Below is a roundup highlighting some of the impactful work our grantees and Foundation staff accomplished in July 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect many of our grantees and those they serve. You can learn more about how our Foundation is responding through some of the stories below and by reading this post.

In Colorado Homes, “Word Pedometers” Help Boost Toddlers’ Language Skills: LENA

Image via Jerry McBride for the Durango Herald

Early language skills are key components of children’s K-readiness. This is why LENA, a nonprofit that helps families boost early language development in toddlers, coaches parents to the most language-rich environment possible for young children.

LENA’s “word pedometer,” a device that tracks the number of words a child hears or says, encourages parents and caregivers to converse more regularly with their toddlers and offers them strategies to strengthen their child’s language development.

“If you’re not reading by the time you hit fourth grade, you have a much higher likelihood of high school dropout, prison, etc.,” Vangi McCoy, coordinator of the Montelores Early Childhood Council in Colorado told the Durango Herald. “Those first eight, nine years are crucial. And by giving kiddos those early literacy skills, that’s going to make a difference.”

For families in Colorado’s Montezuma and Dolores counties, the LENA Home program is free for any child up through age 3. In this profile, the Durango Herald explores what that has meant to some Coloradan families and what’s next for the program. 

LENA is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Connecting Families and Pre-K Educators  in Historically Disinvested Communities: ParentCorps

Early childhood experts at the Center for Early Childhood Health and Development at NYU Langone Health developed ParentCorps to foster consistent, safe, and nurturing environments for families with pre-K-aged children in historically disinvested neighborhoods. Within the program, which now reaches all Pre-K kids in NYC, parents and educators learn effective ways to communicate with each other and support children’s social, emotional, and behavioral skills.

To further explore the organization’s work and its impact, NYU Grossman School of Medicine profiled ParentCorps in the July issue of their alumni magazine

“The transition to formal schooling in Pre-K provides a unique opportunity to engage and support young children and their families to ensure that all children thrive,” said ParentCorps Founder Laurie M. Brotman, Ph.D. in the interview. “By offering professional development to teachers and other school personnel, and providing culturally responsive programs for families, [we help] parents and teachers work together to support child development, so children can reach their full potential even in the face of adversities such as poverty, racism, discrimination, and immigration-related stress.”

ParentCorps is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Expanding Access to Digital Pre-K: Waterford UPSTART

Mother Helping her Daughter use a Laptop

Image via Pexels

Waterford UPSTART is a national early education nonprofit with a mission to achieve universal literacy through access, equity, and parent empowerment. Because of this, the average Waterford UPSTART student starts kindergarten reading at nearly a first-grade level and maintains an advantage for years after. 

The UPSTART program is entirely home-based, which means that students enrolled in it before and during the COVID-19 epidemic saw no interruption in their education. Participating families have access to an online suite of resources, including on-demand personalized learning and coaching. According to ABC4, on average, 92% of children participating in UPSTART’s programs are ready for kindergarten—compared to the national average of 65% and only 48% for children in low-income households.

With support from Overdeck Family Foundation, Valhalla, and Blue Meridien, UPSTART recently received funding totaling $9 million to adjust their programming to summertime learning and bring it to more students, reports Spectrum News 1

Waterford UPSTART is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Pairing Families and Teachers To Support Early Reading: Springboard Collaborative

With students learning more at home than in schools, parents have never played a more prominent role in their children’s education. In an op-ed published in Penn Live, Alejandro Gibes de Gac, CEO of Springboard Collaborative, underscores the importance of upskilling families to support student learning at home to stop the achievement gap from widening.

As de Gac writes, “if parents are the experts on their kids, teachers are the experts on instruction.” That’s why Springboard Collaborative launched an open-sourced method called the Family-Educator Learning Accelerator, which pairs parents and teachers together to help children reach reading goals over 5-10 weeks. It works virtually or in-person and allows parents and teachers to build a mutually supportive relationship.

Springboard Collaborative is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Analyzing the Role Afterschool Programs Play During COVID-19: Afterschool Alliance

Image via Afterschool Alliance

From May 28 – June 30, Afterschool Alliance surveyed more than 900 afterschool programs from more than 6,000 sites across the country. 70% of respondents said their programs were currently serving students in some way during the COVID-19 pandemic, including remote youth programs (60%), providing meals (48%), or connecting families to other community resources (47%).

