Our Scholars

Our elementary campus scholars are beautiful, curious, talented, fun-loving people with unlimited potential. After they’ve learned how to DREAM the Achievement Prep way, our youngest scholars are set on a path of unlimited potential, where they work hard, have fun, and plan for a future full of opportunities to “do whatever they want” to do in life. Most of our middle school scholars come to Achievement Prep fully aware that this school is for scholars on a mission. It is an experience that dares them to aspire to goals and ideals beyond anything they’ve imagined before, and trains them to hold themselves accountable for the mindset and effort it will take to achieve their dreams. We’re preparing them to be high-achieving scholars and leaders in all aspects of their lives. They take pride in working towards college and reaping the rewards of their efforts and great decisions. Our scholars are 99% African-American, over 85% qualify for free or reduced price lunch, approximately 23% receive special education services, and 100% are brilliant and college-bound!

Our Platinum Parents

Achievement Prep parents are worth more than gold – they are PLATINUM! Our parents are our partners. After our parents learn about Achievement Prep and what it offers, they make a conscious decision to entrust us with their children’s education and the opportunities it will afford them. Together we share a vision for our scholars and we become partners in this critical mission. Our parents’ trust and collaboration is critical in achieving the results we do with our scholars.

Meet the James Family

Mr. and Mrs. James enrolled their daughters, second grader Ayrricka and fourth grader Cierra, at Achievement Prep after leaving another charter school in the Southeast community that was closed because of low performance. When they learned their daughters’ school was going to close, they went to the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) website to find other options. They saw the PCSB’s performance report on Achievement Prep, which has consistently rated Achievement Prep a Tier 1 school. “We saw that Achievement Prep was doing well,” said Mr. James.  They also observed an Achievement Prep scholar whose mother worked at their former school, who would come to his mother’s job every day after school. “He was always doing his homework and his mom was always checking it and signing off on it,” noted Mr. James. “He was an impressive young man.” They enrolled their daughters at the Mississippi Avenue Elementary Campus and the Wahler Place Middle Campus in the fall of 2013, and then attended an orientation meeting hosted by Mrs. Shantelle Wright, Achievement Prep’s Founder and CEO.  “Immediately, we were impressed with Mrs. Wright.  We got the impression that she is a pioneer; she is driven and someone from the community. We looked at other schools, but we just felt very comfortable with Mrs. Wright and Achievement Prep. When asked what he likes most about the school, Mr. James says there are many things to love:

I love the communications between the teachers and parents. My daughters’ teachers might send a note home with homework saying they had a great day, and if we see them at family events, they’ll stop us and talk about how they’re doing in class. My youngest daughter was not on reading level when she left her previous school. Now she is. I like the fact that scholars get incentives and acknowledgment for accomplishing small goals every week, rather than waiting for report cards at the end of each quarter. They love the chants and singing multiplication tables, and my oldest daughter loves cheerleading.

Mr. James shared that his oldest daughter, Cierra, was initially a little intimidated by the idea of going to a school like Achievement Prep. But he says Prep Academy, the weeklong orientation before school starts, helped Cierra understand how to be a scholar and how to meet her teachers’ high expectations. “We are very happy with our decision and we can already see the difference it’s making for our daughters.” To learn more about our schools, click here. To learn about how to enroll your scholar, click here.

Meet Ms. Evans, Platinum Parent

Meet Ms. Evans, Platinum Parent

Ms. Evans says she first learned about Achievement Prep after seeing an ad on a school bus a few years ago. As her son Sean was getting ready to enter Kindergarten, she looked online at Greatschools.net and DCPCSB.org and noticed Achievement Prep’s impressive test scores. It didn’t hurt that the elementary campus was just five minutes from her job in Ward 8. Ms. Evans’ first impression of Achievement Prep came during the orientation meeting. “It was very informative,” she says.  “I was really impressed with the things they are trying to do with the scholars and I knew then it was going to be a great opportunity for my son.” Now that Sean has been in attendance since the fall of 2013, Ms. Evans continues to be impressed with the school. “My son looks forward to going to school every day,” she says. “He’s always trying to become the Dreamwork Hero; he wants to be in the Century Club; he wants those incentives, so he’s very conscious of his behavior during the day.” Ms. Evans says she loves that the curriculum is challenging, even for the Kindergarteners. “He has homework every night,” she notes. “I wouldn’t think that a Kindergartener would be able to do the work he’s given, but he’s able to do it.” Ms. Evans says she also loves the relationship she has with the teachers and staff. “His teacher has my phone number and I have hers,” she shares. “She sends me text messages, even when there isn’t any issue.” Ms. Evans says she’s thankful for Achievement Prep and especially thankful that her son loves his school. To learn more about our schools, click here. To learn about how to enroll your scholar, click here.

