News & Resources
2022 Bright Spots: Unlocking Growth
Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2023 by Brittany Sullivan
Here, we highlight stories of how Overdeck Family Foundation funding has helped six grantees unlock growth, measured by increased earned revenue and reach, improved capacities, and follow-on funding. To learn more about our funding efforts and read additional stories from our grantee partners, explore the 2022 Grantmaking & Impact Report.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that only 26 percent of eighth graders were proficient in math, with the results even lower for low-income, Black, and Hispanic students.
Almost Fun aims to help students unlock joy and confidence in their math learning through online math lessons that include animations, memes, and references to pop culture. By offering a mobile-responsive website and an app, Almost Fun ensures its content is available to students through a range of desktop and mobile devices, improving accessibility and reach.
Since launching in 2019, Almost Fun has increased its student reach by 100x, scaling organically through word of mouth and strong search engine optimization from 8,000 to 803,000 students in just two years; 521,950 of students on the platform identify as low-income and 562,100 identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color. The organization has also increased engagement on its platform, with students on average completing 10 percent more practice problems this year compared to last.
Almost Fun’s unique focus on math enrichment that is both fun and culturally-relevant is resonating with its users. Eighty-three percent of students report an improved understanding after using Almost Fun, and 92 percent report improved math confidence and reduced anxiety.
Overdeck Family Foundation’s funding has allowed Almost Fun to continue its growth while also engaging in capacity-building support in budget forecasting that will help the organization better understand the key factors that drive program costs in order to increase cost-effectiveness and plan for long-term sustainability.
Despite STEM being taught in and out of schools, only about 10 percent of children ages five to 17 have access to consistent and robust STEM programming, which is imperative to creating science enthusiasts and increasing interest in STEM careers.
Imagine Science is a collaboration of four leading national youth organizations—the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Girls Inc., National 4-H Council, and the YMCA of the USA—and the STEM Next Opportunity Fund. Collectively, these organizations aim to implement high-quality, out-of-school STEM programming in communities around the nation. The goal of Imagine Science is to provide prolonged, informal exposure to STEM, increasing a child’s interest and building a foundation for proficiency through high school and beyond. Fifty-eight percent of students served by Imagine Science are girls, 90 percent are children of color, and 83 percent come from low-income households.
Over the past year, Imagine Science has attracted four new sites to begin planning, increasing the total number of Imagine Science sites implementing programs across the country to 15 in 2023, and up to 21 in 2024. Imagine Science sites are selected based on a number of factors, including the number of under-represented youth that lack access to high-quality STEM programming in the area. Imagine Science is also working on a new strategy to amplify its impact by developing resources on collaborative best practices in out-of-school STEM to offer youth organizations outside of its immediate network.
In Imagine Science communities, STEM programming is high-quality and enriching, often connecting young students to science and STEM in engaging and relevant ways they would have been unlikely to otherwise experience. Post-program surveys conducted by PEAR Institute show that 71 percent of students demonstrate an increase in STEM engagement following participation in an Imagine Science program.
Overdeck Family Foundation’s funding and capacity-building support have catalyzed the growth of Imagine Science, helping the organization expand its ability to provide summer and afterschool STEM opportunities to new communities and support existing communities to self-sustain by deepening their understanding of best practices in collaborative fund development. Additionally, the Foundation has supported Imagine Science to continue its research on STEM engagement outcomes, which will help position it to better scale evidence-based STEM practices through established youth development organizations.
Next Education Workforce
The one-teacher, one-classroom model means we need to staff 3.5 million classrooms every day. With the U.S. facing shortages of 300,000 teachers and staff at the start of SY 2022-23, this is less sustainable—and impactful—than ever.
Next Education Workforce reimagines the teaching profession and classroom design through teaching models that bring together teams of educators with distributed expertise to deepen and personalize learning for students, while supporting educators with better opportunities to enter, specialize, and advance in the profession.
Next Education Workforce launched in 2019. Within the first year of its work, the organization was able to grow its reach from 33 to 269 teachers—a 715 percent increase—ultimately reaching 6,660 students through classrooms led by teacher teams with distributed expertise. In its second year of operation, Next Education Workforce has increased teacher reach by 97 percent and student reach by more than 1,000 percent, greatly expanding the number of schools and districts that have access to innovative staffing models at a time of unique challenges for the teaching profession.
A 2022 evaluation in partnership with Johns Hopkins University found qualitative and quantitative evidence that supports the hypothesis that team-based staffing models increase satisfaction for educators. Teachers in Next Education Workforce models were statistically significantly more satisfied with their jobs, collaborated more, and had better teacher-student interactions. For example, 75 percent of teachers in Next Education Workforce said they were somewhat or extremely satisfied with their job, compared to 66 percent of traditional classroom teachers in the same district. They also collaborated at double the frequency of traditional classroom models.
Overdeck Family Foundation’s funding has allowed Next Education Workforce to grow its reach, evaluate its impact, and improve its understanding of the cost of delivering programs, which helps position the organization to replicate and scale its model.
