Higher Achievement

Higher Achievement

Higher Achievement-DC Metro
317 8th Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: 202-544-3633
Fax: 202-544-3644
E-Mail: info@higherachievement.org
URL: http://www.higherachievement.org

Focus: Multidisciplinary, Visual Arts

Annual Number Participating: 450

Ages: Middle School, High School

Annual Budget: $2,263,017


“Higher Achievement, a Washington, DC, non-profit organization, has developed a strikingly successful model for breaking the vicious cycle of underachievement and poverty that plagues so many underprivileged neighborhoods.

“We shower our students with all sorts of opportunities, which leads them to be more interested in what they’re learning, which leads them to put more effort into their studies and, ultimately, to increase their achievement, which opens the door to more opportunities,” explains Executive Director Lynsey Wood Jeffries.

Higher Achievement recruits academically motivated 5th grade students from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Washington area. During the next four years, these students will devote six weeks each summer and three evenings a week after school to a rigorous program designed to give them the academic preparation, work habits, and attitudes that will gain them admission to the area’s top private and public high schools. The summer classes (taught by paid teachers) and the after-school sessions (led by volunteer mentors) focus on literature, social studies, math, and science with electives in the visual and performing arts. Museum trips enrich the lessons, while “quote of the week” debates and Olympics of the Mind events add extra intellectual challenges.

In literature classes, students read and analyze a diverse body of work, from the writings of 19th century abolitionists such as Sojourner Truth to the poetry of Langston Hughes to the speeches of 20th century farmworker organizer Cesar Chavez. In addition to their literary value, selections such as these serve as springboards for discussions of social justice themes.
“We don’t want to just cultivate smart kids who go on to Wall Street,” Jeffries explains. “We want our students to have a sense of civic engagement and to give back to their communities, no matter what they do in their careers.” Higher Achievement’s 450 participants receive 650 hours a year of instruction at centers throughout the greater metropolitan DC area—in addition to the 900 hours each already spends in school.

The intensity pays off: More than 70 percent of students complete all four years of the program. On average, participants’ GPAs rise from 2.3 to 3.8, while test scores in math and reading increase 20 percent. In 2008, 100 percent of Higher Achievement’s graduates were accepted into top college-prep institutions, including Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, Georgetown Day School, and Sidwell Friends School.”

“We work hard to create a culture that is positive, challenging, and supportive—and where mediocrity is not accepted. It’s amazing that when you set high expectations, the scholars rise to meet them as long as there’s the support to get there.”

Lynsey Wood Jeffries Executive Director, Higher Achievement-DC Metro