Amistad Academy is the flagship school in Connecticut’s highly regarded Achievement First program. Opened in 1999, the charter school’s goal was to prove that their predominately black and Latino urban students could achieve at the same levels as their affluent suburban counterparts. Calgary Academy’s role was to provide program development, specific training for new staff, and the achievement culture at the school. CA designed Amistad’s program from the ground up, from concept to form for training, classes, groupings and student assessments. In year one, we provided all teacher training. In year two, training was a shared responsibility, and by year three, Amistad was training its own staff. Profiled in the 2004 PBS documentary “Closing the Achievement Gap,” Amistad Academy was named Connecticut’s 2006 Title I Distinguished School after having the greatest performance gains of any middle school in the state.
In 1980s New Haven, Connecticut, low-income city students struggled, consistently producing work two years below grade level. The education system that worked for suburban students wasn’t meeting the needs of the predominantly black and Latino student body. We were selected to provide program development, staff training, and to establish an achievement culture for Amistad Academy, an experimental public charter school. We offered a comprehensive solution that covered class structure, student assessment, and teacher training requirements for staff to deliver a holistic solution that detailed the exact school strategy for success.
Throughout the course of the consultation, we developed and built areas of strength unique to the learning context for Amistad’s students. We worked hand in hand with the Amistad team to establish the schools four goals, define the desired culture, and to identify the staff characteristics they needed to hire.
This opportunity was a unique one; in that we started from scratch, and therefore were able to design the summer training program for staff to maximize their instructional abilities, and develop the structural school elements, such as class structure, daily timetable, and student groupings. We worked with the leadership team to define their responsibilities and organizational hierarchy. Everything was custom-developed for Amistad, from their student assessments to the teacher onboarding and training program.
A program unlike any other requires unique training to deliver it effectively. For us, it was critical to raise their teachers’ instructional capacity. For the first year of our partnership, we delivered the professional development programs to Amistad teachers. In the second year, we shared responsibility for teacher training with their senior staff and leadership team.
Over the course of the program’s first five years, Amistad Academy students beat statewide reading and math averages, validating the program’s success. In 2006, Amistad Academy was named Connecticut’s Title I Distinguished School after having the greatest performance gains of any middle school in the state. Nearly 20 years later, Amistad Academy students consistently outperform the state average on the Connecticut Mastery Tests, the standard assessment for students in grades 3-8 in reading, math and writing.