Educational Institutions

Higher Achievement Program, Inc.

Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.

aka Higher Achievement

Washington, DC


Higher Achievement closes the opportunity gap during the pivotol middle school years. By leveraging the power of communities, Higher Achievement's proven model provides a rigorous, year-round learning environment, caring role models, and a culture of high expectations, resulting in college-bound scholars with the character, confidence, and skills to succeed.

Ruling Year


Principal Officer

Ms. Lynsey Wood Jeffries

Main Address

1750 Columbia Road NW Floor 2

Washington, DC 20009 USA


achievement, education, youth, development, leadership, smart, disadvantaged, mentor, tutor, urban, poor, gifted, talented, intellectual, potential, challenging, academic, opportunities, scholastic, opportunity, science, research, study, school, under, inner, inner-city, poverty, risk, at-risk, income, low-income, promise, Washington, District, Columbia, Gonzaga, graduate, scholar, evaluation, after school, out of school time





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Elementary, Secondary Ed (B20)

Scholarships, Student Financial Aid, Awards (B82)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

Higher Achievement recognizes that the persistent racial and socio-economic achievement gaps in the United States are fueled by systemic oppression that actively excludes people of color from critical opportunities that influence long-term educational, career, and financial success. Therefore, Higher Achievement intervenes to provide students with opportunity at a critical point in youth development – middle school. The middle school years can have a profound impact on future college and career success. A growing body of research and Higher Achievement's over 40 years of experience in the field illustrate that the path to post-secondary success starts during the middle school years, well before high school and college. As such, Higher Achievement focuses on the transition to and through middle school, in order to transform a turbulent time in the life of a student into a launching pad for lifelong academic and personal success.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Achievement Centers

Where we workNew!

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

For at least 15 years, Higher Achievement has been operating at the vanguard of research and practice of middle school youth development. From a deep commitment to scholars' social emotional growth to a focus on academic growth, the organization has developed a strong reputation for effectively supporting students to and through high school.

The education sector has increasingly followed Higher Achievement's lead, evolving over the last two decades to focus on increased rigor and accountability in schools and the social emotional skills young people need for success. At the same time, students need more support than ever before as more jobs require a college degree. By 2020, 65% of all jobs will require a postsecondary credential, up from 40% in 2010.

To continue leading the charge toward better opportunities for scholars and greater prosperity for our communities, Higher Achievement has identified one crucial goal: to leverage its middle school programming to equip more scholars with the confidence and skills to make it to and through college. To achieve this goal, we aim to reach 1,800 scholars annually by 2020 and ensure that 100% of these scholars graduate high school and at least 65% earn a post-secondary credential, aligning Higher Achievement alumni with the future of work in the United States.

This bold goal responds directly to the needs expressed by scholars and parents. It will also require intensive work and increased investment to position Higher Achievement as the first step on the path to college.

Higher Achievement specializes in boosting academic success for youth during the pivotal middle school years, addressing educational and social needs by providing rigorous academics and meaningful relationships at the right time: middle school. Through our “three R's" strategy, Higher Achievement is uniquely serving the academic and social-emotional needs of our scholars:
RIGOR: Unlike many programs, Higher Achievement is year-round, and scholars commit to the program from 5th through 8th grades. Each year, scholars spend the equivalent of 600 additional hours learning an advanced curriculum aligned to state standards. Research generally shows that youth who attend programs with high levels of intensity (at least three days and multiple hours per day) have more positive outcomes.

RELATIONSHIPS: Higher Achievement showers scholars with meaningful relationships: two academic mentors each week, caring staff members, and a positive peer network. According to Public/Private Ventures (PPV), youth with at least one highly supportive relationship with an adult will do better than youth who lack this crucial support. Scholars grow to value their intentional long-term mentoring relationships.

RIGHT TIMING: Several studies have shown that a student's academic performance in middle school is a strong indicator of high school outcomes. Students experience significant social and emotional changes as academic expectations increase. Moreover, the Brookings Institution published a study demonstrating that adolescence is the time during which people are most likely to fall off track toward a middle class life. By intentionally intervening during the critical middle school years, Higher Achievement improves a scholar's chance of high school graduation and expands their educational and job opportunities.

These three strategies yield life-changing results. As mentioned above, 95% of our alumni go on to graduate high school on time. In today's ever-changing society, Higher Achievement continues to work with our scholars and their families to support their success, both in school and in life. Through our rigorous model, we are helping to prepare our scholars to be life-long learners and our future leaders.