Robin Hood Learning + Technology Fund
Students living in poverty who read proficiently in third grade are 13x more likely to graduate high school on time. But less than one-third of New York City’s third-graders living in poverty passed state reading tests in SY 2020-21.
The Robin Hood Learning + Technology Fund aims to unlock the potential of technology to transform learning and advance achievement for low-income students in New York City. The Fund focuses on blended literacy and computational thinking models, investing in curriculum, professional development, and organizational providers that collaborate with high-poverty New York City schools and families to leverage technology to provide teachers tools and resources that can improve student reading and writing and prepare children to be computational thinkers.
Since its inception, the Learning + Technology Fund has invested $29.4 million in 22 blended literacy and computational thinking models, directly reaching 32 community partners, 189 schools, 3,000 educators, and 149,900 students. The fund indirectly reaches every student in New York City and 8.3 million students nationwide; its direct reach has grown 57 percent since 2017.
Internal evaluations have shown the potential for impact. Students in blended literacy classrooms demonstrated early indicators of greater academic growth compared to their peers (up to a 10 percentage point increase). And despite interruptions to instruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, 81 percent of early elementary students in blended literacy classrooms achieved typical growth in reading, with 55 percent of students showing above-average growth.
Robin Hood, Overdeck Family Foundation, and Siegel Family Endowment established the Learning + Technology Fund in 2015 to ensure that all students are prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Overdeck Family Foundation’s continued support has allowed the Fund to scale promising blended literacy solutions across New York City and nationwide. The Fund has used funding to seed more innovation, conduct research and evaluation on the models it has supported, and scale models with evidence of impact. By increasing visibility to the Fund and its work, Overdeck Family Foundation has helped the Fund attract $58 million in follow-on funding to its grantees.
Approximately 38 percent of eighth-grade students performed below NAEP Basic in math in 2022—an increase from already-low performance in 2019.
Saga Education is an evidence-based, personalized tutoring model that embeds tutors within the school day to support students struggling with math. Tutors work with small groups of students for a minimum of two hours per week, focusing attention on the areas in which students need the most support. Saga also helps districts develop and implement high-quality tutoring models by offering technical assistance and quality assurance along with learning technology resources.
This past year, Saga increased the number of students it serves with its Direct model by 50 percent, and the organization’s technical assistance and consultative projects led to an increase in overall reach by 85 percent. Further supporting this continued growth, Saga received a grant of six million dollars over three years from AmeriCorps to expand their Direct model and help offset the costs to districts looking to partner with Saga for high-impact tutoring support.
Saga’s rapid growth helps students accelerate their math learning. Research suggests that students who participate in Saga gain roughly one additional year of math learning per year in the program, putting them on the path to proficiency.
Overdeck Family Foundation has played a crucial role in helping Saga scale its impact, encouraging the organization to develop a more cost-effective approach that combines small-group tutoring with technology. The Foundation also co-funded a five-year randomized controlled trial to measure the impact of Saga and was an early backer of Saga’s decision to help districts and states develop their own high-quality tutoring programs. In 2022, Melanie Dukes, Associate Program Director of K-9 Education at Overdeck Family Foundation, became a member of Saga’s Board of Directors, advising the organization on strategic growth.
Tools of the Mind
Regardless of race, income, and early childhood academic abilities, kindergartners who struggle with executive function are more likely to fall behind academically in subsequent years.
Numerous neuroscience research studies demonstrate that executive function is a strong predictor of kindergarten readiness and later school success, but few interventions exist to support executive functions development in children. Tools of the Mind is a research-based early childhood classroom model that uses high-quality teacher professional development, coaching, and a developmentally appropriate curriculum to help Pre-K and kindergarten children build executive function skills. Programmatic data show that 93 percent of children attending schools staffed by Tools of the Mind educators improved their executive function skills, and a 2019 randomized controlled trial found that children in Tools of the Mind classrooms had stronger early literacy and writing skills compared to the control group. Another randomized controlled study in 2014 found that gains in literacy, math, and executive functions continued into first grade, changing children’s trajectory of learning.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Tools of the Mind redesigned its Pre-K and kindergarten programs and teacher professional development for virtual delivery, extending the model to include more family engagement and teacher-family communication, and adapting the staffing model and approach to enable virtual delivery of services that were previously provided in person. This transition to virtual delivery allowed the organization to expand geographic reach at reduced cost, while also giving coaches the ability to frequently engage with every classroom and provide individualized teacher professional development and support through video coaching.
The revised model has helped Tools of the Mind increase its reach by 62 percent since 2020, reaching 41,480 children in SY 2022-23 alone and bringing high-quality early learning environments to both early childhood educators and children in Pre-K and kindergarten.
Overdeck Family Foundation’s grantmaking and strategic support has helped Tools of the Mind both innovate and scale since 2021. Our grantmaking supported the organization to build a solution for virtual technical assistance that allows for remote onboarding and progress tracking of early childhood educators, as well as to develop virtual modules for professional development, which have created more opportunity for growth. In addition, our funding supported Tools of the Mind to increase its sales and marketing capabilities, enabling the team to better identify and reach target customers.
Header image courtesy of Imagine Science