When we created Achieve in 2008, we sought to address the achievement gap during the middle school years. Our desire to start with this age group was based on what we knew to be true, particularly for boys and low-income children: summer learning loss is compounded over time, and the negative effect is cumulative. But we had to make an important decision: at what grade would we enroll students? We ultimately decided on students entering sixth grade. We would “hook” students at a young age while maintaining the ability to involve Nobles faculty in this new endeavor, and we would work with our students for three summers and the included academic years. Students who completed the full program graduated in the summer before their eighth grade year.
Five years later, we’ve decided to revisit this decision. Although we do a good job preparing our students for middle school, we do not actively work with students during the transitional eighth grade year. Support is crucial during this transition. We know that there are many ways we can help students prepare for high school, particularly during the summer between their eighth and ninth grade years. Because of this, we have ultimately decided to shift the grades we serve in order to better prepare our students for the important transition to high school.
Beginning in the summer of 2013 (yes, this summer!), we will no longer enroll rising sixth grade students in the program, which means we will not enroll any new students this summer. Next spring, 2014, we will begin a new admission cycle, enrolling rising seventh grade students. A student’s commitment to Achieve will still run three summers, but s/he will now graduate in the summer before ninth grade.
With this new year, we will develop a curriculum that specifically teaches the strategies/skills and previews the content that students need during their freshman year of high school. During the eighth-grade academic year, we will also be able to assist students with the high school application process, whether they choose to remain in the Boston Public School system, or apply to charter, parochial, or independent schools. Furthermore, we will develop a curriculum that addresses the social and emotional transition to high school, helping students think carefully about leadership, goal-setting, and good decision-making in the face of challenging situations. All of these steps will ensure that our students successfully navigate the crucial transition to high school, keeping them on the path to college.
We are looking forward to this new change and our families are, too! We have invited last year’s graduates to return this summer and enroll in Achieve for one more summer, and we have invited currently enrolled students to opt-in to an additional summer as well. These cohorts will have the unique opportunity to attend Achieve for four summers, and we are excited to share that many of our families — believing as we do in the importance of providing programming during the eighth grade year — have already expressed an interest in staying with Achieve for a little bit longer!
~Eric Nguyen, Acting Director