Below is a roundup highlighting our grantees’ and Foundation staff’s impactful work in October 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.

Cost-Effective Ways to Rethink School Staffing: Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture

Research suggests that teacher and principal quality is key to student learning growth. And to attract and cultivate the best educational talent, schools need a thoughtful staffing strategy, argue Public Impact co-presidents Emily and Bryan Hassel.

Over the past 50 years, US public education spending grew significantly—145% per-pupil spending since 1970—but teacher pay remains nearly flat, growing only 7.5%. Today, schools and districts spend four times more on administration, three times more on facilities and maintenance, and eight times more on “other school services,” yet often still adhere to a “one-teacher, one-classroom” staffing strategy. Unlike other team-based professions organized into diversified roles, this approach leaves many teachers working alone—a detriment to their professional growth. 

In their EdWeek op-ed, co-presidents Emily and Bryan Hassel argue for more schools to adopt Public Impact’s cost-effective Opportunity Culture model, which revolves around small-team instructional leadership cohorts led by excellent teachers with a history of high-growth student learning—called “multi-classroom leaders” or MCLs. Independent research found that teachers who joined MCL teams shifted from producing 50th-percentile learning growth, on average, to top-quartile growth in math and nearly that in reading. By the fourth year of MCL implementation, high school-wide growth rates were over 50 percent greater than in other schools.   

Public Impact is a grantee in the Exceptional Educators portfolio. You can read more about their work in our August 2020 blog post on staffing innovation.

A Small Intervention that Makes a Big Difference for Early Literacy: Springboard Collaborative

Image via Springboard Collaborative

Parents are an integral part of the solution to combating learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Springboard Collaborative focuses specifically on early literacy gains, helping parents become reading coaches for their children through evidence-based reading strategies. Crucial to their work is measuring and celebrating progress, which they do by partnering parents and teachers to set educational achievement goals measured over five-to-ten week cycles. This methodology, called the Family-Educator Learning Accelerator (FELA), drives results and underpins all of Springboard Collaborative’s programs.

One challenge that Springboard frequently encounters is a lack of parent skill or confidence. “About a third of families can’t read the book their child is holding — either because of language or literacy,” said Springboard Founder and CEO Alejandro Gibes de Gac. To make sure students continue to learn, “we’ve got to work with and through [parents].” 

In this NY Times article, Tina Rosenberg explores how Springboard Collaborative helps families through “small interventions” that make a huge difference.

Springboard Collaborative is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio. You can read more about how our Foundation has supported Springboard’s evidence-building efforts in this July 2020 blog post.

Helping Mississippi and Pennsylvania Families Better Prepare for Kindergarten: Waterford UPSTART

Waterford UPSTART is expanding its offerings to families in Pennsylvania and Mississippi who may not have access to regular PreK programs. 

In Mississippi, UPSTART is partnering with Mississippi Head Start, public school districts, the Governor’s Office, and other partners to launch the Waterford Upstart Pandemic Recovery Path program, reports WJTV. The 16-week educational program will serve 2,500 preschool-aged children in low-income families who were affected by the pandemic. Families participating in the program who need Internet access or a laptop will receive it, and children will learn through a variation of UPSTART’s flagship at-home program.

Twenty families in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley will also have access to UPSTART’s program, thanks to grant funding secured by the United Way. “Waterford helps bridge that gap by connecting families with a high-quality learning childcare program that also works to close the digital divide we’ve seen become so apparent in these past few months,” the United Way’s Gina Nichols told BRC13. There’s no income requirement for families to apply for the program, administered through the United Way.

Waterford UPSTART is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

At-Home Tech Support for Teachers & Parents: Highlander Institute

Image via Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Shortly after schools closed last spring, a helpline launched for Rhode Island teachers needing some at-home technical support. Within weeks the hotline was flooded with calls from not just teachers but parents, too.