Our Platinum Teachers

Every member of the Achievement Prep team is deemed a teacher. We believe that regardless of role and title, any time you come in contact with a scholar, you have the opportunity to teach, making you a teacher. Like our Platinum Parents, our teachers are also worth more than gold – they, too, are PLATINUM! Our teachers are the heart and soul of our schools. Achievement Prep teachers accept the personal and professional challenges that come with doing “whatever it takes” to help our scholars exceed their potential. Their dedication and belief in the innate academic abilities of our scholars makes every scholar’s achievement possible. Our scholars know that their teachers are worth more than gold, and they rise to meet every high bar they set for them. We call our non-instructional teachers “oxygen” because they help our team breathe. Whether it’s keeping the lines of communication open between the school, parents, and the public, making sure the scholars and teachers have the equipment and materials they need to excel, or ensuring that the facilities are safe, clean, and inviting, our oxygen teachers breathe life into our operation.

Meet Mrs. Harrell, School Leader

Erica Harrell is the Principal at Achievement Prep’s Middle School campus. She was promoted to this position after previously serving as a 5th grade teacher at Achievement Prep’s Wahler Place Middle School campus. She came to Achievement Prep through the Teach For America (TFA) program, but she says she was destined for this role long before she was introduced to TFA in college. “I know it sounds like a cliché, but I’ve known I wanted to teach since I was little,” she laughs. “I would play school with my dolls and make my mom be one of my students.” In her last year of high school, she interned at a school near her high school and says she “absolutely loved it.” Growing up in Troy, New York, Ms. Franklin says her mother held her to very high expectations to achieve her own academic and life goals, and convinced her that this standard was the norm. She later figured out that it wasn’t the norm in her community. She was shocked when she realized she was one of only three children of color in her high school who went away to college. Ms. Franklin says her mother encouraged her to see what the world outside of Troy had to offer, so she left to attend the University of Maryland. At the University of Maryland, Ms. Franklin majored in education so she could pursue the profession she had played out in her room as a child. Yet, early in her program, she got nervous that she might not like teaching, so she switched to communications and sociology. Then, as she neared graduation, she got exposed to the Teach For America program. She learned about the achievement gap between white, upper-income students and minority, low-income students, and got re-inspired to teach. She reflected on the moment she knew she was destined to teach:

When I learned about the reality for minority and low-income children in this country, I thought about the fact that I grew up in this reality, and I could’ve been a part of those statistics. It hit me that this was how and why I was going to work in education.

Ms. Franklin completed TFA’s summer institute, took a teaching job in the Atlanta, Georgia area, and earned her teaching certificate from Georgia State University. After teaching 5th grade for several years in Atlanta, she got learned about an opportunity to teach 5th grade at Achievement Prep. She immediately connected to the school’s mission and its culture of excellence, and accepted the position in Achievement Prep’s flagship middle school. When asked what keeps her at Achievement Prep, Ms. Franklin cites two main themes:

The two things that drew me here and keep me here are the scholars and the schoolwide culture of rigor. The scholars are excited about learning, about being scholars, about getting their brains stronger, and being achievers in life. Sadly, that’s not the norm everywhere. There is a very high level of rigor and expectation for scholars at Achievement Prep and they are fine with it. We are setting them up for success and getting them ready for college. Secondly, the adults work so hard in this building, with a unified focus. Every adult in the building displays consistent behaviors and delivers consistent messages about what is expected of every scholar, so we see our scholars achieve both academically and socially.

