Friday, April 30, 2010

The First Lady Teams Up With Higher Achievement in a Day of Service

Friday, April 30, 2009: First Lady Michelle Obama and Congressional spouses teamed up with Higher Achievement and the Sitar Arts Center for a service event yesterday at the Marie Reed Learning Center in the Adams Morgan community of northwest Washington, DC. The group painted a mural and planted a butterfly garden at the Center to help make the space more visually engaging and vibrant for the children and members of the community who make use of the Center’s programs and facilities.

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities helped design the service project in collaboration with two winners of the Committee’s 2009 Coming Up Taller Award – Higher Achievement, a rigorous after-school and summer academic program that culminates into high school placement, and the Sitar Arts Center, an after-school visual and performing arts center in Adams Morgan providing a range of arts training to children and youth by professional artists.

Along with several other Higher Achievement staff members and scholar representatives, Lynsey Wood Jeffries, Executive Director of Higher Achievement DC Metro, was proud to participate in the day of service. “It was an honor to be in partnership with Sitar and the First Lady in this community service opportunity. Additionally, to see our scholars casually and confidently talking with the First Lady about Higher Achievement’s mentors and telling the Congressional spouses about their dreams to be architects and elementary school teachers was priceless.”

Community service is an important component of the Higher Achievement curriculum. Past service projects have included a trip to New Orleans to assist with the aftermath of Katrina, and participation in local food drives with the Capital Area Food Bank.

See the links below for more coverage on this event.

Washington Post

Michelle Obama Watch

Michelle Obama Blog

Huffington Post

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Higher Achievement Testifies Before the Senate!

Lynsey Wood Jeffries, Executive Director of Higher Achievement DC Metro, will be testifying before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on the importance of meeting the needs of the whole student. She will speak specifically to Higher Achievement's model, alignment with school standards, summer and after-school instruction, and measurements of effectiveness.

Click here to find out more information and see live footage. Lynsey's testimony begins at the 46:30 mark.

About the HELP Committee

The committee is led by Chairman Tom Harkin and Ranking Member Mike Enzi. Under their leadership, the Committee is composed of three subcommittees, which have a broad jurisdiction over our country's health care, education, employment and retirement policies

Monday, April 12, 2010

Higher Achievement E-newsletter: April 2010

The April 2010 edition of Higher Achievement's e-newsletter is ready for your review! Click here to check it out.

Higher Achievement Featured in the Washington Business Journal

Click here to read more.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Cost of Quality? Priceless.

I get excited when I talk about Higher Achievement. I often need to control myself and organize my thoughts as there are lots of ways I can talk about the work we do. I can talk about our rigorous curriculum, our culture of high expectations and hard work, our data-driven approach, our outcomes-based model, the professional development support we provide to staff, or the long term impact we see among Higher Achievement alumni.

But one question always stumps me: why do we cost so much?

So much in comparison to what? We spend between $4500 and $4800 a year per scholar to provide them with a full range of academic supports during the school year and in the summer. We take them on college trips, high school trips, provide them with learning mentors, and expand the opportunities for them to be placed in high schools that get them on track to college. We give them the opportunity to maximize their potential. Is that worth $4800? Broken down on a monthly basis, we provide these supports for $400 a month -- or $100 a week, or down to $7.80 an hour.

It seems to me a narrow measuring stick for effectiveness and efficiency when cost is considered by itself. In that same vein, many often look at overhead and general administrative rates to measure “efficiency” as if non-profit organizations could fully function with minimum back end support.

I often respond to the cost question with a short response: $4800; which is then followed by a long soliloquy on costs versus investments. We often look at dollars used for children’s issues as costs -- not investments in the kind of society we want to build in the future. As a society, we try to minimize spending now on things that we know children need to become productive, responsible and contributing adults: nutritious food, good shelters, solid education, safe communities, physical education, art appreciation, and the list goes on and on.

During a four-year stay at Higher Achievement, we would have invested almost $20,000 in a young person who will eventually go to college, earn a degree, get a job, raise a family and change the world. To me, it’s a very cheap price to pay for a society I want to live and grow old in.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

CEO, Richard Tagle Reflects.......

At Higher Achievement, funders, advocates and other champions often visit our Achievement Centers to see our program in action. These tours provide a glimpse of the rigor and high expectations all scholars experience every day and night at center.

During one particular tour, a communications expert had a chance to witness Community Meeting and see how scholars and mentors alike interact, speak out, share opinions and challenge each other’s views. After Community Meeting, he met with a small group of scholars for a roundtable discussion.

He asked as simple question: Why do you attend a program like Higher Achievement?

The responses varied from “I want to be challenged,” to “My friends come here.” One scholar claimed that, at first, it was her mom who told her to join, but now, after two years of being in the program, she could not imagine being any where else.

The guest asked another question: Wouldn’t you rather do something fun instead of math or reading?

The scholars looked at each other, smiled and were unanimous in their response; learning is fun. “At Higher Achievement, math and reading are not subjects that you sit down to learn. We are always learning new things, but the way we learn them is fun. We have competitions like Spelling Bee, and Olympics of the Mind; .it is not boring.”

I was smiling until one scholar said, “Well, sometimes it’s boring; sorry, Mr. Richard. But it’s better than just being at home watching TV all night and not doing something productive.”

Spoken like a true ten year old scholar.