NBC’s ‘Today Show’ highlights Howard University Middle School

As Executive Director of Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science, Kathryn Procope speaks proudly about the uniqueness of her school being located on a college campus in Washington, D.C.

But Procope is most excited about celebrating the uniqueness of each individual student that walks through the middle school’s doors. 

“The main focus for us has been, ‘How do we figure out what each child needs to succeed?’” Procope said. “Emotionally, educationally, socially, we will do whatever it is so we can help them be successful. We came together as a school and really defined what a successful student looks like because learning is a process. 

“Grades don’t define who they are and excellence doesn’t have an expiration date. You keep going, just like in life.”

Procope, who has been a school leader at Howard University MS since 2015, credits the school’s six-year partnership with Gradient Learning for helping establish a whole-student learning environment that is receiving national acclaim.

NBC’s TODAY Show recently visited the nation’s capital to shine a light on how Howard University MS guides students as they grow and develop the skills needed to succeed in and out of the classroom. 

“If you’ve ever been a middle schooler and if you remember it, it’s a very trying time,” Procope said. “So without really understanding who they are, we’re not giving them an opportunity to really be successful.”

In 2017, Howard University MS implemented the Summit Learning program, a research-based academic offering of Gradient Learning, and used mentoring to foster deep connections between students and teachers. 

Each Howard University MS student meets at least weekly with a trusted adult at the school to discuss academic goals, personal reflections, and anything else about the world around them. 

“We talk about everything,” said Brooke Hardy, a Communications and Logistics Coordinator at Howard University MS. “What’s going on with you? How are you feeling? And it’s one of my favorite things, because we get to see the whole child rather than just the education piece.” 

“It gives them one-on-one coaching,” said Lee Vason, Dean of Students at Howard University MS. “It gives them an opportunity to play things back or give someone a chance to look at it for them.”

Similarly, Gradient Learning’s team of educators provide coaching and listening ears for educators at the school as they work together to develop learning strategies for all students. Gradient Learning also provides curriculum support and professional development.

“This partnership has helped push our thinking and really leveled the playing field for our children and the families that we serve,” Howard University MS Principal Corbet Houston said of working with Gradient Learning. “This focus on connection has also allowed students to be a bit more vulnerable and allowed teachers the opportunity to actually get to know the students they’re working with. 

“You get a lot of information talking to young people when it’s one-on-one and they trust you, and that’s what builds those relationships.”

Sixth-grader Havari Washington closed the TODAY Show story with the best advice she’s received from her mentor, Brooke Hardy, during one of their chats.

“Don’t give up,” Havari said. “No matter what happens, if I’m upset, if something is bothering me, just don’t give up. Just make sure I’m focused and ready for what I want to be.”

Watch the full TODAY Show story here.

About the author

Summit Learning
Summit Learning is a research–based approach to education designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student–teacher relationships that prepare students for life after graduation. Created by teachers with experience in diverse classrooms, Summit Learning is grounded in decades of research about how children learn. With Summit Learning, students gain mastery of core subjects like math, history, English, and science, while also carefully developing the skills and habits of lifelong learners. Summit Learning is independently led and operated by the nonprofit, Gradient Learning.