Achievement First
495 Blake Street
New Haven CT 06515
Contact Information
Address 495 Blake Street
New Haven, CT 06515-
Telephone (203) 773-3223 x
Fax 203-773-3221
E-mail infoCT@achievementfirst.org
Web and Social Media
Mission
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, zip code or economic status deserve access to a great education. At Achievement First, our students realize their potential and develop the skills they need to graduate from top colleges, succeed in a competitive world, and serve as the next generation of leaders in our community.
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
Revenue vs Expenses Bar Graph - All Years
Statements
Mission
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, zip code or economic status deserve access to a great education. At Achievement First, our students realize their potential and develop the skills they need to graduate from top colleges, succeed in a competitive world, and serve as the next generation of leaders in our community.
Background
Achievement First is a growing network of 34 non-profit, high-performing, college-preparatory, K-12 public charter schools, serving approximately 12,600 students in Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven, Connecticut; Brooklyn, New York; and Providence, Rhode Island. 

In 1999, we opened one great school in New Haven—Amistad Academy—and in 2003, the larger AF network was established. We know every child deserves a great school, so we built on what we learned and we added another, and another. Today, AF’s 34 excellent schools and 12,600 students are only part of our impact. We want to inspire large-scale change, and our three-part Theory of Change is our enduring vision for how we will do so. AF has a well-established track record of progress against our Theory of Change:

  1. Serving as an excellence and equity exemplar: AF will set the bar for what excellence looks like in public education, while serving similar populations of high-need students as traditional, urban public schools. We are committed to providing a high-quality education for our students, regardless of abilities, needs, and challenges, and to proving what is possible when all students receive a great education. AF is one of the top-performing charter networks in the country: for eight consecutive years, 100% of our high school graduates have been accepted to college, and 85% will be the first in their family to graduate from college.
  2. Opening new schools for deeper impact in existing communities: By continuing to grow within the communities we already serve—and working closely with students, families, and local leaders—we will help to further enrich the cities we call home and prove that gap-closing excellence is possible at scale. AF has grown 10-fold in the last dozen years, and we are now the same size as a mid-size public school district. AF plans to grow by another ~50% over the next five years, opening an average of three new schools per year to serve approximately 17,600 students across 45 schools by 2021.
  3. Sharing with and learning from others: Our theory of change is not just about AF kids, it is about all kids. AF is deeply committed to sharing what we know and learning what we do not, because that is what is best for all kids. AF has undertaken several efforts to test ways that we can expand our impact externally. Through our partnership programs, AF is supporting the success of ~50,000 non-AF students—and this does not include those who may benefit from access to our open-source resources.
Impact

Despite the promise of equal educational opportunity, students from low-income families are not being educated to the same level as their more affluent peers. This difference in academic performance, known as the achievement gap, is exemplified in the cities that we serve. This is a reality that negatively affects all of us, but our results demonstrate that the achievement gap is fixable: 

  • Overall, on the 2017 SBAC (Common Core-aligned CT state test), AF Connecticut schools outperformed the district proficiency average by a +27% points, and is within 2% points of the state-wide proficiency average.
  • Over two years, AF Bridgeport Academy Elementary has experienced a remarkable +45%-point growth, resulting in scores on the 2017 SBAC that topped the aggregate performance of CT’s wealthiest districts.
  • AF Bridgeport and New Haven students graduate from AF Amistad High in New Haven, ranked the #1 high school in Connecticut, #20 in the nation, and a Gold Medal School for the third year in a row by U.S. News and World Report. Our Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford alumni are attending colleges and universities that include Bowdoin College, Howard University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Connecticut, Wesleyan University, and Yale University.

In order to build on the positive momentum of the past few years, we have identified the following organizational priorities for the 2017-18 school year:

  • Daily Lesson Resources: We will make key upgrades to K-8 daily lesson resources for teachers, as well as building out daily lesson resources for high school.
  • Looking at Student Work (LASW): We will continue to focus on student outputs, in addition to teacher inputs, through the practice of regular LASW, in order to push on the consistency and quality of student outcomes.
  • Talent Practices & Pipeline: We will maintain momentum around adult culture and teacher retention with a specific focus on warm & demanding coaching.
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. 
Programs
Description

AF’s approach to closing the achievement gap for our students is rooted in five key pillars:

