Providing youth from historically disadvantaged backgrounds with the resources they need to succeed is challenging. One of the particularly daunting transition points is from elementary to middle school, where even strong students can fall behind. Educators and policymakers are increasingly paying attention to out-of-school-time programs as a way of providing academic supports to help close the achievement gap.
Higher Achievement, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, is one of these programs, which not only targets youth as they transition to middle school, but also serves them throughout the middle school years – providing a rigorous after-school and summer academic program that gives youth from at-risk communities their best opportunity to succeed in middle school. The program integrates afterschool and summer learning opportunities and explicitly helps students apply to competitive high schools. Students in the after-school program in fifth through eighth grades engage in sessions that include homework help, dinner, an arts or recreation elective, a “community gathering,” and 75 minutes of small-group academic instruction using a structured curriculum. In addition, students participate in monthly field trips, career shadowing days, community service projects, and college visits.
The report discussed at this forum summarized the encouraging interim results of a groundbreaking study. Public/Private Ventures and Dr. Leigh Linden, Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, completed the 24-month component of the larger evaluation (which will follow youth for 48 months) with positive initial findings. Panelists provided an overview of Higher Achievement, examined the research findings, showcased one of the program sites, and addressed implications for policy and practice.
Jasmin Cook, Alumna of Higher Achievement DC Metro, and student at George Washington University
Lynsey Wood Jeffries, Executive Director, Higher Achievement DC Metro
Dr. Leigh Linden, Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin
Richard Tagle, CEO, Higher Achievement
Lynsey Wood Jeffries is the Executive Director for Higher Achievement DC Metro. After five years as a Higher Achievement volunteer mentor, Ms. Jeffries joined the professional staff in 2005. During her tenure, the organization has expanded from serving 350 middle-school scholars to more than 500 with rigorous after-school and summer academic enrichment programming. Accordingly, the weekly volunteer mentor pool grew from 250 to 400, and revenues grew from $1 million to more than $2.5 million. Higher Achievement is a 2009 winner of the Coming Up Taller award, given by the First Lady of the United States, and the 2005 winner of the Washington Post Excellence in Nonprofit Management Award, but the most important award is the success of scholars – 93% of whom graduate from college.
Prior to joining Higher Achievement, Ms. Jeffries was a program officer for the Fannie Mae Foundation, specializing in financial education for lower income families. Previously, Ms. Jeffries served as a congressional liaison and special assistant to the CEO at Neighborworks, a Congressionally-chartered national affordable housing nonprofit intermediary.
Ms. Jeffries holds a BA from wake forest university, where she majored in English and Sociology. She earned a Master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh, with a concentration in nonprofit management. In 2010, Lynsey was named by the Independent sector to be an American Express NGen fellow, one of 12 nonprofit leaders under age 40 in the country. She is a member of the Leadership Greater Washington Class of 2011 and A Founding Board Member of Mundo Verde Public Charter School in DC.
Leigh L. Linden is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin with a joint appointment in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Working in the fields of development economics and economics of education, he explores the role of education in the microeconomic foundations of poverty. He focuses on understanding both the education production process and the family decision problems that determine the allocation of educational opportunities within the household. Methodologically, he specializes in the use of large-scale randomized controlled trials. His research has been published in the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Applied Economic Journal: Applied Economics. It has also been featured in several popular press publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Financial Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. He is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD), the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). He earned a PhD in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2004 and received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University
Richard Anthony Tagle is the Chief Executive Officer of Higher Achievement, a year-round rigorous academic enrichment program serving middle school students grades five through eight. He has more than 25 years of experience as a program manager, fundraiser and policy analyst that enable him to address the issues that are at the center of his core passion: the social and academic achievement of all children. Prior to joining Higher Achievement, Richard held several senior level positions at the Public Education Network (PEN), most recently Chief of Staff. His responsibilities included management of key activities in the areas of finance, administration, communications, and development. In addition to significant accomplishments in securing financial support for PEN, Richard was instrumental in a number of initiatives aimed at improving the lives of students, from gender and racial equality, to access to adequate healthcare coverage, to academic enrichment programs. He also led national initiatives focusing on minority health issues at the United States Conference of Mayors.
He is an active member of a number of boards. He currently chairs the boards of the National Center for Summer Learning Association and DC VOICE. He also sits on the board of the Nonprofit Roundtable. He has authored a wide range of articles on the quality and future of the nation’s public schools and education for underserved populations. Richard graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts from American University and went on to receive a Master of Arts from the same institution.