Thursday, September 24, 2009

Higher Achievement in Our Nation's Capital

Each year, I am impressed with the progress we make with middle schoolers in Washington, DC.  According to recent data, three of four students improved grades last year, with test scores improving by at least 60 percent.  More than half our students improved attendance.  And more than eight in 10 of our scholars were placed in college-preparatory high schools, avoiding the paths to dropout factories on which they were originally placed.


With results like these, Higher Achievement can help DC Public Schools reach its target of high academic performance. We create a strong pipeline of middle school students who are able to meet the rigors of college-preparatory high schools. and these students will successfully transition from middle school to high school and then to college.


How do we do it? Our model consists of three core elements: After School, Summer, and High School Placement:


First, we have the After School Academy that runs for 25 weeks, 3 days a week, 3:30 – 8 pm. A key aspect of this period is a two-hour academic mentoring, from 6 pm to 8 pm where 3 scholars are paired with one mentor for each of the three days. All mentors focus their mentoring sessions on math, literature, or technology.


Second, we have a Summer Academy that runs for six weeks, Monday through Thursday of academic teaching, and with Fridays devoted to field trips. Scholars are taught by a paid summer faculty on Math, Literature, Social Studies, Science, and an elective.  Once every summer, scholars are taken to a three-day college trip thus exposing our scholars to no less than 4 universities during their four-year stay in the program.  We expose our scholars, as early as fifth grade, to university life to make it real and achievable for them. They get to interact with college students, college professors, and most importantly, college admissions personnel.


Third, we have High School Placement: We assist families in making good academic choices for their children’s high school placement. For school year 07-08, 73 percent of Higher Achievement graduates will attend top public schools, including Banneker, Wilson, Walls, McKinley.


What’s required from our scholars? Simple: motivation and commitment. Our scholars spend 650 hours in our program in addition to the 900 spent in school.  That’s 30 additional school weeks each year for 4years! This is what we mean by motivation.

(Posted by Higher Achievement Program CEO Richard Tagle.)

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