Longtime educator Nadia Bennett brings over a decade of success in closing the achievement gap for students of color.

PLAINFIELD, N.J. – College Achieve Central Charter School has named as its new executive director, longtime principal and teacher Nadia Bennett, after conducting an extensive national search. Bennett brings over a decade of success in working at urban charter schools and a strong track record of increasing outcomes for students of color. Her vision is to accelerate the already high-performing school’s performance and further close the achievement gap for its 1,200 students.

“College Achieve Central is beating the odds by closing the achievement gap for students of color, and I look forward to making the school a model for how an academically rigorous program, good teacher training and targeted student interventions can accelerate achievement,” Bennett said.

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While many New Jersey schools are struggling to address the large gap in academic performance between students of color and white students, College Achieve Central is closing that gap. The percentage of African American eighth graders who are approaching, meeting or exceeding expectations in reading on the state’s standardized test is 86.4 percent, compared to 87 percent of New Jersey’s white eighth graders. The percentage for Latino eighth graders who are approaching, meeting or exceeding expectations in Algebra I is 80 percent, compared to 83 percent of New Jersey’s white students who took Algebra I.

Michael Piscal, CEO of College Achieve Public Schools, said the search process began with input from all stakeholders including parents, teachers, board members and senior leadership, and included a series of interviews with the top candidates.

“College Achieve Central retained the nationally recognized search firm Hazard, Young and Attea to cast a wide net to find a leader who had the experience and ability to take what’s already working and improve upon it as well as a leader who has created a great school culture at the high school level,” Piscal said. “What is also striking is Ms. Bennett’s strong skills in developing teachers, creating a goal-oriented learning environment, and fostering a culturally relevant and inclusive school community—a value we embody at our schools.”

Bennett’s experience in developing and nurturing effective school leaders, while creating an equitable learning environment for all, led to an 85 percent staff retention rate at her previous school. Also, her efforts as principal of Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz High School took it from being on the state’s school watch list to the third best comprehensive high school in the city, according to Philadelphia’s School Performance Profile.

College Achieve’s mission is to prepare its students to excel in and graduate from the top colleges and universities in the nation by providing a rigorous and innovative k-12 education program. The Toulmin model of writing, used by some of the most elite high schools in the nation, hones students’ writing skills by teaching them how to form and analyze complex arguments. Earlier this year, the New Jersey Department of Education signaled its confidence and support for the school by approving College Achieve Central for renewal and expansion. This decision will allow the school to meet the demand for the program in the community by expanding to serve more than 1,440 students in grades nine through 12 over the next five years.

Bennett is a graduate of Howard University Graduate School and Dillard University School of Business College. She recently completed the Urban Superintendents Academy and is now enrolled in a doctorate program at Temple University.