Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School

Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School

Currently serves students in grades P–5

Program Leaders

Maquita Alexander, Head of School
Stanley Cowan, Chief Operating Officer

Program Description

Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School (Yu Ying 育英), located in Washington, DC, combines Mandarin Chinese language immersion with the inquiry-based International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme curriculum framework. Established in 2008 by a group of parents, Yu Ying is named after a ground-breaking girls’ school established in 1911 in China by former Imperial Lady-in-Waiting, Madame Tzen-Kuei Wang (王贞贵). As the only public elementary school in Washington, DC, to offer Mandarin immersion, Yu Ying provides tuition-free, high-quality education to 551 students in pre-kindergarten to grade 5.

Yu Ying’s academic program supports its mission to inspire and prepare young people to create a better world by challenging them to reach their full potential in a nurturing Chinese/English educational environment.

  • For Prekindergarten 3 year olds and Prekindergarten 4 year olds, 100 percent of instruction is in Mandarin. Students are learning in Chinese year round.
  • In Kindergarten to grade 5, 50 percent of instruction is in Mandarin, and 50 percent is in English, with students alternating between Chinese and English classes daily.

Yu Ying’s 62 teachers, native speakers of English and Mandarin, collaborate within and across grade levels to provide vertical and horizontal articulation throughout the school. Grade-level teaching teams meet weekly to coordinate lesson plans. Material is not repeated in the English and Chinese classes; instead, lessons build on each other.

Yu Ying is authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) as an IB World School. The primary years curriculum is an international, transdisciplinary framework designed to foster development of the whole child. Students make connections across disciplines and between what they are learning in the classroom with the world outside the school.

One of Yu Ying’s strengths is diversity: 44 percent of the students are African-American, 34 percent White, 21 percent Asian, and 1 percent Hispanic. The different perspectives that students bring to class help them develop awareness and acceptance of other cultures and races. Yu Ying’s success is evidenced through high demand for the program and a high student retention rate. Each year, more than 95 percent of the students return, and in 2015, there were 1,500 applications for 100 available seats.

Program Features

The following aspects of the program have contributed to Yu Ying’s success:

Study Abroad and Exchanges: Fifth grade students have traveled to China for two weeks each year since 2013. They visit historical landmarks in Xian, Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai, and they participate in homestays in Zunyi, Guizhou Province (贵州省遵义市), the location of Yu Ying’s sister school, the Zunyi Number 11 Middle School. While in Zunyi, Yu Ying students stay with a Chinese family and attend school with their host family sibling. While in the United States, Zunyi students stay with their American family, attend school with their American sibling, participate in the family’s activities, and visit monuments and other landmarks in Washington, DC.

After School Program: Yu Ying’s after school program offers enriching classes including sports, STEM classes, arts, and creative writing. Over the years, classes taught in Mandarin have included Chinese Martial Arts, Chinese Dance, Chinese Songs, Chinese Culture, and Chinese Homework.

Student Teachers and Interns: Yu Ying serves as a teaching practicum site for New York University’s Graduate School of Education. Each year, graduate students spend a week at Yu Ying shadowing immersion teachers. Yu Ying also hosts student teachers from the University of Maryland each semester. Both programs help to create a pipeline of teachers that have pre-service experience.

Awards and Recognition

Yu Ying has been the recipient of grants and awards that have helped the program and fostered collaboration with other schools and organizations.

  • 2012, 2013, and 2014, DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) “Tier 1” school: Yu Ying has achieved this ranking by consistently meeting all academic and non-academic performance targets on the PCSB’s Performance Management Framework. A copy of the most recent report is available online.
  • 2013 Department of Education “National Green Ribbon School”: This award celebrates Yu Ying’s commitment to reducing environmental impact, improving the health and wellness of the Yu Ying community, and teaching environmental subjects that promote civic mindedness and green career pathways.
  • 2013 & 2015 City Paper “Best of DC: Best Elementary School.”
  • 2012 Charter Schools Program Dissemination Grantee: Yu Ying received a $200,000 grant from DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to share best practices in Mandarin Chinese language education with three DC public schools.
  • 2015 State System of Support Best Practices Grantee: Yu Ying received a $244,458 grant from the OSSE to share best practices in teaching literacy through inquiry with the Browne Education Campus in Washington, DC.
  • 2009 Department of Education Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grantee: The $873,927 grant allowed Yu Ying to create much-needed Chinese assessments and high-quality resources for immersion and inquiry-based learning.
  • 2015 Hanban Confucius Classroom of the Year. Ten schools out of 1,000 worldwide were honored for excellence in curriculum, instruction, and cultural richness.

In addition, Yu Ying staff regularly present at the National Chinese Language Conference and the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Conference (2010–2015).

Special Events

In September 2015, over 100 students participated in welcoming activities for President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan during their state visit to Washington, DC. Activities included greeting the President and First Lady at Andrews Air Force Base, partaking in the White House’s official welcome ceremony, and going to the National Zoo to witness First Ladies Peng and Obama name the baby panda Bei Bei.

In previous years, Yu Ying students participated in welcoming ceremonies for Chinese President Hu Jintao (2011) and China’s Vice Premier Liu Yandong (2013).

In December 2015, the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School Chorus performed with the China National Traditional Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

Washington Yu Ying in the News

For more information about Yu Ying and its impact on students, staff, and the community, see the articles and videos at the links below.

October’s class: Yu Ying second-graders Washington Post, October 11, 2015
Demand For Dual-Language Programs In D.C. Public Schools Skyrockets December 12, 2014 
Video: Discover Chinese at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School! December 19, 2012
Video: American Kids Turning Chinese Dominic Swire, April 2, 2012
More Americans Learn their ABCs in Chinese
NPR, January 19, 2011
China's the word in more US schools
The Straits Times, January 21, 2010
Foreign Languages Fade in Class - Except Chinese
The New York Times, January 20, 2010
Middle Kingdom Meets Elementary School
Washington City Paper, November 14, 2008

Program Contacts

Maquita Alexander
Head of School


Stanley Cowan
Chief Operating Officer

Pearl You
Chinese Program Coordinator


Sarah Perkins
Grants Coordinator


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