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The Achievement First Approach: Curriculum and Instruction

At Achievement First schools, our instruction hinges on one audacious goal—outstanding student achievement.

To support this goal, we set rigorous standards for our students and provide high-quality curriculum and ongoing professional development. Our teachers regularly analyze student data to drive our daily instruction and long-term planning. We ensure that every student achieves.

Our Curriculum

At Achievement First, state standards are the floor, not the ceiling. From this base, we work to build our rigorous standards and curricula, which are backwards-mapped against end-of-year standards and vertically aligned to advanced college-readiness standards.

The Achievement First family (teachers, principals, deans, coaches and a curriculum team) works together so teachers have a deep reserve of best practices and high-quality curriculum resources at their fingertips.

Our Instruction

  • Bite-sized, measurable, standards-aligned classroom aims: Every class has a bite-sized, measurable and standards-aligned daily objective. Whether the aim is to predict the plot of a novel or simplify fractions, the aim drives the content in the lesson. Using multiple forms of assessments, teachers track their students' mastery of the aim and progress toward their ambitious academic goals.
  • Modeled and guided practice: Teachers introduce the aim by clearly modeling a process to attack the day's aim. Then, the teacher leads the class into a guided practice of the aim, in which students model their own answers and thought processes, the goal of which is to ensure that every student is set up for sustained, successful independent practice.
  • Independent practice: Students spend the bulk of the lesson in a sustained, successful independent practice, with several "at bats" to practice the aim on their own. In other words, students do the "heavy lifting" of the task at hand, getting several chances to flex their academic muscles until they get it right.
  • Standards-aligned assessments, data-driven analysis and planning: Our curriculum is divided into five cycles, each of which culminates in a cumulative assessment where students demonstrate mastery of the standards they have learned throughout the year. A school-wide, day-long professional development day—known as a "Data Day"—follows each cycle, giving teachers the data-rich information they need to edit their unit plans, target their instruction and schedule interventions for struggling students. This data-driven lens on instruction gives teachers the unique flexibility to cater the curriculum for each individual student and anticipate challenges.

Ongoing Professional Development

  • Extensive support and training for our platinum teachers: At Achievement First, we recognize that teachers are the key to unlocking student achievement. As such, teachers have a network of content-area experts behind them for support. Every teacher at Achievement First—whether a 10-year veteran or a recent college graduate—has a coach. Coaches provide teachers with individualized attention to help them achieve their learning goals for each of their students. Our support is rooted in great modeling, lesson observation and feedback, collaboration and co-planning. Every teacher in the network comes together twice a year for a day of professional development. In addition, teachers participate in school-based sessions every Friday afternoon.

Our School Culture

  • A joyful classroom tone: Walk into any Achievement First classroom and feel the palpable, urgent love of learning. Every one of our students is a scholar climbing the mountain to college. With a tone of positive correction, teachers and students incorporate our REACH values (Respect, Enthusiasm, Achievement, Citizenship and Hard Work) in everything they do.
  • Read, baby, read! In literature class, teachers make sure that the "nose in text" time is high. Teachers are students too, and all teachers, regardless of subject area, model an insatiable appetite for independent reading.
  • Climbing the mountain to college: Above all, Achievement First has high expectations for our students. Teachers insist on 100 percent student engagement, with no "desk potatoes" in sight. Students strive toward one fundamental, non-negotiable goal—climbing the mountain to college. As our mission states, "Achievement First schools will provide all our students with the academic and character skills they need to graduate from top colleges, to succeed in a competitive world and to serve as the next generation of leaders for our communities."


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