Making a Difference in the Classroom

Angelique Simpson Marcus, a high school principal and GW doctoral student, inspires success.

February 08, 2009

By Jamie L. Freedman

Strong leadership makes a difference. Just ask the students and staff at Largo High School in Prince George’s County, Md. The school achieved Adequate Yearly Progress for the first time this year, thanks to the efforts and determination of Principal Angelique Simpson Marcus.

A doctoral student at GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development, Ms. Simpson Marcus took over the reins of the school in 2007 and quickly put a new motto into practice—“Failure is not an option!” She created successful programs, tackled problem areas head on, and inspired students and staff to achieve. This fall, she got word from the Maryland Department of Education that the school had met the state’s performance standards for academic progress.

“Everyone was really excited that our hard work is paying off,” says Ms. Simpson Marcus, who worked at Largo as a teacher from 1999 to 2004 before returning as principal. “We’ve really focused on student engagement, accountability and professional development. It’s all about putting a successful product into the universe. Our goal is to make Largo one of the best schools in the county.”

Another recent success for the school was winning the 2009 Deloitte/College Summit “College Going Culture” Award for its work building a culture where attending college is the expectation. “Last year, 94 percent of our seniors graduated and 84 percent went onto college,” Ms. Simpson Marcus says. “We do everything we can to make sure that our students leave here college and workforce ready and with strong character.”

A native of Baltimore, Ms. Simpson Marcus earned an educational specialist degree from GW in 2003 and is currently completing her doctoral dissertation on strategic decisions of African American superintendents. She served as a policy fellow for the Institute of Educational Leadership and has won many awards—from teacher of the year to distinguished principal.

Earlier highlights of her career include working to reform large comprehensive high schools into small specialized ones in the Baltimore City Public School System and working with the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools to address alternatives to suspension and devise incident reduction plans for persistently dangerous schools. She also has expertise in using data to drive instruction, implementing successful student recognition and achievement programs, advancing educational opportunities for at-risk students, and school improvement planning.

She credits her GW education with paving the way for her professional success. “GW has outstanding professors who teach us how to apply theory into real-world action,” she says. “Many of the people I went to school with at GW are now school administrators. The knowledge base we received there was just outstanding.”

On track to receive her doctorate in December 2010, Ms. Simpson Marcus looks forward to helping many more students realize their potential. “One of my mottos is to make a difference, one student at a time,” she says. “There is no greater reward.”

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