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The Debate - Amistad as Model

Doug McCurry, executive director of Achievement First, a school reform non-profit founded by the leaders of Amistad Academy, discusses plans to bring the successes of the school to additional districts in Connecticut and New York.

The civil rights issue of our time is the "achievement gap" - the difference in tested academic skills between white and minority, suburban and urban, and affluent and poor students. The statistics about the achievement gap are striking:

  • The average black or Latino 12th grader now has lower basic skills than the average white 8th grader.1
  • Less than 0.2 percent of black students scored in the Advanced category in math or science on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called "the nation's report card." 2
  • On each of the latest 8th grade Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) tests (reading, writing, and math), less than one-third of New Haven students scored at or above the mastery level. 3

Amistad Students & Teachers

Urban students in Connecticut - and across America - desperately need schools that can deliver on the often-denied promise of equal educational opportunity for America's urban children by inspiring them to believe they can achieve, and by helping them develop the academic and character skills necessary to compete on a level playing field.

To help close the achievement gap, Achievement First will create a network of twenty high-performing charter schools in Connecticut and New York over the next five years. With an unwavering focus on student achievement, Achievement First schools will use Amistad Academy's consistent, proven, standards-based curriculum, and every six weeks, schools will use Achievement First's interim assessments and structured process for data analysis in order to target instruction, ensuring that every child masters all the standards. Our academic model also includes more time on task (including over three hours of reading, one hour of writing, and one hour of math daily), and all schools will use our REACH (respect, enthusiasm, achievement, citizenship, and hard work) values to guide a strict, no-nonsense, achievement-oriented school culture.

Our network of schools will prove that high levels of student achievement can be taken to scale.

A strong central Achievement First office will aggressively recruit the finest principals and teachers in the nation, provide world-class teacher training, and develop and refine the finest standards-based curricula and assessments. Moreover, the central office will work to take the major non-instructional issues off the plate of the each school principal; for example, facility issues, fundraising, information technology, budgeting and finance, accounting, legal, audit, state reporting, and start-up operations will be handled by a professional, efficient central office staff.

In five years, our network of twenty achievement-gap-closing schools will prove that extremely high levels of student achievement can be taken to scale. At this point, Achievement First will have the knowledge and skills to start more high-performing schools, create similar networks in additional cities, and partner with large urban school districts to help ensure that every child in every neighborhood and town in America goes to a great school.

1 No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom.
2 No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom
3 The Connecticut Mastery Test Web site,

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