Below is a roundup highlighting some of the great work our grantees and Foundation staff accomplished in February 2020.

SAGA Education

There’s a growing body of research that supports the advantages of tutoring to help children to succeed in school, but private tutoring is cost-prohibitive for many families. SAGA Education aims to provide children from low-income families the benefits of tutoring through a 2:1 student-tutor model.  

The SAGA Education program serves approximately 3,500 students across schools in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC. SAGA tutors are recent college grads currently enrolled in the Americorps program who focus on ninth grade math, which is a strong predictor of later success. Working closely with the school’s math teacher and following the SAGA Education curriculum, the tutors are matched with two students at a time and work with them throughout the year. 

A University of Chicago Education Lab study found that tutored students learned up to two additional years’ worth of math, increased their math GPAs, and performed 20 percent better on standardized tests, says the Hechinger Report, which details the full story.

SAGA Education is a grantee in the Innovative Schools portfolio. 


Research from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) found that exaggerating syllables and sounds can help babies learn. Photo via Getty

New research from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) found that exaggerating syllables and sounds can help babies learn. Yahoo! Finance’s Marie Claire Dorking reports that “parentese”—using ordinary words but with longer sounds spoken with a higher pitch and happier tone—can be more effective than talking normally to a baby.  

After recruiting 79 families, researchers taught 48 of them to use parentese. They recorded interactions of these families and those in the control group (who weren’t speaking parentese) over four weekends when the children were six, 10, 14, and 18 months old. The researchers published their 18-month findings on February 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that children whose parents spoke parentese to them between 14 and 18 months used real words twice as much as those children in the control group. These babies also had a vocabulary of approximately 100 words by 18 months vs. the roughly 60 words among those in the control group.

I-LABS is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Centering Healthcare Institute

Premature babies often face challenges—physical, developmental, and social—long after leaving the hospital.

One of the leading causes of premature birth is stress caused by mental or physical illness, family crisis, or lack of financial security or access to health and childcare. One simple and cost-effective method for easing the stress of expectant mothers is group prenatal care, like that designed by Centering Healthcare Institute. Meeting weekly, each woman receives a standard checkup by a certified nurse-midwife and has the opportunity to share experiences, ask questions, and access information. This MV Times article follows the personal story of one mother navigating the full landscape of premature neonatal care.

Centering Healthcare Institute is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Waterford UPSTART

Thanks to $14.2 million U.S. DOE Education Innovation and Research grant, UPSTART’s program is expanding to families in Wyoming, North Dakota, Idaho, South Dakota, and Montana. Image via Mentatdgt, Pexels

Research shows that children who have parents engaged with their education do better in school, which is why Waterford UPSTART considers parents and communities key to giving children a boost.

“[UPSTART] has created an early education tool that works for every 4-year-old. Whether the child is enrolled in preschool, being cared for by a relative, or at home with mom or dad, every child can get an academic boost that will prepare them for kindergarten,” writes Frank Edelblut for the Concord Monitor.

Thanks to $14.2 million U.S. DOE Education Innovation and Research grant, UPSTART’s program is expanding to families in Wyoming, North Dakota, Idaho, South Dakota, and Montana

“Montana is a rural state with many families unable to access early childhood education opportunities within their local community,” wrote Montana Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Jule Walker. “UPSTART will allow parents to access high-quality early education resources online, giving families the ability to jump-start their child’s education regardless of where they live in our state.” 

UPSTART is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Nurse-Family Partnership

Each year, Nurse-Family Partnership serves 55,000 low-income, first-time mothers across 41 states, but the need for this program is much greater, argues John Kamensky, Senior Fellow at IBM Center for the Business of Government. Photo via Pexels.

For low-income, first-time mothers, Nurse-Family Partnership is invaluable. The program partners first-time moms with a nurse who begins their visits during pregnancy and continues for two years after birth. During these visits, moms benefit from the care, support, and advice their nurse provides.

“The greatest benefit is a free, personal nurse for each family,” said Lynn Baldwin, Director of Operations at Nurse-Family Partnership of Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana. “Motherhood is not easy, it doesn’t come with an instruction manual and to be able to have a nurse that you can reach out to, to contact when you’re having issues.”   

The program now serves 55,000 families each year across 41 states, but the need for Nurse-Family Partnership is much greater, argues John Kamensky, Senior Fellow at IBM Center for the Business of Government.

Nurse-Family Partnership is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Zearn and Instruction Partners

Last month, New Profit, a venture philanthropy group that invests in social enterprises that foster equity and opportunity in the United States, announced via a blog post that it was investing in two Overdeck Family Foundation grantees: Zearn and Instruction Partners.

New York City-based Zearn created the Zearn Math program, which bridges digital learning with hands-on instruction, equipping teachers with myriad ways to teach math content to students with varying needs. 

“What is particularly important about this model is the fact that it has been designed to be valuable and catalytic for all learners, including those who have been systematically underserved by the education system, and the results are speaking for themselves,”  said New Profit Managing Partner Shruti Sehra.

