Higher Achievement Program, Inc.

Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.

aka Higher Achievement   |   Washington, DC   |  https://www.higherachievement.org


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 info


Principal Officer

Ms. Lynsey Wood Jeffries

Main address

1750 Columbia Road NW

Washington, DC 20009 USA

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NTEE code info

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 and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

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

Achievement Centers

Higher Achievement offers middle school students out-of-school time educational enrichment opportunities through afterschool programming and summer opportunities. The organization’s unique culture and robust content model are demonstrated in scholar/mentor relationships, progressive curricula content, and academic extras - all designed to improve achievement in core subjects.  High School Placement services connects those achievements with the opportunity to attend a top high school.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Where we work


Coming Up Taller Award 2009

President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities

Ways to Do Good 2008

Washingtonian Feature

Enterprise Award 2008

Catalogue for Philanthropy

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of students served who earn passing grades in core subjects

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adolescents, Multiracial people, People of African descent, People of Central American descent, Low-income people

Related Program

Achievement Centers

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success


Context Notes

In 2020, many of our students did not receive letter grades but just pass/fail grades as a result of extended school closures due to COVID-19.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

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

Higher Achievement launched a strategic plan in September 2017 that challenges us to extend and deepen our impact on our scholars. While we stay rooted in the middle school years, we have committed also to deliver our proven afterschool intervention with the express intent of equipping 5th - 8th grade scholars with the confidence and skills to succeed in high school, college, and life. As a result, by 2032:  
• 100% of Higher Achievement alumni will graduate from high school on time, and
• 65% of Higher Achievement scholars will earn a post-secondary degree (approximately 4x the rate of their peers), helping them realize their full potential.  

In order to achieve this intended impact, Higher Achievement will prepare middle school students for postsecondary success by sparking deep engagement in learning and placement in top-tier high schools. We continue to commit to:  
• Promoting mastery of key academic skills to enable self-efficacy, and  
• Intentionally develop social emotional skills linked to college success and persistence (e.g., goal-setting, sense of belonging, and engagement in school)  

As a result of COVID-19 and extended school closures, Higher Achievement was not able to see a full program year of the revised Higher Achievement 2.0 model, including summer partnerships. In March 2020, Higher Achievement acted quickly as school districts proceeded with closures in order to provide stability and consistent programming to meet immediate scholar needs, including homework help and relationship building as scholars faced not only the challenge of virtual learning, but also sudden isolation from their friends and their routine. Higher Achievement added unplanned summer programming to keep scholars engaged and to develop best-practices in delivering a virtual program in preparation for the anticipated and since confirmed virtual school year.

Through summer pilot programs in virtual academic skill-building and mentoring; conversations with scholars and families; and meetings with school administrators, Higher Achievement revised programming for the 2020-2021 program year in order to achieve both short-term goals (such as grade and attendance improvements) and long-term goals (high school placement and postsecondary success) that have been impacted by COVID-19. This updated program included high school placement and English Language Arts mentoring based in social-justice principles, classroom-aligned math skill-building in small-group “math pods,” and large-group Community Meetings to connect scholars to their goals and to one another. This concentrated approach was strategic. By condensing programming into hour-long, high-impact sessions, scholars were engaged and received the benefits of personalized programming while also limiting screen time following a day of virtual school, which was a concern voiced by families. Programming featured content rooted in social justice, aligned to in-school learning, grounded in relationship-focused mentoring, and reflected in short and powerful lessons with gamification throughout to keep scholars engaged.

Looking ahead to the 2021-2022 school year, Higher Achievement engaged Bellwether Education Partners to guide Higher Achievement’s leadership team in a strategy refresh with input from Higher Achievement frontline staff, families, scholars, current supporters, school districts, and other community partners. Out of this session, Higher Achievement developed a draft two-year proposed strategic approach to address the following guiding question: “How should Higher Achievement adjust its model to meet the needs of COVID recovery – for current scholars and to serve more students, helping young people close opportunity gaps exacerbated by the pandemic?”. This approach positions Higher Achievement to focus at the intersection of Higher Achievement’s core competencies, unmet needs for scholars and schools, and ability to financially sustain our work from school investments and philanthropy.

