Achievement First
403 James Street
New Haven CT 06513
Contact Information
Address 403 James Street
New Haven, CT 06513-
Telephone (203) 773-3223 x
Fax 203-773-3221
E-mail infoCT@achievementfirst.org
Web and Social Media
Mission
Despite the promise of equal educational opportunity, the United States has largely failed to provide low-income children access to a high-quality education. The difference in academic performance between poor and affluent students, known as the achievement gap, has serious implications for the future life opportunities of students and for our society at large. Closing the achievement gap is both an economic and moral imperative - the modern frontier of the civil rights movement.

The mission of Achievement First is to deliver on the promise of equal educational opportunity for all of America's children. We believe that all children, regardless of race or economic status, can succeed if they have access to a great education. Achievement First schools will provide all our students with the academic and character skills they need to graduate from top colleges, to succeed in a competitive world and to serve as the next generation of leaders for our communities.
 
Achievement First will continue to create public charter schools that close the achievement gap, while also looking to partner with other like-minded, reform-oriented organizations to maximize our collective impact. Together, we will continue our work until every child is given access to a great education and enjoys the real freedom that flows from that opportunity.
At A Glance
Year of Incorporation 2004
Organization's type of tax exempt status Public Supported Charity
Organization received a competitive grant from the community foundation in the past five years Yes
Leadership
CEO/Executive Director Ms. Dacia M. Toll
Board Chair Mr. Andrew Boas
Board Chair Company Affiliation General Partner, Carl Marks Management Co., LP
Financial Summary
 
Projected Revenue $30,581,732.00
Projected Expenses $30,556,660.00
Statements
Mission
Despite the promise of equal educational opportunity, the United States has largely failed to provide low-income children access to a high-quality education. The difference in academic performance between poor and affluent students, known as the achievement gap, has serious implications for the future life opportunities of students and for our society at large. Closing the achievement gap is both an economic and moral imperative - the modern frontier of the civil rights movement.

The mission of Achievement First is to deliver on the promise of equal educational opportunity for all of America's children. We believe that all children, regardless of race or economic status, can succeed if they have access to a great education. Achievement First schools will provide all our students with the academic and character skills they need to graduate from top colleges, to succeed in a competitive world and to serve as the next generation of leaders for our communities.
 
Achievement First will continue to create public charter schools that close the achievement gap, while also looking to partner with other like-minded, reform-oriented organizations to maximize our collective impact. Together, we will continue our work until every child is given access to a great education and enjoys the real freedom that flows from that opportunity.
Background
Achievement First is a growing network of 30 non-profit, high-performing, college-preparatory, K-12 public charter schools, serving more than 10,700 students in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut, Brooklyn, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island.
 
In 1998, a group of New Haven founders came together with a clear goal in mind: to prove that low-income, urban students can achieve at the same high levels as their more affluent, suburban counterparts. Confronted by the popular attitude that demographics are destiny, we decided that the best way to address the problem was to change the system.
 
We created Amistad Academy, a public charter school that has enabled its students, who are overwhelmingly African American or Hispanic and low-income, to achieve at extraordinarily high levels. Over the past 15 years, the school's track record of results has shattered the notion that "those kids can't learn."
 
In June 2003, we created Achievement First, a separate 501(c)3 non-profit, with the goal of using Amistad Academy's knowledge and best practices to have a greater impact. We opened our second school, Elm City College Preparatory, in New Haven in 2004. Then, in 2005, under the leadership of former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Achievement First expanded to Brooklyn, New York, and in 2013, we opened our first school in Providence, Rhode Island.
Impact
16 years after the founding of Amistad Academy, our flagship school in New Haven, Achievement First continues to work to answer the question: “What can we do to maximize our impact?” The answer is at the heart of our Strategic Plan, which clarifies the four ways we can have the greatest impact as an organization over the next five years.
  • Achievement First will continuously improve our performance with an unwavering commitment to both excellence and to serving high-needs students well, thereby becoming an even stronger exemplar that gap-closing excellence is possible for schools that serve those students most historically under-served. 
  • There is still a desperate need for high-quality public schools and limited capacity to create them. We believe that organizations, such as Achievement First, that have a track record of success have a moral imperative to serve as many students as possible. Achievement First will grow to 38 schools, putting more than 12,000 students on a college-bound path and serving as a “proof point” that gap-closing excellence is possible at scale.
  • Our mission to deliver on the promise of equal educational opportunity for “all children” obligates us to ally with other charters and traditional districts who are trying to do the same critical work. Achievement First will test our ability to have a positive impact on students beyond those served directly by our schools by becoming even more intentional about being an open-source organization and by investing in strategic partnerships.
  • Finally, Achievement First can maximize our impact by concentrating both our growth and our partnership work in a few communities. We seek for our schools to become enduring institutions in our communities and for our presence to attract other operators and partners. By concentrating our collective impact in this way, we can “tip” community expectations, practice and results.
Needs

