For Achievement First students—almost all of whom will be the rst in their families to graduatefrom college—it is not enough to simply matriculate to college. In fact, more than 80 percent of rst-generation college students who start college do not graduate within six years. Increasingly,educators understand the critical importance of perseverance in students realizing their goalsand accessing all of the opportunities that ow from a college education.
Over the last 13 years, we have learned that perseverance is as important to us as anorganization as it is for our students. In this report, we will explore moments when we failed toachieve the high goals we have for our students and ourselves—and how the Achievement Firstteam responded to these challenges. We faced the brutal facts, re-evaluated our approach,planned more and worked harder—because we know that we must join our students inpassionately pursuing our shared goals. It is this commitment to continuous improvement thathas led to some of the strongest student performance gains in our organizational history. Two years ago, in an effort to better meet true college readiness standards, New York Stateofcials courageously raised the minimum scores for what the state would consider “procient.”
As an immediate consequence, achievement results across the state—and at Achievement
First—plummeted. We are pleased to report that after two years of hard work, our New York math and English Language Arts results have improved 20 percentage points compared to a 3percentage point increase across the state. Further validation came last month with the release of the New York City Department of Education Progress Reports, a comprehensive assessment thatincludes a number of factors and weighs most heavily the progress of individual students fromone year to the next. Four out of ve eligible Achievement First charters received an “A”—and allfour of these scored in the top 15 percent of schools across New York City. Most impressively, AFBushwick was the highest-scoring K-8 school in the entire city! The importance of perseverance is as much about our future as it is our past. With the arrival of the new, internationally benchmarked Common Core State Standards, our schools, teachers andstudents will soon face another big challenge. As we work toward these higher standards, wewill strive to demonstrate the gritty, no-excuses determination that has proven to be a part of the Achievement First character. We are not perfect, we certainly make mistakes, and we sometimeseven fail—but the real proof of who we are as people and as an organization comes through inthose moments. We get back up and we go back at it—and, as it turns out, this is one of thebest ways for us to show our students the real secret to success.We know you share our belief that a great education can level the playing eld, break the cycleof poverty and help the next generation create a bright future for all of us. Thank you for yoursupport, partnership and perseverance.
Dacia M. Toll
Co-CEOWilliam R. Berkley