News & Resources
Bright Spots: Unlocking Growth
Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2022 by Lina Eroh
Below are stories of how Overdeck Family Foundation funding helped five grantees unlock growth, measured by increased earned revenue and reach, improved cost-effectiveness, and follow-on funding. To learn more about our funding efforts and discover additional grantee stories, read the full 2021 Grantmaking & Impact Report.
Each year, 2.2 million four-year-old children in the United States do not have access to publicly-funded early education. More than half are from low-income families and face barriers including program availability, quality, and cost.
Waterford Upstart helps young children develop cognitive and social-emotional skills in the home by empowering families to become their child’s first and most influential teachers.
Waterford Upstart’s instructional program, which features interactive, multicultural content, is used by children who lack access to traditional high-quality Pre-K for 15 minutes per day, five days a week. The program guides children along a personalized path to learn the fundamentals of literacy. Waterford Upstart provides computers and Internet access at no charge to families in need, ensuring the program is truly accessible to everyone who needs it.
Waterford Upstart leverages philanthropic funding to pilot its program in select states, collect data on evidence of impact, and then advocate for public funding to sustain and expand its work. In 2020, Waterford Upstart piloted its offering in 13 states (Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming), and obtained public funding of almost $19 million in eight more (Indiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, Wisconsin), up from three just two years ago.
In 2020, Waterford Upstart enrolled 41,332 students across its school year and summer program, at an average cost of $1,250 per family, resulting in several thousand additional children starting school kindergarten-ready.
Overdeck Family Foundation’s commitment to data-driven innovation helped us validate results and expand to reach more children.
Overdeck Family Foundation provided Covid response funding to Waterford Upstart, allowing it to create and launch its summer offering, called Summer Learning Path (SLP), which served 8,650 children in its first year. Eighty-six percent of children were kindergarten-ready at the end of the program.
While the summer program was initially created for Covid learning recovery and meant only for implementation in 2020, its success led Waterford Upstart to continue to support advocacy for SLP expansion in states with the largest declines in Pre-K enrollment, where there is no philanthropic funding for pilots or where pilot work has already been completed but more data is needed to convince legislators. To date, the program has served over 13,000 children.
Only 34 percent of U.S. eighth graders can do eighth-grade math—the prerequisite to algebra, which is predictive of high school graduation and post-secondary success. The numbers are exacerbated for traditionally underserved students: only 14 percent and 20 percent of Black and Hispanic eighth graders are proficient in math, respectively.
Zearn is a top-rated online math learning platform used by one in four elementary school students nationwide. Altogether, Zearn serves 6.8 million students, across free individual classroom accounts and paid school and district accounts. Over 9 billion math problems have been completed on the platform to date.
By combining curriculum and digital math lessons, Zearn has demonstrated effectiveness in accelerating learning across a variety of school and district settings. A recent multi-year, quasi-experimental design study statewide across Louisiana shows schools that programmatically used Zearn demonstrated achievement gains equivalent to an additional 1.5 months of instruction—and positive effects compound over time. In a separate analysis, students in schools with high Zearn usage in Louisiana showed 1.5 to 2.5 times higher growth than students in non-Zearn schools—and the gains were even larger for students in low-income schools and schools predominantly serving Black and Latino students.
Zearn’s earned income growth came from several channels including the retention of existing school accounts, new sales into states (including Delaware, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington, DC), scale of its middle school pilot, and growth of its teacher community on social media.
Overdeck Family Foundation’s multiyear commitment has been critical to maturing our data, analytics, and research capability, helping make breakthroughs in instruction that make every kid a math kid.
Overdeck Family Foundation’s flexible and multi-year funding has helped Zearn position itself as one of the most widely used, impactful math learning platforms through three key activities: building a larger national sales pipeline, engaging in rigorous external evaluation, and building new capacities such as in-platform tutoring, a K-5 Spanish curriculum, and the release of new middle school and algebra curricula.
We also supported the expansion of Zearn’s research team to help drive Zearn’s new research and learning agenda, which focuses on a multi-year efficacy study to evaluate Zearn’s impact on student outcomes, engagement, and mindsets, as well as sharing Zearn’s current data with the field to improve math pedagogy.
Family-school engagement, a critical factor for educational outcomes, occurs less frequently in low-income and minority communities.
TalkingPoints is a multilingual technology platform that connects families and teachers by using personalized content in addition to human and AI-powered, two-way translated communication in more than 100 home languages. This approach helps eliminate barriers to home-school communication, which traditionally include language, time, and capacity.