However, 84% of respondents were concerned that they would be unable to continue operating this fall. Forty-five percent of programs reported staff layoffs or furloughs of more than 75% of their staff, and more than half said they were unsure that the worst is behind them or yet to come. More details on the survey findings are available from Afterschool Alliance here

Afterschool Alliance plans to conduct more surveys throughout the year to provide an up-to-date snapshot of the field, including an examination of the state of summer programs. They’ve also launched a new toolkit for communicating how schools and afterschool programs can partner across various re-opening scenarios to meet student needs.

Afterschool Alliance is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

The Interconnectedness of Early Health and Early Learning: Harvard Center on the Developing Child

This year’s unprecedented challenges have emphasized and exacerbated some societal inequities, like food and economic security, and access to healthcare. While intermittent stress helps children build resilience, ongoing stress—like that felt from persistent hunger or economic insecurity—can have significant harmful effects on a child.

For expectant mothers and families with young children, early healthcare and early education build a strong foundation for lifelong health and school readiness. In an op-ed published in the Hill, Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., director at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, argues it’s that time for a mindset shift that considers the interconnectedness of early health and early learning.

Harvard Center on the Developing Child is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Doubling Down on New Online Resources for Students, Teachers: Khan Academy

Image via Yahoo Finance

At this time last year, the online learning platform Khan Academy hosted 79 million registered users. This year, with more students than ever logging on from home, that number has jumped to 107 million.

To help Khan Academy grow their virtual programming, they’ve raised an additional $3m from Amgen. The team plans to use the funds to launch virtual biology lessons in partnership with Harvard’s LabXchange to provide students a virtual lab experience and a collaboration with two cash-strapped school districts in Southern California. 

In a conversation with Yahoo Finance’s “On the Move,” Khan Academy Founder and CEO Sal Khan shared the nonprofit’s focus on creating materials that students can do at their own pace and tools to supplement traditional education.

“We’ve been trying to create learning plans and the kind of curricular version so that teachers can in this new world where you’re doing asynchronous learning 45 minutes a day, say on Khan Academy, but then you get on Zoom, you get on Google hangout. What do you do at that time? We’re trying to give them a perspective,” said Khan. “I’m often the poster child of online learning, but I’ll be the first one to say, this is a suboptimal situation. If I had to pick between an amazing in-person teacher and amazing technology for my own children or anyone’s child, I would pick the amazing in-person teacher.”

Khan is also working on a site called, which matches students who need help online with volunteer tutors.

Khan Academy is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

Assessing the Statway Corequisite Course: WestEd

WestEd received a $3.3 million grant from the Institute for Education Sciences to conduct a randomized trial of the Statway Corequisite course—a promising approach to improving student success—in community college math. Compared to traditional remediation, early results have suggested that Corequisite remediation can be highly effective. However, some concerns exist about equal access among students and the impact of course content alignment with student goals and instructional design. 

The WestEd researchers will work with Suffolk County Community College in New York, which enrolls 27,000 students across three campuses. The sample will include approximately 1,200 students and 30 instructors for both the treatment and control groups. The study begins this year and runs through June 2024. More details can be found on the Institute for Education Sciences website.

WestEd is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

Returning this Fall: Liberty Science Center

Image via Liberty Science Center

New Jersey’s Liberty Science Center announced that it would officially reopen its doors to the public on September 5th. reports that the Science Center will observe new health and safety rules, like reducing the 300,000-square-foot facility capacity to 25% to maintain social distancing, requiring all staff and patrons to wear masks, and enhanced daily cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

“LSC’s mission-to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers-is more urgent than ever. We need to encourage kids who will grow up to cure diseases, discover distant planets, create life-changing technologies, and lead us to a brighter future,” said Liberty Science Museum President and CEO Paul Hoffman. “We’re thrilled to be able to welcome learners of all ages back to LSC where we can provide inspiring and entertaining learning experiences.”

New exhibits are on the way, and the schedule will be announced soon. Tickets will be available on the Liberty Science Center website beginning this month.

