, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Washington, D.C. has a rich history in shaping America’s modern educational system. Families looking to relocate to the city want to make sure their children have access to the best schools in the area, and there are many great choices in the Public School sector. Read on to discover some of the best public education D.C. has to offer!

Three kids in school huddled around a MacBook - NavutImage by Lucélia Ribeiro via Flickr


In 1804, Thomas Jefferson and his board of Trustees sought to establish one of the first public education systems in the country, right here in D.C. A short year later, the very first public schools were ready for students - Eastern Free School and Western School, each located in close proximity to the Capitol building and the President’s house. However, the idea of free public school came with a stigma, and it took some time for the ideology to take flight.

Today, public schools are the heart of many communities and for parents, choosing a new place to call home is often centered around which school best fits their needs. We’ve picked 5 public schools we think your children would thrive in, and we’ve taken into consideration everything from community to test scores. Enjoy!


1. Mann Elementary School

A boy walking between library shelves wearing a backpack - Navut


Serving the main neighborhoods of Spring Valley and Wesley Heights in Northwest D.C., Mann Elementary got its namesake from politician and education reformation activist Horace Mann. He shared the ideology that education should be universal throughout the country.

Among its many qualities, Mann Elementary has received the US Department of Education "Blue Ribbon School Award for Excellence" four times and is one of a dozen schools in the entire country with the honor. The building itself is resource-efficient and LEED Certified, which uses less water and energy to run while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Cool, right?

Mann is a part of the D.C. Collaborative for Change, too. The D.C.3 program networks with other schools in the city that mirror similar educational philosophies. Educators share resources and professional development to build relationships and community across the city.

When you visit, you'll notice that their learning spaces are colorful and hands-on, and the outdoor play area is alive with butterfly gardens, bug composts, a sensory area, and a nature trail that’s open to all students. The school also has two functioning gardens- 20 raised beds and an urban rooftop terrace that they harvest and incorporate into their lunch program. They even keep their own bees!

Their educational values center around the arts and sciences and they pride themselves on the "da Vinci Suite" at the center of the building.  That's where you will find their Library, Art Studio, Science Lab, and Performing Arts spaces.

But the school isn't just for grades K-5, you'll also find a Reggio Pre-K program, and the school encourages parents to volunteer for their Library and Garden programs throughout the year.

Mann elementary has a GreatSchools rating of 9 out of 10, and it’s easy to see why.


2. Stoddert Elementary

Stoddert Elementary in Washington, DC - NavutImage by Estonian Foreign Ministry via Flickr


Renovated in 2010 to meet the needs of its growing popularity, Stoddert hosts about 350 students, a 50% increase in the last decade, making this school one of the most sought after in the D.C. area. The school has children from the embassies of France, China, and Russia that attend here, lending to their wide diversity in its student body. The parents are also active within the community, and their blossoming PTA showcases their involvement.

You get a feel for how much they love their teachers, too. One review from their GreatSchools page showcases just how much.

“We really love Stoddert. It is a community of caring teachers, parents, and students. The school nurtures the child both academically and emotionally. I really get the sense that my kids are being encouraged by the whole community surrounding the school and that they are learning to be good citizens as well as successful learners."

They also rank well academically in the D.C. area, scoring 13th out of 161 public and charter schools across the District in ELA and 3rd in the entire city for math.

One of the best parts about the program is its dedication to Information Literacy and Physical Education. “The mission of the Stoddert Information Literacy Program is to equip our students with life-long learning skills, to develop their imagination allowing them to become critical thinkers and effective users of information in all formats and mediums.”

And their gymnasium is incredible- floor to ceiling windows make up half of the wall space, which makes the entire room bright and airy and many of their after school programs revolve around physical activity like Girls on the Run, Ballet, Karate, Yoga, and gymnastics.

As an added bonus, it’s also the first school in D.C. to be 100% heated and cooled by geothermal energy, which earned it a LEED Gold Certificate, and was the first D.C. school to receive the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon.


3. Ross Elementary

John W. Ross Elementary School in Washington, DC - NavutImage by Josh via Flickr


A school with a small population, Ross’s 160 students range from Pre-K to 5th grade. The building itself is historic and charming, located in Dupont Circle in D.C.’s NorthWest, and when you step on the grounds, they have by and large remained the same since its development in the late 1800s.