Achievement First aims to be self-sufficient on public dollars, but this cannot be achieved until we reach full scale and are funded at the same level as traditional public schools. For now, Achievement First requires the following types of financial support:

 

  • Core operations—The services that Achievement First provides to our schools are paid for by management fees, with philanthropy raised to bridge the funding gap until our network reaches scale.
  • AF Accelerate initiatives—The supplemental projects and research-and-development initiatives that are not associated with supporting our schools on a day-to-day basis are supported through independent sources of philanthropic and public funding.
  • School start-up—The expenses associated with supporting new schools until they reach full enrollment and benefit from economies of scale are covered by philanthropy.
  • Structural—Achievement First’s Connecticut schools are operating in an environment in which they do not receive equitable public funding as traditional public schools, and philanthropy is raised to close this structural funding gap.
  • Capital—In those districts where facilities are not provided, Achievement First pursues independent sources of philanthropic and public funding to secure, renovate and maintain school buildings.

 

Service Categories
Primary Organization Category Education / Charter Schools
Areas Served
In a specific U.S. city, cities, state(s) and/or region.
New Haven
Other
Achievement First aims to serve historically educationally disadvantaged students, and our schools are purposefully located in some of the most high-need neighborhoods in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut, Brooklyn, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island. Our students reflect the communities we serve, with a population that is at least 90 percent African American or Hispanic and at least 70 percent low-income.
Programs
Description
Achievement First's educational program consists of six core elements that, when combined and executed well, have enabled our students to succeed at high levels. 
  • Talent development: One of the most important determinants of student achievement is teacher quality, and we go to great lengths to recruit, develop, recognize and retain talented teachers and leaders.  
  • More time: Our school day is two hours longer and school year two weeks longer than traditional public schools.
  • Rigorous curriculum: "Covering material" is not our goal; what is important is student mastery of essential knowledge and skills.
  • Focus on student achievement: Student performance is the chief factor in school, principal and teacher evaluations.
  • Strategic use of data: Every six weeks, we give interim assessments to measure student mastery and create plans to address any gaps in student learning.
  • School culture: Upon entering an Achievement First school, you feel a sense of urgency, order, focus and joy.
Population Served K-12 (5-19 years) / Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent / Minorities
Program is linked to organization’s mission and strategy Yes
Program is frequently assessed based on predetermined program goals Yes
Short Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe near term achievement(s) or improvement(s) that will result from this program. This may represent immediate outcomes occurring as a result of the end of a session or service.
Annually, Achievement First aims to facilitate achievement gap-closing academic outcomes for our students.
  • In our capstone grades - four, eight and 10 - our goal is for our students to surpass the district proficiency average and to meet or exceed the state proficiency average on state tests.
  • In our non-capstone grades, our goal is for our students to outperform the district proficiency average and to demonstrate year-over-year gains that narrow the gap with the state proficiency average on state tests.
Long Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe the ultimate change(s) that will result from this program. This may be far into the future and represent an ideal state.
In the long-term, Achievement First's goal is to graduate students with the academic and character skills for acceptance to, success in and graduation from competitive, four-year colleges and universities, so that they may be equipped for success in a competitive world and serve as leaders in our communities.
Program Success Monitored ByHelpOrganizations describe the tools used to measure or track program impact.
Achievement First is highly data-driven and systematically uses a variety of evaluation tools to track our progress and to inform improvements to our educational program.
  • Academic evaluation: As public charter schools, we are accountable for meeting the academic standards assessed annually through state tests, and these results provide a meaningful comparison of our students to their district and state peers. However, Achievement First is not satisfied to measure student academic achievement once annually, and internally, we give interim assessments every six weeks to measure student mastery and to intervene before it is too late.
  • Organizational evaluation: We measure our overall strength and well-being annually through surveys of our school leaders, teachers, staff and parents.
  • School Report Card: Achievement First schools receive an annual School Report Card, which consolidates all of their academic and non-academic metrics to provide a comprehensive performance overview.
Examples of Program SuccessHelpOrganization's site specific examples of changes in clients' behaviors or testimonies of client's changes to demonstrate program success.
Achievement First has a strong track record of helping thousands of students realize the door-opening power of a great public education. Recent highlights include:
  • Our middle school students continue to show consistent and significant year-over-year growth from fifth to eighth grade, with eighth grade marking the highest performing primary grade in the Achievement First network. By eighth grade, Achievement First’s Connecticut students outperform both the district and the state averages. 
  • The average SAT scores for Achievement First’s Class of 2014 exceeded the city, state and national averages. Additionally, more than half of Achievement First students who took the AP US History exam in 2014 earned a passing score, and all students who took the AP Calculus exam passed. 
  • 100 percent of students in Achievement First’s four graduating classes to date have earned college acceptance.
CEO/Executive Director
Ms. Dacia M. Toll
Term Start Sept 1999
Email daciatoll@achievementfirst.org
Experience