The hotline is staffed by credentialed teachers trained to deploy technology for distance learning and years of classroom experience under their belts. Teachers could call the phone number or visit a website to match with a FUSE RI fellow, based on the problem and the fellow’s expertise. Launched by the Highlander Institute, the Fuse RI initiative is a fellowship program that teaches educators, administrators, and local education agencies how to integrate blended and personalized learning and technology practices into classrooms. The program’s leadership never imagined educators and parents being plunged into education technology all at once, though. The group “felt like there was a moment and an opportunity” to help make teachers’ and parents’ transition to remote learning much smoother.

The resulting School Support Helpline “would allow any teacher that wasn’t getting the support they needed from their home district or school an opportunity to phone in and talk directly with a fellow who is explicitly trained to be very confident in both the technology and the pedagogy, but also very competent in coaching and supporting teachers who are brand new to this work,” said Highlander’s chief education officer Shawn Rubin. Read more about the School Support Helpline in the Hechinger Report.

The Highlander Institute is a grantee in the Innovative Schools portfolio.

Expanding STEM Opportunities in the South: STEM Ecosystems

Last month, two ecosystems in the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice, STEM NOLA of New Orleans and the Hillsborough County Public School District (the anchor of the Tampa Bay STEM Network), each received $3 million grants from the Department of Defense to support their work in improving STEM opportunities in their communities. 

According to the press release, STEM NOLA will use the funding to bring its Center for the Innovative Training of Youth to underserved students and families. STEM NOLA uses its ecosystem model to connect diverse partners across K-12, higher-ed, business, government, and philanthropy to improve STEM learning opportunities for military-connected families across the Gulf South. Tampa Bay will use its fund to provide a K-8 pipeline for Department of Defense careers through in- and out-of-school curriculum and opportunities.

“We are very proud of STEM NOLA and the Tampa Bay STEM Network and thrilled that they are members of our global network of 89 ecosystems who work every day for students, especially those who are underserved,” said Veronica Gonzales, director of the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice. 

STEM Ecosystems is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

‘Home-to-School’ Connection in 108 Languages: TalkingPoints

Image via the74

The collaboration between parents and teachers is vital to strengthening K-12 education. This “home-to-school connection,” always important, has been thrust into the spotlight since the start of nationwide distance learning in March. 

Several platforms exist to strengthen the connection, but one of the newest and fastest-growing is TalkingPoints. This education technology nonprofit allows parents and teachers in 35,000 schools to text each other in more than 100 languages. The74 reports that since the start of the pandemic, TalkingPoints has seen a fifteen-fold increase in usage compared to the previous year. While the circumstances behind the platform’s success are devastating, the growth itself suggests the future of education incorporates a more collaborative role between parents and teachers.

“It tells me that people are getting on board with the idea that families who know what’s going on in their schools and have meaningful relationships with teachers are in a better position to support their kids’ learning,” said TlakingPoints Founder HeeJae Lim. “It may have happened because of the shock to the system that the coronavirus represents,” says Lim, “but it’s resulting in changes in behaviors and mindsets that I believe are here to stay.”

Talking Points is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio. We explore more on the importance of connecting teachers and families in this October 2020 blog post.

Celebrating STEM Week with the Red Sox in Massachusetts: Museum of Science, Boston

To celebrate Massachusetts’ STEM week in late October, the Red Sox Foundation partnered with the Museum of Science, Boston to distribute nearly 650 at-home science and engineering challenge kits to Lawrence and Springfield area children.

“The Museum of Science’s mission is to instill a lifelong love of science in everyone. Through our digital platform, MOS at Home and with our at-home EiE Try It! kits, we can engage with the public beyond our walls and bring the Museum directly to them,” said the president of the Museum of Science, Tim Ritchie, in the press release. “In celebration of MA STEM Week, with support from the Museum’s generous annual fund supporters and with the help of trusted community partners like the Red Sox Foundation, we can break down barriers to science and empower our community to see themselves in STEM.”

Available in both English and Spanish, the Try It! kits are a part of the virtual learning resources the Museum developed to provide families with the materials they need to enjoy fun and engaging science education wherever they are.

Museum of Science Boston is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

A Force for Change: FIRST

Lucasfilm and Disney are again partnering with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to inspire the next generation of diverse creators, thinkers, and leaders. 

