Higher Achievement Program

Higher Achievement makes a measurable impact on test scores, grades, social/emotional skills, and long-term success. We flood our scholars with opportunities throughout their middle school years, and the program dramatically improves their achievement. On average, of those scholars who complete the program:
• 75% improve their grade point average (GPA) by at least one letter grade
• 96% graduate from high school – two times the rate of their peers
• 75% graduate from college – four times the rate of their peers

Higher Achievement’s year-round program is grounded in research. It combines high expectations with high support — demanding academic work plus mentoring, skill-building, individual student achievement plans, and personal encouragement. The program includes the Afterschool Academy, the Summer Academy, and high school placement services.

Summer Academy ensures continuity and readiness from one school year to the next, minimizing summer learning loss. The six-week academy operates from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm five days a week. Scholars are taught in small groups by trained instructors, who conduct lively courses in literature, science, mathematics, social studies, and electives. All scholars participate in a three-day, overnight college trip to a different campus each year. Classes are designed to reinforce academic skills and prepare scholars for the coming school year.

During the school year, achievement centers operate three days a week: Mondays and Tuesdays from 3:30pm until 7:45pm and Thursdays 3:30pm until 6:00pm. Each afternoon begins with homework help and dinner, followed by academic mentoring and enrichment activities.
Every scholar is teamed with a mentor on Monday and Tuesday who provide support for core subjects, including literature and mathematics. Thursdays are now assigned to be seminar nights. In addition to rigorous instruction, the program includes field trips, artistic electives, and community service opportunities.

The High School Placement Program helps scholars identify and pursue college-preparatory programs at public specialized, public charter, private, and parochial schools. Scholars are offered writing workshops, test preparation classes, interview coaching, and introductions to representatives from select schools. Families receive assistance with application workshops, financial resource information, individualized coaching, recommendations, and guidance to get into top high schools. Scholars and families also have access to a network of others engaged in the same process. All scholars and families are expected to participate in the high school application process.

There are three steps in the enrollment process.
1. First, complete an application and schedule a family interview. Once an applicant has submitted an application, he/she will be asked to participate in an interview. Following the interview, the applicant will be informed if they are or are not recommended for the program. All students who successfully complete the interview process are recommended for admission to Higher Achievement. Please note: Recommendation does not equal acceptance/enrollment into the program. Only eligible families that agree to participate in the study will be included in the lottery for a chance to enroll in the program.
2. Second, after a student is identified as eligible for Higher Achievement, staff will discuss the study with the family to see if they would like to participate. Parents and youth will be asked to review the Parent Consent and Youth Assent forms. These documents describe the research project and its importance, explain the lottery, and outline what is expected from families who want to participate. Parents and youth need to sign and date these forms even if they do not want to participate. No one will be entered into the lottery without a signed Parent Consent and Youth Assent form.
3. Third, researchers at MDRC (an independent research organization) and the University of Texas at Austin will randomly select as many students as we need to fill our available slots at each center. Assignment to the “program” group (that will be offered a slot in Higher Achievement) and the “non-program” group (that will not be offered a slot in Higher Achievement) is not based on grades, test scores or any information about parents or their child.
All lottery participants will be called and sent a letter telling them the outcome of the lottery. Those assigned to the non-program group should be sent the non-program “control letter” drafted by the research team.

During Afterschool Academy, scholars are expected to be present at least 75% of each term – Fall and Spring. The exact number of allowed absences varies each year, but is usually up to 7 absences in the Fall and up to 11 absences in the Spring.