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.