Ms. Toll focuses on the development and expansion of Achievement First and the success of all Achievement First schools. She manages the organization's internal operations and external relations, and her core responsibilities include strategic planning, principal coaching and training, talent recruitment and development, community outreach, fundraising, and board relations.

Prior to co-founding Achievement First in 2003, Ms. Toll led the founding team of Amistad Academy and served as the school's principal from 1999 to 2005. Under Ms. Toll's leadership, Amistad Academy consistently produced student performance results that tripled the New Haven Public Schools' average and topped Greenwich and Westport averages in some subjects.
 
Previously, Ms. Toll worked as a teacher, lawyer and management consultant, providing support for community organizations on issues of strategic management and program design. Ms. Toll is a member of the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Visiting Committee.
 
After graduating from the University of North Carolina, where she was a Morehead Scholar, Ms. Toll received a master's degree from Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. She received her teaching certificate and J.D. from Yale University shortly before launching Amistad Academy.
Co-CEO
Mr. Doug McCurry
Term Start Sept 1999
Experience

Mr. McCurry oversees student achievement across the Achievement First network through the training and coaching of principals, the development and implementation of principal best practices, and the evaluation of principals and schools.

Prior to co-founding Achievement First in 2003, Mr. McCurry was one of the founders of Amistad Academy, serving as the school's instructional leader for three years. In his teaching roles at Amistad Academy, Mr. McCurry achieved outstanding results. His math students achieved 100 percent proficiency on the Connecticut Mastery Test, and his reading and writing students consistently showed over two years of growth in a single school year. Mr. McCurry led the development of Achievement First's standards-based curriculum, including Athena, Achievement First's online interim assessment and data analysis system. Mr. McCurry also leads professional development efforts at Achievement First, and he is a sought-after presenter and coach of teachers.
 
Before coming to Amistad Academy and Achievement First, Mr. McCurry was a management and technology consultant in Atlanta, GA, and taught history and writing and coached basketball and tennis at Providence Day School in Charlotte, NC.
 
A Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina, Mr. McCurry earned a B.A. in history and journalism there, and was recently awarded the university’s distinguished young alumnus award. Through the Klingenstein Private School Leadership program, he earned an M.A. in educational administration from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Staff
Number of Full Time Staff 1469
Number of Part Time Staff 176
Number of Volunteers 0
Staff Retention Rate 79%
Staff Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 314
Asian American/Pacific Islander 58
Caucasian 722
Hispanic/Latino 119
Native American/American Indian 2
Other 430 Two or more races
Staff Demographics - Gender
Male 376
Female 1093
Unspecified 176
Senior Staff
Title Chief Information Officer
Title Chief Financial and Operating Officer
Title Chief of Staff
Title Chief External Officer
Title Regional Superintendent
Formal Evaluations
CEO Formal Evaluation Yes
CEO/Executive Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Non Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Collaborations

Achievement First's core expertise is in opening and supporting high-quality public charter schools, which is why we are putting the majority of our efforts into this strategy. However, our mission to deliver on the promise of equal educational opportunity for “all children” also obligates us to ally with other charters and traditional districts who still educate the vast majority of low-income students in this country. Achievement First has begun to test our ability to have a positive impact on students beyond those served directly by our schools by investing in strategic partnerships with others who are trying to do the same critical work. Most notably, based on a shared belief that the effectiveness of school leaders is one of the top drivers of student achievement, Achievement First and New Haven Public Schools entered into a partnership to train principals for district schools. The resultant Residency Program for School Leadership is currently in its third year of implementation, now serving emerging leaders in New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport. With a goal of producing district principals in one to two years, the focus of the Residency Program is on both developing a new resident cohort and supporting graduates of the program in their leadership roles within districts.