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 three affiliate communities – Baltimore, MD; 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 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:

Our i3 grant award led to a second RCT, which was published by MDRC in July 2020. Once again, Higher Achievement is among the few with positive, statistically significant results – this time with report card grades for our expansion sites outside of Washington, DC. This evaluation also included a robust implementation study, which led to a refined program model – focused on placement in and readiness for college-preparatory high school programs. The refinements expanded on the centerpiece of our model – Afterschool Academy and mentoring, while dedicating more time for family engagement and partnerships for summer learning.

Higher Achievement anticipates the following outcomes for scholars each year:
• 65% of scholars will increase one letter grade in math and reading, or maintain As and Bs.
• 75% of graduating 8th grade scholars will enroll in a college preparatory high school or program (enroll in a lab science or Algebra 1 for their 9th grade year)
• 80% of scholars will indicate learning key social-emotional learning competencies in developing persistence, self-efficacy, goal-setting, and engagement in school.

These outcomes translate into scholars achieving success in high school, college, and beyond.

Scholar outcomes from the 2020 program year:
o 64% of scholars increased one letter grade in reading, or maintained As and Bs from Q1 to Q3 (due to the fact that pandemic scholars were not given Q4 grades)
o 62% of scholars increased one letter grade in reading, or maintained As and Bs from Q1 to Q3 (due to the fact that pandemic scholars were not given Q4 grades)
o 75% of graduating 8th grade scholars enrolled in a college preparatory high school or program (enrolled in competitive school, or a lab science or Algebra 1 for their 9th grade year)

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    Higher Achievement serves middle school students (5th – 8th grade) in the DC metro area (Washington, DC; Prince Georges County, MD; and Alexandria, VA); Baltimore, MD; and, Richmond, VA. We work directly within thirteen schools in five school districts and target Title I schools where an academic and social-emotional enrichment program like ours can make a deep impact for the scholar, family, and greater community. Across our three regions, Higher Achievement’s scholars are 75% Black, 15% Latinx, 8% multi-racial, 1% Asian-American, and 1% American Indian.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Community meetings/Town halls,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    We convened a “curriculum working group” with frontline staff representatives from each location as well as advisors from peer organizations (including One World Education, BELL, & the US Dept. of Education) to design our curriculum philosophy that incorporated feedback from scholars, alumni, and mentors and guided by a series of tenets from which we vetted various curricular options. The curriculum we selected responded to significant scholar and mentor feedback and aligns to best practices in out-of-school time programming. Moreover, it allows for mentors to focus on the critical social-emotional skills that move the academic needle (such as goal planning, developing self-efficacy, and persistence), which they are well-suited to support.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    It has shifted the power because it allows families and scholars to take the ownership over their own educational journey and advocate for themselves within the schools as needed. Higher Achievement sees our organization as a partner with families and scholars being the driver and decision maker for their future.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback,


Higher Achievement Program, Inc.

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


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Higher Achievement Program, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 03/09/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms. Julie Herwig

New York Life

Term: 2020 -

Lamont Gordon

Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America

Julie Herwig

New York Life

Christine Lattanzio


Ade Sawyer

Weber Shandwick

Erica Berry Wilson

Chief of Staff to the DCAO for Health, Human Services, and Education Office of the County Executive Prince George’s County

Mitch Brooks

DSI, Inc.

Kim Curry


Jay Epstien

DLA Piper

Brian Flegel

Clark Construction Group

Michelle Gilliard


Dom Meier


Mary Lloyd Parks

Kedisha Ebanks

Ernst & Young

Kelly Hernandez

Clark Construction Group

Jeanelle Johnson


Chris Newkirk


Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    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? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 3/9/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 11/02/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.