This is Achievement First

2018-19 Annual Report

Dear Friends,

This year, we opened the 36th public charter school in our network and achieved the best results in our history. We are getting bigger and better at the same time. At our core, Achievement First is successful both because of how deeply we—scholars, staff, families, supporters—care about each other and also how much we expect from one another. We lead with love—the kind of transformative love that brings out the best in all of us. We care about setting big goals and reaching them, creating the conditions for both students and staff to do their best work, giving and receiving continuous feedback on what’s working and what could be better, open-source sharing of all of our tools and resources, and fighting for what’s right, even when it’s hard.

That combination of care and challenge is working for both students and adults. According to U.S. News & World Report, our two Connecticut high schools are ranked #1 and #3 in the state. On New York’s math exam, every AF school’s eighth-grade class performed in the top 3% of all schools. In Rhode Island, Achievement First Iluminar Mayoral Academy was ranked the #1 school in the entire state in both ELA and math.

And yet, we know there’s so much more to do. We celebrate progress, but we never confuse it with excellence. That constant striving to get better, to focus on delivering the opportunities and achievement that all students need and deserve, is also core to who we are. As you turn these pages, we invite you to get to know the stories of our students, families, teachers, and leaders—all of them striving for excellence, all of them caring deeply for each other, all of them challenging themselves and us.

And we never forget that, without your generous support, none of this would be possible. We cannot thank you enough for the faith you have in AF, in our scholars, and in the future they will build.

Many Minds, One Mission!

  • Dacia M. Toll, Co-CEO and President
  • Doug McCurry, Co-CEO and Superintendent
  • Andrew Boas, Board Chair

Who Are We?

We’re one of the top-performing charter networks in the country. We set high expectations because our students can exceed them. Our students, 85% of whom come from low-income families, achieve results that are on par with those of their affluent peers. They are a powerful testament to what excellence and equity mean.

We’re 36 schools and 13,300 students strong across five cities. We are Bridgeport. New Haven. Hartford. Brooklyn. Providence. And we’re growing in our communities. The number of students we serve will increase by 50% in the next five years.

We are always evolving and improving, from our innovative Greenfield model that leverages technology and brain science, to our Empower program that better serves students with the highest-need disabilities.

We share everything. As a totally open-source organization, we partner with charters and districts to help them succeed. In turn, we learn from them and improve what we do. Through our partnerships, AF supports an additional 60,000 students who will never set foot inside our doors.

And, at scale, we are financially sustainable when we receive the same per pupil funding as traditional district schools.

Sydney, AF East Brooklyn High, 10th grade

When she becomes a first-generation college student, Sydney might follow her love for music, math, geology, or art. Whatever she does, she’ll be leaving a path for her younger siblings to follow.

Joseph, AF University Prep High, 12th grade

He’s captain of the school robotics team, and he loves everything STEM, especially aerospace engineering. This year, he plans to run for student government. He just might change the world.

Keith Brooks, AF Brownsville Middle, Principal

For Keith, it’s all about Brownsville and the students who call it home. That includes his daughter, Mikayla. Keith has been the principal at AF Brownsville Middle for seven years, working at the intersection of great need and great passion—and being part of something way bigger than himself.

We have an extended day, so our students spend more time learning without short-changing enrichment and physical education. AF is home to varsity athletes, championship debaters, and students who are pursuing the many other opportunities that help children love school—from theater, to orchestra, to robotics, to step team.

Philip Delgado III, Bridgeport, Father

He wanted his children to get the most rigorous college prep education possible, and he knows how hard that is to find. Because of Achievement First, he knows all four of his kids are preparing for the futures they so deserve.

Gabriel, AF Providence Mayoral Academy Elementary, 2nd grade

When Gabriel and his twin brother, Enmanuel, started at Achievement First in first grade, they proudly spoke Spanish and were excited to learn English, too. Today, they’re bilingual and reading on grade level. We can’t wait to see what they’ll do tomorrow.

They are the up-at-dawners, the two-bus-and-a-train takers. They are our passionate, brilliant, warm-demanding force of educators who bring their whole selves to enhance our schools every day.

We are also proud that our teachers continue to increasingly reflect the backgrounds of our scholars. This year, 63% of new hires identify as Black, Latino, Multi-Racial or First-Generation College Graduates.

Gabrielle Thompson, AF Endeavor Elementary, Teacher

Gabrielle’s “why” is seeing kids realize that they love to learn. It’s why she’s been working in education for 14 years, and why she strives to give 100% for her students every day. It’s also one of the many reasons she was named a master teacher last year.

Mirljinda Krivca, AF Amistad High Teacher

Her favorite teaching moment is the one that happens every day. It’s that moment when her calculus and pre-calculus students realize math isn’t as difficult as they thought. Helping students develop as problem-solvers is Mirljinda’s fuel.


85% of our students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, given their families’ incomes—which has historically placed them on the wrong side of a large and vexing achievement gap. We are proud that our students and staff are powerfully demonstrating the potential of our kids and communities.

AF was 1 of 3 finalists for the 2018 Broad Prize, which is awarded to the top charter network in the country.