Board Chair
Mr. Andrew Boas
Company Affiliation General Partner, Carl Marks Management Co., LP
Term July 2015 to July 2016
Board of Directors
NameAffiliation
Mr. Doug Borchard Managing Director, New Profit, Inc.
Mr. Vincent Dowling
Ms. Jeanne Melino
Ms. Ariela Rozman CEO, New Teacher Project
Mr. Jon D. Sackler President, Bouncer Foundation
Ms. Elisa Villanueva Beard Chief Operating Officer, Teacher For America
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 6
Hispanic/Latino 1
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 4
Female 3
Governance
Written Conflict of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 88%
 
 
Financials
Fiscal Year Start July 01 2015
Fiscal Year End June 30 2016
Projected Revenue $30,581,732.00
Projected Expenses $30,556,660.00
Spending Policy N/A
Credit Line Yes
Reserve Fund Yes
Detailed Financials
Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals ChartHelpFinancial data for prior years is entered by foundation staff based on the documents submitted by nonprofit organizations.Foundation staff members enter this information to assure consistency in the presentation of financial data across all organizations.
Fiscal Year201420132012
Total Revenue$38,751,867$40,396,539$26,690,955
Total Expenses$44,029,144$31,797,875$26,744,924
Prior Three Years Revenue Sources ChartHelpThe financial analysis involves a comparison of the IRS Form 990 and the audit report (when available) and revenue sources may not sum to total based on reconciliation differences. Revenue from foundations and corporations may include individual contributions when not itemized separately.
Fiscal Year201420132012
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
$20,937,686$25,276,037$17,831,311
Government Contributions$0$3,977,365$999,230
Federal------
State------
Local------
Unspecified--$3,977,365$999,230
Individual Contributions------
------
$16,884,268$10,986,310$7,735,121
Investment Income, Net of Losses$109,601$109,096$101,956
Membership Dues------
Special Events------
Revenue In-Kind------
Other$820,130$47,731$23,337
Prior Three Years Expense Allocations Chart
Fiscal Year201420132012
Program Expense$41,369,008$29,320,947$24,250,764
Administration Expense$1,928,938$1,442,364$1,392,592
Fundraising Expense$731,198$1,034,564$1,101,568
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses0.881.271.00
Program Expense/Total Expenses94%92%91%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue3%4%6%
Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities Chart
Fiscal Year201420132012
Total Assets$19,499,256$24,671,793$18,336,799
Current Assets$16,188,512$20,248,627$14,522,755
Long-Term Liabilities$8,020,061$7,717,519$10,837,792
Current Liabilities$1,564,730$1,762,532$1,300,931
Total Net Assets$9,914,465$15,191,742$6,198,076
Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201420132012
Top Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Steven A. & Alexandra M. Cohen Foundation $6,000,000Robin Hood Foundation $878,000
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Dalio Family Foundation $4,000,000Cohen Family Foundation $875,000
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --U.S. Dept. of Education $3,913,266New Profit, Inc. $500,000
Solvency
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201420132012
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities10.3511.4911.16
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201420132012
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets41%31%59%
Capitial Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Comments
Foundation Staff Comments

This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Financial information is inputted by Foundation staff directly from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved by the nonprofit’s board. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. The Community Foundation is continuing to receive information submitted by the organization and may periodically update the organization’s profile to reflect the most current financial and other information available. The organization has completed the fields required by The Community Foundation and updated their profile in the last year. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.

Address 403 James Street
New Haven, CT 06513
Primary Phone 203 773-3223
CEO/Executive Director Ms. Dacia M. Toll
Board Chair Mr. Andrew Boas
Board Chair Company Affiliation General Partner, Carl Marks Management Co., LP

 

Related Information

Provide Quality Education

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