The school’s mission statement spells out its namesake, and they take pride in making sure their students embody their values:

  • R: Rigorous Academics
  • O: Open-minded, Respectful Community
  • S: Strong Sense of Self
  • S: Service to Others

Its performance statewide ranked high in PARCC Scores across the city, with 75% of the student body meeting and exceeding expectations in Math, and 70% of the student body meeting and exceeding in ELA. It was also ranked 5th out of 127 in diversity in the city. And the parents seem to be ecstatic about it.

From a GreatSchool review:

"I have two kids who attend Ross Elementary School in Dupont Circle. Our school rocks!! Thanks to our outstanding principal and teaching staff, we just achieved REWARD status. Our test scores went through the roof! I feel so fortunate to be at this small school where the teachers are smart, dedicated and focused on our children's academic growth."

But you’ll find much more than a solid performance in this school. They have an extensive Enrichment program that spans across childhood development such as Robotics, Chess, Computer Coding, Spanish and French, among others. They’ve even recently partnered with “Everybody Wins!", a non-profit literacy mentorship program that also provides funding for books and reading materials for the school.

Ross also hosts fun events like this year’s 6th Annual “Walk to School Day”, where McGruff the crime dog escorted students to school!


4. Eaton Elementary

John Eaton Elementary in Washington, DC - NavutImage by Mr.TinDC via Flickr


“Many cultures, One community.” The motto of Eaton Elementary echoes the sentiments of many people in the D.C. area, as it is a giant melting pot of culture in one strong community. Because of their diversity, the school was designated a "World Heritage" community and has an 8 out of 10 rating by GreatSchools.

But it doesn't stop there. Eaton was 1 out of 118 programs in the Nation recognized in 2016 with a Support Music Merit Award (SMMA) and their music teacher, Premila Mistry, received The American Center for Elemental Music and Movement’s Spotlight Award.

The School has a rich history spanning over 105 years, and its students have benefitted in that time under a curriculum formatted to “educate the whole child”. Their educators take their student's interests to heart with “Eagle Time” weekly enrichments, and students get to select classes based on their personal interests. The class sizes are smaller and specialized to focus on Science, Math, Engineering, the Arts and more.

Eaton was also selected by the school board to use a full-time Chinese Language instructor to infuse Chinese language education into the K-5 curriculum. The program enriches cultural awareness, and students draw comparisons between the American culture and the Chinese culture.


5. Brent Elementary

Kids doing schoolwork at Brent Elementary in Washington, DC - NavutImage by US Department of Education via Flickr


Like many Elementary schools in the D.C. area, this one was also founded in the late 1800s. The school is a part of a rich history in the role of blossoming education, as the building was the first of two elementary schools founded in Thomas Jefferson’s Education Pledge. The original 8 classroom building burnt down in 1962, and the current building was rebuilt and reopened in 1968.

With approximately 359 students and an average 13:1 teacher to student ratio, they base their classroom structure on the “Responsive Classroom” model, which believes that social development and personal responsibility are essential to a challenging and joyful school community. It's important to set their students up for success by building essential skills like cooperation, assertion, responsibility, and empathy.

You will also find a wide variety of special programs weaved into their curriculum, like field studies. Science, history, the Arts, and literature come to life at local museums. You can also take part in your child’s learning with their annual Bird Count Walk with local conservationists that culminates with an incredible bird show.

But perhaps the most prestigious program at Brent Elementary is the Writer’s Project. With the help of Columbia University’s Teachers College, writing workshops are incorporated into the curriculum where their students “collect, draft, revise, and publish well-crafted narrative and expository texts” throughout the year.

For the adventurous, physical student, the school offers Girls on the Run and Parkour as part of their fitness and wellbeing - and who doesn’t want to learn parkour?


Families moving into the city have so many great options when it comes to the education of their children. For more information about great places to raise your family, check out our 5 Best Family-Friendly Neighborhoods In Washington, D.C to Raise A Family!


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Kristen Marrs
Written by Kristen Marrs
Kristen is a freelance writer in the DC Metro Area and founder of PubSocial Media. You can connect with her on Twitter @B2BPubSocial.
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