For the second year in a row, U.S. News & World Report named Amistad the #1 high school in Connecticut. For the first time, AF Hartford High was also eligible and ranked #3 in the state! These rankings reflect our strong SAT and AP performance, as well as college matriculation and persistence.

AF Bridgeport fourth-graders topped Connecticut’s wealthiest areas—including Darien, Wilton, and Fairfield—in both ELA and math. Their math performance was especially strong: only four districts in the entire state had higher scores!

AF Connecticut students grew more than their peers across the host districts, state, and affluent districts. Our elementary students outscored the state average in both ELA (by 11% points) and math (by 17% points).

New York

Our students outperformed their peers from middle- and upper- income families by 13% points in math and 4% points in ELA—opening up a reverse achievement gap!

Since the arrival of the new Common Core standards in 2014-15, Achievement First has grown 34% points in ELA, 24% points in math, and 29% points overall—far outpacing the growth of the city and state.

AF students’ overall proficiency was double that of our host districts and exceeded state and city averages by more than 24% points.

Rhode Island

In the first year of state testing for our newest school, Achievement First Iluminar Mayoral Academy was the #1 school in the entire state in both ELA (80% proficient) and in math (76% proficient), beating the wealthiest districts by double digits.

At Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy Elementary, our capstone students—fourth-graders—topped the state by a whopping 34% points in math.

In ELA, our Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy Middle students outscored the state by 25% points and their peers in wealthy benchmark districts by 7% points. Our students also outperformed the Rhode Island average by 23% points in math.

AF Greenfield students build socio-emotional skills through Compass Circles, inspired by our partners at Valor Collegiate, where they’re given the space and support to share their feelings, build empathy for others, and grow as whole people. And the practice of Compass Circles is spreading throughout our network.

To be successful in a rapidly changing world, our students will need the agency to own their learning and chart their futures. We built the AF Greenfield model to help them get there.

In this model, we give our teachers more prep time and professional development, and our students more time for individualized, self-directed, and small-group learning. Family members and other important mentors join with students in a team that supports them in reaching their goals. Every one of our students takes two enrichment classes—like visual arts, coding and robotics, dance and martial arts—every single day. And beyond that, they go on extended expeditions in the community every eight weeks before putting what they learned into practice in an exhibition or performance.

McKeila, AF Aspire Middle, 6th grade

For McKeila, being an AF Greenfield student means exploring modern dance, hip hop, and ballet. It means diving into Ancient Rome, Egyptian medicine, and world religions. And it means she knows she’ll one day become a doctor, dancer, chef, or anything else she dreams of.

We share everything we learn. It’s why we developed our fully open-source curriculum portal. It’s why we started the Charter Network Accelerator to help small charter management organizations grow and get better at what they do. And it’s why our Navigator program provides district and charter schools around the country with intensive coaching so that they can implement our game-changing math program and push toward improved results for kids.

Annette Armstrong, Hartford Grandmother

She’s in this fight because of her own granddaughter Arianna, and she’s in it for Arianna’s classmates too. To students at AF Hartford, she is “grandma” when they see her coaching the drill team, helping out at fundraisers, and advocating for all kids at the Capitol. And she won’t stop until all kids in Hartford have what they need.

Students of color face racism and injustice daily. We live in a country where our communities have been chronically underserved, and only 9% of low-income students earn a college degree by age 24. Schools like ours, that are trying to help right these wrongs, are severely underfunded—our Connecticut students receive $4,000 less per pupil that the state average. Our New York and Rhode Island students face facilities inequities that make it hard for us to open schools. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Our campuses are safe, warm, and inviting spaces created to reflect the promise of our students. Our facilities are lovingly constructed—in a cost-effective and sustainable way—with the goal of creating the best teaching and learning environments possible.

Our schools may be K-12, but college graduation is the goal. This year, our 304 seniors earned 1,586 college acceptances to institutions across the country from SUNY to Stanford. And when they arrived on those campuses, they were much less likely to need remedial classes because of the preparation they received in high school. In fact, only 10% of our alumni take remedial classes, compared to the national average of 23% and the average for students from low-income families (63%).

The percentage of students who take part in an internship, pre-college program, or summer enrichment program before high school graduation.
The number of Advanced Placement classes, including math and science, that most (75%) AF high school students take before they graduate.
The percentage of AF high school seniors accepted to a “Mostly Competitive” or “Highly Competitive” college, including Yale University, Brandeis University, Spelman College, University of Connecticut, Georgetown University, and Syracuse University.
The number of times higher our college graduation rate is than the national average for students from low-income communities. We won’t be satisfied until our students graduate college at the same high rate as students from the wealthiest communities in the country.

Brianna, AF Amistad High ‘12, Central Connecticut State University ‘18

Growing up in New Haven, Brianna knew she wanted to give back by saving lives every day. That’s why she became a patient care associate when she was still in college, and it’s why she is a registered nurse at Yale-New Haven Hospital today.


AF is committed to running a K-12 public school network at scale with the same resources that are currently available to our host districts. AF schools pay a 10% Network Support fee to cover the cost of all the central support services the school receives, which is significantly less than the percent of total expenses that most districts allocate to their central offices.

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