During last years’ inaugural season, Disney and Lucasfilm funding supported FIRST in expanding STEM program access to 112,000 students in underserved and underrepresented communities, impacting 10,000 robotics teams through its equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives. Now in its second season, FIRST GAME CHANGERS powered by Star Wars: Force for Change invites students to reimagine the way we play and move so people of all abilities and skill levels can participate. 

“We are thrilled to collaborate with FIRST again this year and engage young people in STEM learning,” said Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. “Educating our youth and providing access to FIRST programs for students of all backgrounds has never been so important as it is right now. I can’t wait to see the talent and potential this new season brings.”

Through this partnership, FIRST will continue bringing hands-on learning opportunities and mentorship to youth, helping them develop the skills they need to become future heroes and innovators.

FIRST is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

New Curriculum Reviews Available: EdReports

Last month, EdReports released new reviews of CK-12 Interactive Middle School Math for CCSS, Glencoe Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and HMH Into AGA

From EdReports:

  • CK-12 Interactive Middle School Math for CCSS partially meets expectations for alignment to the CCSSM. In Gateway 1, the materials for Grades 6 and 7 meet expectations for focus and coherence by meeting expectations for focus and partially meeting expectations for coherence. 
  • Glencoe Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 partially meet expectations for alignment to the CCSSM. The materials partially meet expectations for Focus and Coherence as they show strengths in: attending to the full intent of the mathematical content for all students; spending the majority of time on content widely applicable as prerequisites, and allowing students to learn each standard thoroughly. 
  • HMH Into AGA meets expectations for alignment to the CCSSM. The materials meet expectations for Focus and Coherence as they show strengths in: attending to the full intent of the mathematical content for all students; spending the majority of time on content widely applicable as prerequisites; engaging students in mathematics at a level of sophistication appropriate to high school; making meaningful connections in a single course and throughout the series, and explicitly identifying and building on knowledge from Grades 6-8 to the high school standards.

EdReports is a grantee in the Exceptional Educators portfolio. You can read more about how EdReports has helped 11 million students gain access to high-quality curriculum in this blog post.

Helping Pregnant & New Moms Stay Connected to Care: Nurse-Family Partnership

Image via Kristen Haro for USA Today

To help pregnant and new mothers with untreated mental illness, substance abuse problems, or violent relationships, Nurse-Family Partnership distributed nearly 4,000 smartphones at no cost to moms in 39 states as part of a deal with Verizon and Action Technologies Group. The program helped the women continue their education, keep in touch with their jobs, and reach other critical health and safety services.

In one story highlighted by USA Today, Nurse-Family Partnership’s pivot to telehealth helped one homeless mother deliver and care for a healthy baby. For the first four months of her pregnancy, Kristin Haro lived in a homeless tent community, “using drugs and alcohol,” unaware she was pregnant. After recognizing her symptoms, Haro stopped using, called her mom, and returned to Tucson, her hometown, for treatment and prenatal care—a personal nurse provided by Nurse-Family Partnership. After working with her nurse, Haro started successfully managing her addiction and gave birth to a healthy daughter, advanced in her developmental milestones.

Chief Nursing Officer Kate Siegrist said that it’s vital for nurses and at-risk mothers to develop a “therapeutic relationship and trust.” “It opens the door for the mom to feel safe to disclose what’s going on in her life,” Siegrist said. “They may be ready right away to be connected to services, or you may have to build that trust first.”

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

Catalyzing Lasting Innovation in Public Schools: Clayton Christensen Institute

Graphic via the74

As the education system grapples with unprecedented upheaval, a new opportunity emerges for schools to effect lasting change amidst the instability, writes Chelsea Waite in an op-ed published on the74. But how can schools harness this moment to change the status quo?

Waite draws insights from a new report from the Clayton Christensen Institute, Will Schools Change Forever? Predicting How Two Pandemics Could Catalyze Lasting Innovation in Public Schools. The report offers a framework for understanding why some crisis-induced innovations persist while others are cast aside when conditions normalize. It also identifies four components that determine an organization’s capabilities and priorities for making lasting change. Read the report here.