Instruction Partners works closely with schools and school districts to offer targeted support services that foster great teaching and improve student learning. Their program is guided by two questions: (1) are schools challenging their students with the right materials, and (2) are students learning those materials from their teacher?

“What we find particularly compelling about the model, in addition to this growth trajectory, is the focus on smaller school systems—an area of great need that also presents enormous potential to generate insights for the entire field—as well as the intentionality around DEI that is woven throughout the fabric of the organization and model,” said Carrie Previtera, a New Profit Partner.

Both organizations will receive $1 million in unrestricted funding and capacity-building support. 

Zearn is a grantee in the Innovative Schools portfolio and Instruction Partners is a grantee in the Exceptional Educators portfolio.


Maddie Lund, an Oswego High School student, proposed observing 'National FIRST Robotics Day' to Congressman Bill Foster. Photo via WSPY News

An Oswego High School student, Maddie Lund, proposed making the first Saturday of January National FIRST Robotics Day, reports WSPY FM 107.1 News

FIRST engages in fun, mentor-based programs that build STEM skills, inspire innovation, and develop leadership—and are popular among students for their robotics competitions. Lund attended a FIRST Robotics event with her high school team “2338 Gear It Forward,” which was hosted by Congressman Bill Foster. At the event, she presented the proposal to Congressman Foster, which he considered and has since introduced a resolution for review by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. 

If adopted, Congress would recognize, “the continuing importance of the National Science Foundation’s mathematics and science education programs; and encourages schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about robotics and engage them with the study of mathematics and science.”

FIRST is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (Princeton University)

The Overdeck Education Innovation Fund at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs provides support for creative interdisciplinary research projects and programs that address important issues in education. This year’s awards will support:

  • AI4All educational summer program—a summer camp for high-school-aged students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in the field of artificial intelligence.
  • “Investigating Sources of Gendered STEM-ability Beliefs from Kindergarten Through 8th Grade”—a study on the development of parents’, teachers’, and children’s’ beliefs about the relationship between gender identity and STEM ability from kindergarten through 8th grade.
  • “Making Centralized School Choice Work in Practice: Evaluating Informational Interventions in Equilibrium”— an impact evaluation of existing outreach and EdTech interventions that aim to improve equitable access in school choice systems.

Princeton University is a grantee of the Foundation.

RAND Corporation

American Instruction Resources Survey: 2019 Technical Documentation and Survey Results was published this month on The report details the methodology and results from the survey, which was administered to K-12 teachers and principals in the spring of 2019.  

Co-funded by Overdeck Family Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, RAND’s American Educator Panels gathered information from teachers and school administration about:

  • What instructional materials English language arts, math, and science teachers used;
  • How teachers use those materials and how they perceived students felt supported; and
  • What resources teachers received for the necessary knowledge and support to effectively use their instructional materials for student learning.

You can download the report below.


Foundation News

Family Math Roadmap Project: Request for Information (RFI)

Early math skills are key to later academic success: math skills upon entering kindergarten are the best predictor of 8th-grade performance regardless of race, gender, or SES status. That’s why the Family Math initiative aims to advocate for and advance the emerging field of “family math,” exposing children to math early and often in a non-academic setting.

The Family Math Roadmap Coordinating Committee (leadership group), along with Heising-Simons Foundation, Overdeck Family Foundation, and Education First, is seeking an organization to lead the Family Math Roadmap Project and coordinate efforts to build a Family Math movement. We are seeking responses to the RFI from organizations interested in leading the Family Math Roadmap Project by Friday, April 24. These organizations must recognize the power of families as catalysts of their children’s learning and work with families to augment what they already do to promote early math.

To learn more about the RFI, application, and details about two informational webinars, click here. Please send questions related to this RFI process to

New Jersey: Strengthening Teaching, Leading, and Learning

Union schools were accepted into "Strengthening Teaching, Leading, and Learning," a program designed to support school districts teaching NJDOE Instruction Units. Photo via TAPinto Union

Through a partnership with the NJ Department of Education, Overdeck Family Foundation and the Foundation for Educational Administration accepted Union schools into the “Strengthening Teaching, Leading, and Learning” project, reports TAP into Union. The project supports NJ school districts that are committed to “utilizing specific grade levels of the newly released NJDOE Instruction Units in ELA (English Language Arts) and/or Math, within the framework of the Connected Action Roadmap (CAR) process.” The grant supports improvements to teaching in school districts utilizing these tools.

The Essential Funders’ Guide to STEM-Focused Family Engagement

In this new white paper for STEM funders, STEM Next provides a guide to supporting STEM-focused family engagement through better practice, research, and policy solutions that address the race, gender, and income gaps in STEM fields.

“Despite all the focus on STEM, schools have made little change in how we teach math—or how we ignite kids’ curiosity for the subject,” said Bedtime Math Founder and Overdeck Family Foundation Chair Laura Overdeck. “The fact is, in a given year, kids spend three to four times as many waking hours outside school as in it, so their parents have huge potential to affect their learning.” 

You can download The Essential Funders’ Guide to STEM-Focused Family Engagement here.

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