Liberty Science Center is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

New Survey Suggests Uncertainty About School Reopenings: Abriendo Puertas/Open Doors

In a national survey conducted by Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors of 1,195 Latino parents and grandparents, 83% of primary caregivers reported concerns that their children are falling behind from spending too little time in school or not learning enough online, reports the Washington Post. However, fearing COVID-19 infection, 53% say that they are considering not sending their children back to school or childcare this coming fall.

More than 47% of respondents said that they knew someone who tested positive for COVID-19. When that was the case, they reported being less likely to send their children to a summer camp or program than families who did not know anyone who tested positive. And those who knew someone who tested positive were also ten percentage points more likely to report looking for home-based child care or home-schooling options.

Since Latinos make up nearly 30% of the nation’s public school students, Latino families’ attitudes are important to consider in reopening conversations. Read more in the Washington Post about the survey responses.

Abriendo Puertas/Open Doors is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Preparing Educators for  Student Success In and Out of the Classroom: TNTP

Image via Kate Munsch for San Francisco Chronicle/Polaris

As the new school year rapidly approaches, Tom Armelino, the executive director of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE), shares in an op-ed for EdSource five key areas for schools to address in response to COVID-19’s impact on student learning—whether in or out of the classroom.

One key area is for schools to invest in high-quality professional learning and instructional materials critical to student success inside and outside the classroom. In his op-ed, Armelino highlights TNTP’s Learning Acceleration Guide as one practical solution to help educators prepare for the new school year. In it, TNTP coalesces its resources around key questions, like:

  1. How do we create a plan to accelerate student learning?
  2. How do we accelerate student learning in the next two years?
  3. What other challenges should we be anticipating as we plan to accelerate student learning?

The guide helps schools figure out how to answer these guiding questions and assemble the people, information, and processes needed to plan for school reopening.

TNTP is a grantee in the Exceptional Educators portfolio.

Elevating More Women to the School District’s Top Job: Chiefs for Change

In one of the country’s most female-dominated professions, fewer than one-third of those in school district superintendent positions are women. Only 11 percent of superintendents are women of color, numbers that have barely budged over the past decade.

Chiefs for Change aims to change that through their Future Chiefs program, which prepares promising education leaders (primarily women and people of color) to lead state and large-district school systems.

“[S]chool boards and selection committees should consider efforts that support an examination of their own gender bias as part of their diversity, equity and inclusion goals. As with any form of bias, the problem is not necessarily with anyone’s intentions but in unexamined ideas about what constitutes effective leadership,” writes Julia Rafal-Baer, chief operating officer of Chiefs for Change, in this op-ed published in the 74.

Chiefs for Change is a grantee in the Exceptional Educators portfolio.

Foundation News

Despite research demonstrating how critical high-quality materials are for student success, less than 20 percent of materials used in classrooms nationwide are aligned to standards. 

As the national leader in identifying and supporting the selection of quality, standards-aligned instructional materials, EdReports provides free reviews for existing curriculum based on standards alignment and usability to support all students. Their goal is to ensure that district administrators, teachers, and other key stakeholders use these reviews to select a stronger curriculum to support student learning. 

We’re proud funders of EdReports since 2017, and are excited to continue that support through a grant of $400,000 to help them reach more users and influence more districts across the country. Read our interview with EdReports last month to discuss their work.

Three Grantees Moving Toward Measurable Impact

Children having an exam

Image via Pexels

As a Foundation that helps early-stage initiatives develop and validate their programs, Overdeck Family Foundation takes a particular interest in funding evaluations that support nonprofit organizations to move up in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) evidence tiers. This holds us accountable for allocating our funding to impactful programs, but it can also help grantees unlock access to additional funding and adoption opportunities. 

The ESSA tiers of evidence provide districts and schools with a framework for determining which programs, practices, strategies, and interventions work in which contexts and for which students. Under ESSA, districts and schools have the flexibility to choose interventions that improve student outcomes for student populations that resemble those they serve. The ESSA tiers of evidence make clear how rigorous and well-studied an intervention is. District and school leaders are encouraged to choose evidence-based interventions and have been shown to improve student learning and outcomes. 

In H1 of 2020, three organizations within our portfolios made significant progress toward strengthening their evidence base and increasing their ESSA tier. You can read about their work and progress here.

We’re Hiring

Interested in joining our team? We are looking for a Program Director, Program Analyst for Inspired Minds, and Expansion Project Manager.