Clayton Christensen Institute is a grantee in the Innovative Schools portfolio.

Lights On Afterschool: Afterschool Alliance

Image via Afterschool Alliance

As part of “Lights On Afterschool” this year, landmarks across the country lit up yellow and blue in a show of support for afterschool programs. Organized by the Afterschool Alliance, Lights On Afterschool is America’s only national rally for afterschool programs. In its 21st year, Lights On Afterschool includes thousands of events—many virtual—to showcase the skills and talents that students develop in afterschool programs. This year, virtual events will also spotlight how afterschool programs have stepped up to support students and families during the pandemic.

To learn more about Lights on Afterschool and to see which landmarks illuminated yellow and blue, read the press release here.

Afterschool Alliance is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

Woot Math Joins Saga Education

Students lost an average of four full weeks of instruction in high-poverty school districts last spring due to COVID-19 school closures. But even before the pandemic, many students arrived at high school years behind grade level in math—a barrier to graduation and future career success. 

To help students close the achievement gap in math, Saga Education provides evidence-based, personalized tutoring interventions through both human and online support. In October 2020, Saga Education announced the acquisition of Woot Math, a research-backed software for K-12 math instruction, and a recently developed online tutoring platform.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures, millions of students started this school year behind. To address COVID-19 learning loss, which disproportionately affects historically underserved students, schools and districts need to provide high-dosage, individualized tutoring,” said president and co-founder of Saga Education, Alan Safran. “The bold and innovative technology coming out of Woot Math is a great addition to helping Saga accelerate our efforts to scale the program by making it more affordable, more accessible.” 

Now together with Woot Math, Saga Education intends to bring their combined best-in-class tutoring technology to other organizations and school districts.

Saga Education is a grantee in the Innovative Schools portfolio. You can read more about how our Foundation has supported Saga’s evidence-building efforts in this July 2020 blog post.

Bringing Science to More NJ Students, Wherever They Are: Students 2 Science

Image via S2S

The pandemic has only exacerbated the high turnover rate for qualified math and science teachers in New Jersey’s cities. To help socioeconomically challenged school districts in New Jersey, Students 2 Science (S2S) is expanding its program to help deliver science instruction directly to students online, in school, or both, thanks to a virtual lab staffed with a qualified instructor. 

“Our ‘V-Lab’ program, as we call it, is six years old at this point. And we have metrics to share that are exciting,” Catherine Nugent, vice president for external engagement at S2S, told NJ Tech Weekly. “We focus on Title One school districts. We’re in about 20 percent of Title One districts right now. And what we hope to do—and are ready to do now—is to take the virtual laboratory statewide.” S2S invested in multiple labs and instructors in the past few years to run more than 10,000 programs annually.

The V-Lab is staffed by an instructor—often a Ph.D. or content expert from the corporate sector—who conducts experiments and field participant questions. If, for example, the instructor is doing a chemical reaction to a class of distance learners, students watch the experiment live and can ask questions via a chat window or through their teacher at school. To make the session more interactive, the teacher and instructor can also ask the students questions or polls via the same medium to dive deeper into the topic.

Students 2 Science is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

Are Home-Based Models the Future of Childcare?: Bipartisan Policy Center

Data from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Childcare Gap Assessment suggests that there could be as many as 2.6 million children across 25 states who lack adequate care while their parents are at work, reports US News & World Report. In these states, 8.4 million children under six demonstrate a “potential need for care,” and only 5.9 million childcare slots are available from legally authorized care providers.

To address this gap, home-based care providers may hold the key. While the pandemic was hard on all childcare providers, home-based centers were more resilient, says TIME in an analysis of Bipartisan Policy Center research. Home-based childcare centers were the most likely of any provider to remain open. More than 25% continued their operations without interruption, while just 12% of childcare chains did the same. The need for childcare solutions coupled with a new pandemic reality begs the question: is the home-based model the future of childcare

Bipartisan Policy Center is a grantee of the Foundation.