Higher Achievement seeks to build a world where every child's promise and potential is realized, regardless of circumstances. To that end, the organization closes the opportunity gap during the pivotal middle school years, providing students in its four affiliate communities – Baltimore, MD; Pittsburgh, PA; Richmond, VA; and Washington, DC – with academic and social-emotional supports at an important moment in their development. Higher Achievement's proven model provides a rigorous year-round learning environment, caring role models, and a culture of high expectations, resulting in college-bound scholars with the character, confidence, and skills to succeed. On average, 95% of Higher Achievement scholars graduate high school on time and 63-64% of scholars show improved grades in math and English Language Arts (ELA).

Higher Achievement's success can be attributed in large part to its commitment to using rigorous evaluation and data to inform program development. The organization started its first randomized controlled trial (RCT) study in 2006, years before most other out-of-school time programs considered this type of research. Even today, Higher Achievement is among only 2% of nonprofits in the country to have undergone an RCT, and one of only 10% of those reporting statistically positive results. The results published by research partner MDRC in 2013 demonstrated that Higher Achievement has a statistically significant impact on math and reading test scores, family engagement, and top choice high school placement. With this strong evidence of impact, Higher Achievement secured a $12 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the US Department of Education in 2015. Higher Achievement has a measurable impact on the lives of middle school youth from low-income and underserved backgrounds across our four affiliate cities. Rigorous assessments consistently indicate that Higher Achievement scholars improve their grades, test scores, school attendance, and academic behaviors.

Higher Achievement is one of the only expanded learning programs in the country to conduct a randomized control trial that demonstrates the positive impact of its proven model. Published by MDRC in 2013, this six-year study revealed that Higher Achievement's academic impact is larger than other expanded learning programs in the United States. Specifically:

• Scholars demonstrated significant gains in math and improvements in reading equivalent to 48 and 30 additional days of learning, respectively.
• Math gains – a proven indicator for high school graduation – persist for years after scholars leave the program.

Importantly, the study revealed that scholars demonstrated academic gains only after two full years in the program, indicating the importance of keeping scholars engaged year after year.

Higher Achievement is currently undergoing a second RCT to continue learning from our scholars and alumni.

Through extensive internal and external assessments, we know our innovative model works. Higher Achievement measures our annual impact on students served by tracking (1) school grades; (2) daily center attendance; (3) school attendance; and (4) entrance into top high schools of choice. Report cards, school and center attendance, and high school acceptance letters are primary data sources, and all are recorded in HAPI, the organization's web-based data management system. Regular reports reveal progress at the organization, center, and student levels and guide program adjustments. Individual scholar achievement plans, as well as center achievement plans, detail tailored steps that promote scholar achievement. New in 2017, our organization-wide Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) highlight our progress and track scholars enrolled in our program, mentors recruited, and academic data. We streamlined work plans to focus on five programmatic KPIs across the organization and at each Achievement Center. This rigorous tracking is done on a weekly basis to ensure we can proactively make any mid-course corrections and identify best practices. Though we have always maintained a strong data focus, this shift toward KPIs allows us to see progress in real time and make adjustments throughout the year.

Our groundbreaking RCT study ultimately led Higher Achievement to track several key performance indicators (KPIs) crucial to ensuring that the organization continues to maximize its impact on its scholars and their families. These include:

• Scholars with gains in reading and math – In the 2016-17 school year, 65% of students improved or maintained A/B grades in English Language Arts and 63% of students improved or maintained A/B math grades.
• Scholars placed in top high schools – In the 2016-17 school year, 62% of scholars were placed in a Tier 1 Schools and/or college-preparatory high school programs.

These outcomes translate into scholars achieving success in high school, college, and beyond. Over the next three years, the organization will build on its already proven-effective model by deepening impact in five areas that research shows are at the heart of students' success in college. Specifically, Higher Achievement is committed to:

1. Social-Emotional Skills Development: Intentionally cultivating social-emotional skills linked to college persistence, including goal-setting, sense of belonging, self-efficacy, and engagement in school through refined curricula and training for mentors and staff;
2. Scholar Engagement: Differentiating programming for young (5th/6th grades) and older (7th/8th grades) scholars to encourage multi-year engagement and focus on college preparation;
3. Alumni Engagement: Supporting Higher Achievement alumni through partnerships and tracking their progress to and through college;
4. Mentorship: Matching mentors and scholars based on shared interests and compatibility to further leverage the benefits of sustained mentorship;
5. Expertise & Influence: Informing and influencing the national out-of-school time and college pipeline sectors by sharing the organization's best-practice tools and strategies with other organizations.

These changes will improve scholar recruitment and retention by establishing a pathway that begins at a critical point in scholars' academic and emotional development and leads to earning a college degree.

External Reviews



Higher Achievement Program, Inc.

Fiscal year: Sep 01 - Aug 31

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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A Pro report is also available for this organization for $125.
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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?