  1. Focus on student achievement: AF equips our students to perform at the same high levels as their affluent peers—both in their short-term achievement scores and, more importantly, in long-term life outcomes like college graduation. We set clear, high goals, and we accept responsibility for helping our students achieve them.
  2. Develop great teachers and leaders: The #1 way AF delivers on this promise is by investing in our educators. Our principals participate in a two-year residency before leading a school. Our new teachers start strong with five weeks of summer professional development. Every teacher and leader has a coach who provides individualized feedback and support.
  3. Raise the bar with a high-quality curriculum: AF’s curriculum is based on internationally-benchmarked Common Core standards and geared to true college readiness. Our high school course of study leads to all students taking at least five AP courses.
  4. Spend more time learning: AF students benefit from an extended day with additional academic time without short-changing enrichment and physical education.
  5. Build strong school cultures: Our schools are based on high expectations, structure, and joy. We work to create schools where all students know they are loved, and all students love learning.
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.
  • Overall, on the 2017 SBAC (Common Core-aligned CT state test), AF Connecticut schools outperformed the district proficiency average by a +27% points, and is within 2% points of the state-wide proficiency average.
  • Over two years, AF Bridgeport Academy Elementary has experienced a remarkable +45%-point growth, resulting in scores on the 2017 SBAC that topped the aggregate performance of CT’s wealthiest districts (Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton).
  • AF Bridgeport and New Haven students graduate from AF Amistad High in New Haven, ranked the #1 high school in Connecticut, #20 in the nation, and a Gold Medal School for the third year in a row by U.S. News and World Report. Our Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford alumni are attending colleges and universities that include Bowdoin College, Howard University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Connecticut, Wesleyan University, and Yale University.
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 209
Number of Part Time Staff 39
Number of Volunteers 0
Number of Contract Staff 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

In 2010, AF created a dedicated Team Partnerships for the purpose of sharing with and learning from others. After years of exploring approaches to sharing and partnerships, AF is developing an increasing understanding and expertise around what we believe it really takes to achieve consistent results at scale and to systematically drive impact at other organizations/schools: most notably, deep and sustained implementation support. Therefore, AF’s Team Partnerships is expanding two main approaches to both share AF’s curriculum and instructional materials with other charter networks and individual schools across the country, as well as to provide more intensive implementation support: 1) Charter Network Accelerator to support other charter networks to achieve stronger outcomes, and 2) Navigator to support individual schools to achieve stronger outcomes.

In addition, AF is a fully open-source organization, and in 2016, we launched an open-source website, the first of its kind in the education sector, allowing anyone to access our organizational, operational, and instructional resources. Since its launch, the open-source website has become one of the most visited pages on AF’s public website, with 40,000+ page views and 1,500+ registrations.

Through the sharing and partnerships work described, we are impacting approximately 50,000 non-AF students. By figuring out what it takes to scale educational success beyond the walls of a limited number of successful networks/schools, AF believes that we can help us all go farther, faster toward the goal of an excellent public school for every child.

Board Chair
Mr. Andrew Boas
Company Affiliation General Partner, Carl Marks Management Co., LP
Term July 2015 to July 2018
Board of Directors
NameAffiliation
Ms. William R. Berkley Chairman and CEO, W.R. Berkley Corporation
Mr. Anthony Davis Founder and Managing Partner, Inherent Group, LLC
Mr. Vincent J. Dowling Partner, Dowling Capital Partners
Mr. Thomas Lehrman Managing Partner, Haystack Partners
Ms. Elsa Nunez President, Eastern Connecticut State University
Ms. Ariela Rozman Founding Partner, EdNavigator
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 1
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 6
Hispanic/Latino 1
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 6
Female 2
 
 
Financials
Fiscal Year Start July 01 2017
Fiscal Year End June 30 2018
Projected Revenue $32,444,417.00
Projected Expenses $32,367,839.00
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 Year201620152014
Total Revenue$45,619,513$39,311,410$38,751,867
Total Expenses$42,867,233$44,731,384$44,029,144
Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities Chart
Fiscal Year201620152014
Total Assets$15,306,883$15,772,684$19,499,256
Current Assets$12,227,330$12,596,376$16,188,512
Long-Term Liabilities$6,413,654$10,069,400$8,020,061
Current Liabilities$1,646,458$1,208,793$1,564,730
Total Net Assets$7,246,771$4,494,491$9,914,465
Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201620152014
Top Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
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. Some financial information from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved has been inputted by Foundation staff. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. A more complete picture of the organization’s finances can be obtained by viewing the attached 990s and audited financials. 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 495 Blake Street
New Haven, CT 06515
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

 

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