Thursday, October 21, 2010

Budget Cuts and Out-of-School Time Programs: Why We Can't Skimp Now

Out-of-school time (OST) programs are a critical component of educating all students - learning (whether formal or informal) doesn’t end at 3pm - yet when education funding tightens, these programs are often first on the chopping block. Sean Cavanagh at Education Week wrote today about a new report from the National Governors Association outlining the recession's impact on state education funding:

The lean era for education is also likely to last for at least a few years. State revenues aren't expected to return to pre-recession levels until at least 2013, the report states. The seriousness of state budget woes have led state officials in Texas and Florida to consider increasing class sizes. Maine officials consolidated school districts across the state two years ago, with the goal of saving $36.5 million. Other victims of budget shortfalls, identified by the NGA: after school programs, gifted-and-talented programs, and even state tests in some subjects. Expect more budgetary pain in the time ahead.

The impact of these cuts are even more significant for poor and minority students - even in a stable economy, high quality, positive learning opportunities for these students are scarce.

Schools, districts, and states can mitigate the need to cut funding for afterschool and summer programs by partnering with community-based providers that bring the know-how, the variety, and the private dollars into schools to provide these types of opportunities.

At Higher Achievement, "opportunities matter" is our mantra - we know that every single child possesses the talent and potential to achieve great things. When the economy is struggling, we have an even bigger obligation to pull together resources from all sectors - private, public, and non-profit - to make certain that our children have the opportunities they deserve.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

With today’s awards from the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities, four D.C. organizations in last two years have been nationally recognized

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jenny Towns
Phone: 202-657-2595

With today’s awards from the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities, four DC organizations in the last two years have been nationally recognized for outstanding programs for the District’s youth

Washington, DC – The President’s Committee on Arts & Humanities announced this year’s award winners of The National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Awards (formerly known as the Coming Up Taller Awards) today, naming two more award winners from the Washington area; Mentors of Minorities in Education's Total Learning Cis-Tem (M.O.M.I.E.s TLC) and Young Playwrights’ Theater, following recognition of Sitar Arts Center and Higher Achievement in 2009. The award shines attention on outstanding programs across the country that are promoting the creativity of America's young people, providing them learning opportunities and the chance to contribute to their communities. Ed Spitzberg, Executive Director of Sitar Arts Center, said “The President’s Committee’s recognition of programs in one city – our nation’s capital – illustrates not only the great work done by afterschool arts and humanities programs in D.C., but also the great need for it.”

With over 170 awards given out nationally since 1998 and only three organizations in Washington, DC awarded during those first ten years, having four local organizations recognized in the last two years is notable. “We hope this award will draw attention to the documented fact that these DC-based programs are essential investments in the lives of our children and families,” said Chitra Subramanian Deputy Director for M.O.M.I.E’s TLC. All four awarded organizations are providing safe and productive after-school programs to young people in high-risk areas of the city where gang activity and violent crimes are high.

Higher Achievement’s rigorous after-school and summer academic programs give youth from at-risk communities their best opportunity to succeed in middle school – and in life. The program operates achievement centers in Washington, DC (Wards 1, 4, 6, 7, 8) and Alexandria, VA, and focuses on three key areas: academics, social skills, and leadership.
The mission of M.O.M.I.E's TLC is to nurture the genius of children through creative and culturally-relevant learning Programs. Focusing on early childhood and school-age children in Ward 1 and Ward 4, M.O.M.I.E’s offers year-round education Programs that uniquely integrate humanities and culture-based teaching.

Sitar Arts Center in Adams Morgan provides a vital after-school safe-haven at its multidisciplinary arts center where children and youth of all ages, 80% of whom come from low income households, can discover their inherent gifts in a nurturing, creative community.
Young Playwrights’ Theater in Columbia Heights teaches students to express themselves clearly and creatively, to understand the power of language and to realize their potential as both individuals and artists through the art of playwriting with interactive in-school and after-school programs.

With all four of these organizations operating within a mile and a half radius in the adjoining neighborhoods of Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights, their programs in that area are serving the same population, with crossover among students and teachers, including some direct partnerships. In the past three years since the recession began, enrollment at Sitar Arts Center alone has increased by 72%, demonstrating the urgent need for these programs, which are providing positive choices for the students of our city. “All of DC’s young people deserve the opportunity to learn, grow, and excel, and we’re proud to be in the company of organizations doing such essential work to make that possible,” said Richard Tagle, CEO of Higher Achievement.

While on-going attempts have been made to reform the DC public schools over the past decade, all of these organizations have been working to fill the gap left by public school education for ten years or more: providing high expectations, caring adult mentors, education in the arts and humanities, and opportunities to build self-esteem and skills. "As school administrations come and go, our programs have been a constant in students' lives. We help students grow into active, well-rounded individuals who can engage the world with their ideas" said David Snider, Producing Artistic Director and CEO of Young Playwrights' Theater. These four organizations, as recognized by the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities, are providing exceptional and imperative programs, forming a safety net of services in Ward 1 where they are clustered, in addition to other areas across the city where similar services are needed.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Real Estate Titans Team Up With Higher Achievement for 3rd Annual GoingPlaces! Benefit


Over $550,000 Raised for Middle School Academic Enrichment Program

(Washington, DC – October 12, 2010) In partnership with a team of DC business leaders, Higher Achievement ( will present its third annual GoingPlaces! Benefit on Thursday, October 14 at the Warner Theatre in Washington, DC. The co-chair team includes Mitchell N. Schear (Vornado/Charles E. Smith), Michael J. Glosserman (JBG Companies), and Edward L. Cohen, Mark D. Lerner & Robert K. Tanenbaum (Lerner Enterprises). Higher Achievement will honor Steve Goldstein at the event, longtime champion and supporter of Higher Achievement. The program will also feature poetry and dance performances by Higher Achievement middle school scholars and a musical performance from the Austin, TX-based band, SKYROCKET!.