Over the past three years, TalkingPoints has scaled exponentially, growing from 850,000 educators and families annually in SY 2019-20, to 1.5 million in SY 2020-21, and more than 3 million in SY 2021-22.
This catalytic growth has enabled TalkingPoints to host over 100 million conversations between teachers and families since inception in 2015. Ninety-six percent of TalkingPoints families and 90 percent of TalkingPoints teachers reported increases in their knowledge, capacity, and confidence to support student learning.
Together, we removed systemic barriers to family-school partnership for hundreds of thousands of early learners.
Overdeck Family Foundation provided TalkingPoints with flexible capital when the organization was early in its development and encouraged the leadership team to build internal research and data capacities to better understand the platform’s impact. Our funding also gave TalkingPoints the ability to invest in systems and processes to support its scale ambitions, such as sales and partnerships, while building out the functions that have allowed it to successfully pursue growth opportunities, such as research and data.
Despite the organization nearly doubling its budget since we began funding in 2020, earned revenue continues to cover 45 percent of the total budget, driven largely by TalkingPoints’ impressive partner renewal rate of 95 percent.
Three out of four low-income children in the U.S. fail to meet standards for mathematical proficiency in the fourth grade, as compared with only 41 percent of middle-income children.
To support students struggling with math, it takes highly skilled educators and coordinated programs, particularly in remote environments. BellXcel provides an evidence-based software platform designed to help schools and community-based organizations design, manage, and deliver high-quality summer and afterschool programs for youth, including programs focused on improving math skills and engagement.
During the pandemic, BellXcel’s software platform proved to be a scalable way to provide partners the support they needed for addressing instructional and operational challenges and confidently implementing high-quality programs in virtual, in-person, and hybrid environments.
In summer 2021, BellXcel grew their reach from 17,000 students to over 70,000 students, ensuring engaging and holistic learning experiences were available to students, families, and teachers. In addition to growing reach, the organization maintained a high level of impact: 81-84 percent of participating families reported their child’s growth in key socioemotional domains, including confidence, problem-solving, and communication skills. And students who pre-tested below 40th and 10th percentiles gained two and 2.5 months of math skills, respectively.
From day one, Overdeck Family Foundation has understood that for BellXcel to successfully reimagine education, we will need to take risks, pressure-test new approaches, and be open to lessons learned.
Overdeck Family Foundation provided unrestricted funding and strategic support to help BellXcel take a remote summer model from an idea to a reality in just a few months, which was crucial to meeting community demand during the pandemic. With our investment, the BellXcel team was able to build out and launch their innovative platform, achieve high growth numbers, and adapt to support students, families, teachers, and the out-of-school-time field throughout the pandemic.
Public Impact Opportunity Culture
The pandemic has left students on average five months behind in math and four months behind in reading. And while teacher quality is the most important in-school factor influencing student achievement, excellent teachers are limited in how many students they traditionally reach.
Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture uses a teacher-leadership model in which a teacher with a strong track record of student growth becomes a “multi-classroom leader” and supports teams of three to eight educators in designing instruction, co-teaching, coaching, and analyzing and responding to data on student learning.
The model extends the reach of excellent teachers, improves teacher practices, provides paid career advancement, and achieves higher-growth student learning and greater teacher satisfaction within schools’ regular budgets.
Two studies show that, on average, teachers who are part of multi-classroom leader teams shift their students’ learning growth from an average of the 50th percentile to the 77th percentile in reading and math.
During Covid, Public Impact made all aspects of its support remote while adding paid, within-budget residencies and design options to boost teacher pay. This allowed them to increase their historic 50 percent year-over-year growth rate to approximately 60 percent. The organization expects to reach >100,000 students in SY 2021-22 and has begun planning to automate some technical support to decrease cost at scale.
Public Impact believes their current rate of expansion will allow them to bring the Opportunity Culture staffing model to 75 percent of U.S. schools by 2034, expanding the reach of excellent teachers to tens of millions of students and resulting in an extra 0.2 to 0.8 years of learning in reading and an extra 0.3 to 0.7 years of learning in math annually.
The Foundation’s financial and strategic support has helped students in Opportunity Culture schools achieve far more than a year’s worth of learning each year, in primarily Title I schools.
Overdeck Family Foundation’s funding helped Public Impact build capacity, analyze data, and innovate to improve the impact and efficiency of Opportunity Culture. Our strategic support also guided the leadership team in the change management necessary for this type of rapid growth and innovation.
Header image courtesy of Zearn