Springboard Collaborative, led by Alejandro Gac-Artigas, has been named as one of nine finalists in the 2014 Gratitude Awards from the Gratitude Network to be awarded at SOCAP this coming week in San Francisco. The finalists were chosen from among 32 semi-finalists, who were chosen from among nearly 150 applicants. To learn more about the awards and SOCAP, see our story in Forbes. You can read all our coverage of the Gratitude Awards, including profiles of all nine finalists here.
Four winners will be announced on Thursday, September 4, 2014. We obtained a copy of the application from Springboard Collaborative so we could share it with you below:
Please describe your venture:
Springboard Collaborative closes the reading achievement gap by coaching teachers, training family members, and incentivizing learning such that our scholars have the requisite skills to access life opportunities.
What is the problem are you solving and why is this important?
Children spend 75% of their waking hours outside the classroom, yet our nation does shockingly little to capture educational value from this time for low-income kids. Our system treats their families as liabilities, rather than assets. School communities in high-income neighborhoods can be characterized by the relationships between teachers, parents, and students. Within this triangle, children are able to make academic progress inside and out of school. In low-income communities, the triangle is broken. Our educational system focuses exclusively on the interaction between teachers and students, writing off parents as unwilling or unable to help. The result is akin to a two-legged stool. Students in low-income communities lack continuous access to learning at home and school, resulting in slow progress during the schoolyear and chronic regressions over the summer. Research finds that two-thirds of the achievement gap among high school students is attributable to summer learning loss in elementary school.
What is your solution and business model?
Our primary offering is Springboard Summer, an intensive, five-week summer program that combines daily reading instruction for Pre-K through 3rd graders, weekly workshops training parents to teach reading at home, and an incentive structure that awards educational resources to families in proportion to student reading gains. We also just successfully piloted Springboard Schoolyear, which trains teachers to effectively engage the families of their struggling readers in order to accelerate progress during the academic year. Understanding that revenue will fuel growth, we charge a fee-for-service to our school partners. School revenue currently covers 70% of our budget, and we aim to break even by 2018. Despite seemingly insurmountable budget shortages in Philadelphia, Springboard has grown from 42 to 1,600 kids in two years. That a district facing a $440M budget hole still chose to invest over $500K in Springboard Summer speaks to the value they see in our outcomes. This year, we won a competitive bidding process to become the exclusive K-3 summer learning provider for the city of Camden. For Springboard, philanthropy functions as the wedge that will get us to a financially sustainable scale. Schools match every dollar invested with two dollars from their own budgets, creating 3:1 leverage.
What is unique patentable, or otherwise not seen elsewhere about your venture?
Springboard is the only organization in the country to have cracked the code on low-income parent engagement. Our national education conversation focuses exclusively on the 25% of kids’ waking hours spent in school. Springboard’s innovation is simple but powerful: we redefine parent-teacher collaboration as an engine for school transformation. With over 90% of parents consistently attending teacher-led workshops, Springboard is ahead of the field proving a simple fact: parents are the single greatest and most underutilized natural resource in education. Most of our competitors treat “summer learning loss,” which we view as a symptom of an even deeper problem: Low-income parents have been left out of the process of educating their kids. Our solution tackles the reading achievement gap at its root. The industry standard for a high quality summer learning program is to generate a 2-month reading gain for $1800 per student. Springboard averages a 3.3-month gain at half the cost. Because parents are willing and able to teach their kids reading at home-without expecting to come on payroll-our model delivers big impact at a low cost. This enables us to charge a fee-for-service priced to make Springboard financially sustainable (even profitable) at scale.
Please describe who your customers are and how you know they want your product?
Our customers are school networks, and we know they want our product because they are willing to pay for it. In FY13, we tested the market by introducing a partnership fee of $235 per student (not including teacher labor, which schools pay for directly). Despite this new fee, all of our 2012 school partners renewed their contracts, and each school increased enrollment. Furthermore, we gained approval of a landmark contract that made Springboard the only district-funded summer learning provide in the city of Philadelphia. That a district facing a $440M budget hole still chose to invest over $500K in Springboard Summer speaks to the value they see in our outcomes. This year, Springboard is signing on school partners at a new price of $550 per student. Despite the increase, we are on track to double our number of school partners and students served. Much of this growth is happening through an expansion to Camden, where we won a competitive bidding process (over established players like Pearson) to contract with their school district.
In which country does the target population your company serves reside?
Please comment on the strength of the venture’s leadership:
When Alejandro Gac-Artigas was 7, his family immigrated to the US escaping political persecution. He published a memoir at 12 chronicling his challenges transitioning to life in America. After graduating from Harvard in 2009, he simultaneously did Teach for America, interned with McKinsey & Company, and attained an MS in Urban Education from Penn. As Springboard’s founder, Alejandro has been honored as an Echoing Green Fellow, Claneil Emerging Leader, and Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient. Springboard’s COO, Chrissy Houlahan, grew AND1 Basketball from an idea into a $250M global company. Before joining Springboard, Chrissy was the COO of B Lab.
Please describe the impact your company will have or is having, the way that you measure your impact, and the scale you plan to reach?
Last summer, our 642 scholars replaced what could have been a 3-month reading loss with a 3.3-month reading gain, lifting their literacy trajectories by more than 6 months. Weekly workshops training families to teach reading averaged 93% attendance, defying expectations and setting records in every school. A longitudinal analysis of our re-enrolling students found that a single Springboard Summer intervention nearly tripled their annual reading progress. Last summer we also piloted Pre-K enrollment, quintupling the percentage of Kindergarten-ready students. 4th grade reading proficiency is among the strongest predictors of high school graduation, college attendance, and earning potential. By catapulting students in low-income communities to and beyond grade-level expectations before this critical juncture, Springboard gives children the requisite literacy skills to access life opportunities and realize their full potential. We plan to continue our exponential growth until we solve the problem at the scale at which it exists (30M students).
How is your organization innovative? Have collaborations with others enabled that innovation?
See above for innovation. • We make very deliberate supply chain decisions to maximize our impact on the community (both locally and globally), and to minimize the impact on the environment (Better World Books for family books; Revolution Foods for workshop breakfast; Share Food for warehousing; iFoster for school supplies and computers/tablets, TS Designs for t-shirts, etc.) • We also have a partnership with Learning A-Z that gives our parents free access to “RAZ-kids,” an online leveled library of books that get progressively more challenging as students read more. Learning A-Z has only ever sold their products to teachers; we offer them a potential new market in parents. As a result of this mutual benefit, all our families have free subscriptions. A staggering 71,000 books were downloaded last summer.