“The DC business community has shown a tremendous amount of support for Higher Achievement,” said Lynsey Wood Jeffries, Executive Director of Higher Achievement DC Metro. “This is the first time in the history of the GoingPlaces! Benefit that we’ve had five co-chairs, and it’s remarkable to see first-hand how their involvement impacts the lives of our scholars – everything from study supplies to field trips to special electives are possible because of support from our sponsors and guests.”
As a part of the event program, Higher Achievement will honor Steve Goldstein, retired Vice Chairman of Studley, former Chair of the DC Metro President’s Council and longtime supporter of Higher Achievement. “Steve has been actively involved with Higher Achievement for more than 25 years,” said Jeffries. “He has connected us with countless partners and donors, offered unconditional support and advice, and leveraged more than $1,000,000 in his time with us. Steve is a true believer in our scholars and a relentless champion of our work.”

The GoingPlaces! Benefit will begin with a cocktail reception at 6pm and a performance and award presentation featuring Higher Achievement scholars at 7pm. Dinner and dancing will follow.


About Higher Achievement

Higher Achievement’s rigorous after-school and summer academic program gives youth from at-risk communities their best opportunity to succeed in middle school — and in life. Our research-based program challenges middle school students to meet their full potential in three key areas: academics, social skills, and leadership. When students get the skills and support they need to invest in their own success, they discover that they can be scholars. On average, 95% of Higher Achievement scholars who complete the program advance to top academic high schools and 93% advance to college. Higher Achievement currently operates achievement centers in Washington, DC, Alexandria, VA and Baltimore, and will launch two new centers in Richmond in 2011.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Higher Achievement Partners with Up with People!

Thanks to long time supporters and board members Carlos Garcia and Bo Menkiti, Higher Achievement has been selected as one of three beneficiaries in the Washington, DC area who will partner with Up with People, a global education organization focused on bringing the world together through service and music. The Up with People cast members will share their talents in two showcases on October 22nd and 23rd, and the proceeds benefit Higher Achievement, D.C. Public Schools and Dance Place.

Up with People’s all-new production, “A Song for the World,” will take you on a tour around the world and back in time to the 50s, 60s and 70s. The show blends together original and popular songs ranging from traditional folk music, to hip-hop and rock. In between rehearsal times, Up with People will visit three Higher Achievement centers to engage scholars in activities such as diversity talks, geography trivia and a mini culture fair.

Tickets are on sale now at! If you are interested in participating, but are unable to attend the show, please consider sponsoring a group of young people. For $120, you or your company can provide tickets for 10 students, giving them the chance to see Up with People, an international show that spreads a message of hope and possibility by encouraging and inspiring youth to do the same.
If you have questions, need more information or are interested in volunteering with Up with People on National Make a Difference Day, please contact Chelsey Panchot at 218.355.0239 or

Event Details:

Who: Up with People
What: 'A Song for the World'—sponsored by Keller Williams Capital Properties
When: October 22, 2010 and October 23, 2010, 7:30 pm
Where: Columbia Heights Educational Campus - 3101 16th St NW, Washington, DC
Tickets: Adults-$20/$25 at the door
Kids- $15/$18 at the door
Beneficiaries: Higher Achievement, DC Public Schools, and Dance Place

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

OST Funding Threatens to Divide a Community

In 2009, as part of a coalition for afterschool policy convened by the Afterschool Alliance, Higher Achievement signed onto a letter to President Barack Obama, asking for his support for an increase of $250 million in FY 2011 for funding of out-of-school time programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. Now, almost a year later, the requested $250 million dollar increase has leveled out at $100 million, and the out-of-school time community is divided on how the allotment of these new funds will affect overall programming of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC). 21st CCLC are currently designated to support after-school, before-school and summer learning programs, but with revisions from the current administration, many are concerned that experimentation with an extended learning day will over shadow the aforementioned program components.

Considering all of this, Higher Achievement is hopeful that three key components will remain at the top of the discussion:

There is a clear need. According to the Afterschool Alliance report “America After 3pm,” 15 million children are left unsupervised after school. To ensure that young people are safe and engaged in meaningful activities after school, it is critical that communities are able to offer more opportunities that engage youth outside of the traditional school day and year. Higher Achievement calls on policymakers to carry out the Senate HELP committee’s proposed $100 million increase for the 21st CCLC funding stream to ensure greater access to programs and activities for youth.

High quality is essential. Opportunities provided to young people should be of the highest quality, built upon research-based best practices for serving youth, including research on serving particular populations, age ranges, program field characteristics, and more. Poor and minority students living in the most vulnerable communities particularly need rigorous programs of the highest quality to ensure they have the same chances for success as their more privileged peers. High quality programs also incorporate best practices around staff development and training and other internal organizational best practices.

It takes a community. Legislation should encourage collaboration between schools/districts and community-based providers, as they combine to meet the year-round needs of youth both in and out of school. Collaboration must be grounded in aligned common goals and mutual accountability to be effective.