Ms. Franklin says the school culture found at Achievement Prep was not the norm in her previous experience. “I didn’t have the structures in place that allowed me to be as successful in my previous experience,” she says. When asked what kind of structures create this school culture, she answered:

“Having a weekly meeting with a leader to push me and develop me, having frequent observations with constructive feedback, and having a team of colleagues with whom I can bounce around ideas, knowing they’ll support me and have my back.”

Ms. Franklin says she relishes her labor of love and her commitment to changing the lives of Achievement Prep scholars. To learn more about a career at Achievement Prep, click here. To learn more about Achievement Prep’s school culture and program, click here.

Our Alumni

Even after scholars move on to the most competitive high schools in Washington, DC and beyond, they remain a part of the Achievement Prep community. Our alumni leave with acquired skills, knowledge, and habits that give them the confidence to compete with and lead in elite academic environments anywhere. Our alumni relations team maintains regular contact with all of our alumni, ensuring that they have the support and guidance to be successful post-Achievement Prep. Achievement Prep alumni always receive a warm welcome when they return to visit, and they encourage the scholars who follow in their footsteps.

Meet Naji Jackson, Achievement Prep Alumnus

Naji Jackson is currently a sophomore at Deerfield Academy, one of America’s most prestigious boarding schools, located in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Before attending Deerfield, Naji attended Achievement Prep the first year the middle school campus opened in the fall of 2008. He was a part of Achievement Prep’s second class of 8th graders to be promoted to high school. Naji, whose family lives a short distance from the middle school campus, had spent most of his life in the Southeast, Washington, DC community, so the thought of going hundreds of miles away to boarding school never crossed his mind. Korey Morris, Achievement Prep’s Director of High School Placement, mentioned the option of boarding school to Naji and his parents towards the end of his 7th grade year. Mr. Morris, who is tasked with making sure Achievement Prep scholars move on to competitive and rigorous high schools, believed Naji had demonstrated during his time at Achievement Prep that he could succeed in a place like Deerfield Academy. Naji admitted that he wasn’t sure about the idea at first. “I didn’t want to leave my friends and my family behind,” he said during a recent interview for the Achievement Prep Post, the school’s monthly newsletter. His mom wasn’t so sure about him going so far away either. “My dad thought it would be a good opportunity for me, so we got more comfortable with the idea,” said Naji. Mr. Morris guided Naji and his parents through the application process and in the spring of his 8th grade year, Naji was accepted to Deerfield Academy for the 2013-2014 school year. Naji acknowledged that living and going to school at Deerfield, “completely opened my eyes.” He is getting to know students from all over the country and the world who are very different from him. Coming from an environment where many of his peers, neighbors, and friends have much in common, he said this exposure and diversity have taught him a lot about himself and the world. Naji admits that when he first arrived, he was a little nervous about being so far from home. He thought the other students in his school, most of whom come from very high-income families, would be unfriendly, smarter, or better prepared than he was. Naji shared with the Achievement Prep community what he learned about his preparation for boarding school:

I realized that APA gave me the skills to do what I need to do. I learned good study skills and not to procrastinate. I feel like I have an equal opportunity to do well. So far, my lowest grade was an 84 and my highest was a 90.

Apparently, Naji was socially prepared as well. He says he has lots of friends at Deerfield and feels comfortable living there. When asked if he would recommend that other Achievement Prep scholars consider attending a boarding school like Deerfield Academy, Naji said:

If you are really focused on your education and want to make something of your life, I would say yes. You have to be studious. You cannot slack off or act up in class. Some people would have a hard time if they could not stay focused and be responsible for themselves.

Naji said his future plans include coming home for the summer to visit his family and get a summer job, graduating from Deerfield, studying sciences in college, and possibly pursuing a career as a biologist.

Our Community

Achievement Prep founders made the intentional decision to be a part of the Ward 8 community. Ward 8 has a rich cultural history and Achievement Prep is committed to bringing that vibrancy back to the Ward. While the statistics of our community show that it is underserved, Achievement Prep is committed to using schools to serve as centers of change, positively impacting the neighborhoods.

Achievement Prep is a staple in the community and is proud to be seen as a neighborhood school. Community members, civic leaders, and area businesses have embraced our school, continue to offer their support and partnership, and celebrate our accomplishments with us. We take great pride in being one of Ward 8’s treasures.

Photo Credit: Anice Hoachlander