COVID-19 Could Be Erasing Decades of Parenting Gains: Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab

Source: Kalil, A., Mayer, S., & Shah, R. (2020). Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Family Dynamics in Economically Vulnerable Households. University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics, Working Paper No. 2020-143.

Past research suggested that differences in parents’ careers and motivations influenced young children’s academic achievement and educational attainment. However, the achievement gap due to income-based differences in parenting had been closing over the last 30 years. Economically advantaged and disadvantaged parents of young children share more similar parenting behaviors and goals today than ever before.

The global pandemic and the ensuing economic and social crisis threaten that progress, writes Ariel Kalil, director of the Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab, and her co-authors in an op-ed published in Brookings. The resource constraints taxing low-income families due to COVID-19 will stunt their ability to pursue and realize their parenting and career goals, says the author. Despite differences in demographics, evidence from families surveyed between April and June shows striking similarities in how three pillars of parenting—economic stability, parental mental health, and support for children’s learning—have been shaken.

Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Boosting Math Skills for 500,000 Students: Khan Academy

Khan Academy is serving nearly 500,000 students in partner districts this school year through two new programs: Khan Academy Districts and, in partnership with NWEA, MAP Accelerator. Khan Academy Districts provides tools, professional development, and data insights to help educators monitor their students’ use of Khan Academy districtwide. MAP Accelerator is a learning tool that helps teachers create personalized math instruction plans for each student based on their MAP Growth results and provide data insights to school leaders.

“No one could have imagined the scenario we find ourselves in with COVID-19,” said Khan Academy Vice President of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships Catherine Wang in the press release. “In this challenging time, we’re glad to be working with district partners in large cities and small towns across 38 states.”

Both Khan Academy Districts and MAP Accelerator launched last fall with nine school district partners. Across the schools and districts using the two offerings:

  • 67% of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch (the national average is 49%)
  • 19% of students are Black (the national average is 15%)
  • 45% of students are Latino/Hispanic (the national average is 27%)

Khan Academy is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

Foundation News

Welcome George Khalaf, Overdeck Family Foundation Program Director

Last month, we welcomed a new addition to the Overdeck Family Foundation team, George Khalaf, who joined us in the newly created role of Program Director. George brings over two decades of experience in the nonprofit, social entrepreneurship, education, and management consulting worlds.

As Program Director, George will oversee and manage our growing Program team’s work, which spans four portfolios: early childhood, informal STEM education, and K-9 efforts that include supporting educators and student-centered learning environments. In partnership with the Program team, George will define and drive strategy and execution, working hand-in-hand with portfolio leads to guide pipeline development, diligence, ongoing management and evaluation of grants, and strategy review and creation. Additionally, George will be responsible for determining and developing our Foundation’s strategy for increased non-monetary grantee assistance and support, a key area of feedback from our 2019 Grantee Perception Report.

Join us in welcoming George to the team and read more about his background.

Connecting Teachers and Families to Improve Kindergarten Readiness

Image via Pexels

The early learning years are a time to make friends, build block towers, play make-believe—and get ready for kindergarten. Kindergarten readiness and success isn’t just a nice-to-have so a child can have an easier transition into the K-12 education system; it’s an important indicator of later academic and subsequent life success. Responsive relationships and early learning experiences that foster development across the domains of early academic building blocks, executive function, social-emotional, and physical health and well-being are key drivers of Kindergarten readiness. Typically, these skills are developed in early learning programs (for those who attend one) and at home.

But this year is not typical: As of April, 17% of early learning providers have closed to everyone except essential personnel. Of those which have remained open, 85% are operating at <50% capacity. Even children who are lucky enough to attend preschool will have a markedly different experience—masks, social distancing, the inability to share toys and crayons. This makes the home-school connection more important than ever. 

To succeed in distance learning this year, schools need close, healthy relationships with families to communicate about closings/re-openings/re-closings and deliver content and act as a conduit from teacher to student. In this post, Associate Program Officer Stephanie Sharp shares how four grantees in our Early Impact portfolio connect educators and families and equip caregivers with tools to support children’s early academic and social development.