Located on the corner of 16th and Downing street in Capital Hill sits the Mountain View Nonprofit Tower, a seven story office building acquired by the Urban Land Conservancy in 2014. The 35,000 square foot space was purchased using the “Ours to Own” Facility Fund, in the hopes of providing non profits and other mission based organizations a space to operate.
Tucked away on the second floor sits the Achievement Network, a national non profit that specialized in improving education in low income communities. Founded in Boston in 2005, the Achievement Network, or Anet for short, arose when local teachers struggled with the proper tools to insure their student’s success. After teaming with educators in the community, Anet established itself as a non profit offering a unique set of assessments plus a coaching program to aid schools in implementing these assessments.
Kristen Hughes is the Network Associate for the Achievement Networks’s Colorado chapter, which opened its doors in 2014. Colorado is the 10th state to join the organization’s rapidly growing network, and the farthest west. Hughes said that Anet hopes to launch in California by 2017.
As the Network Associate, Hughes plays a major behind the scenes role, as she provides support for the entire Colorado team. And this is no small feat. Anet currenly works with almost 100 schools in Colorado, 80 of which are part of the Denver Public Schools system. Hughes explained that the Colorado team currently has seven coaches, each who manage a certain number of schools each year.
According to the organization’s mission statement, Anet’s goal is to utilize their unique assessment and learning tools to improve education in under served communities. Hughes explained that working in these low income communities, where students’ performance and test scores are often low, is a vital piece of the Achievement Network’s mission.
“Our focus is on the schools that need a lot of support,” Hughes said. “Within these low income communities where we work there are schools that are high performing. Par of what we do is create a network of schools is it is important that we have these high performing schools so we can learn from them.”
“Achievement Network works alongside school leadership teams to strengthen their school-wide practice and culture of using learning standards and achievement data to get breakthrough results for students in underserved communities.” – Achievement Network Mission Statement
This is yet another unique aspect to Anet’s educational improvement approach: create a network of educators and leaders in the community who can learn from each other’s successes to better improve their student’s results in the classroom.
Anet’s approach is relatively straightforward. Hughes explained that the full network schools (those partnered with Anet), each receive a personal coach who works with the school throughout the year. Ideally, the relationship will extend for multiple years to better monitor progress. Coaches meet with each of their schools’ leadership board twenty times per year on average, Hughes said. This is quite the feat for Colorado’s seven coaches, as they currently serve over ninety schools in the state.
Now that the Achievement Network has been in Colorado for more than a full calendar year, they recently received annual data tracking student’s progress, and Hughes said it is very promising. The data was analyzed from the interim assessments that are administered to students three times throughout the school year. Hughes explained that these are utilized by teachers to see what their students have mastered, and what they might need re-incorporated in future lesson plans.
Thanks to a successful first year in Colorado, Hughes said that the network hopes to grow into 2017 and reach more schools in the state. She explained that Anet hopes to become more of a state based organization, while still keeping a strong foundation here in Denver. With it’s current track record, it’s no surprise that the Achievement Network plans to grow. They have grown from a small team of two founders in 2005, to an organization spread through ten states with 175 employees. And Hughes recognizes this success, as well as a sense of gratitude for her company.
“I love working here because we are able to work with so many schools and reach so many students,” Hughes said. “For an organization of 175 people, we’re working in almost 700 schools across the country, which ends up being thousands of students.”