Category Archives: Education

Transformational Organization: Summer Advantage USA


Today, we’re highlighting the work of a Transformational Organization: Summer Advantage USA, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that is having a national impact on education. In partnership with schools, every summer this program provides thousands of scholars in elementary and middle school with research-based learning programs that will close the gap on summer learning loss. These programs are focused on academic gains, maximizing learning time, outstanding instruction and mentoring, parental involvement, skill building and fun activities. Summer Advantage USA’s rigorous evaluation measurements show that student participation in these quality summer learning programs makes a 5 month difference annually in their learning achievements (that is, a two month gain in skills, rather than the 3 month loss usually seen over the summer months).

Summer Advantage Chart

Earl Martin Phalen is CEO and founder of the Summer Advantage USA and Reach Out and Read programs, as well as the founder of the new Phalen Leadership Academy charter school in Indianapolis. Mr. Phalen, who is a graduate of Harvard and Yale, also recently received a $50,000 grant from the Mitch Daniels Leadership Foundation. He started Summer Advantage USA in 2009, with the support of The Mind Trust.

Transform Consulting Group applauds Summer Advantage USA’s focus and Earl Phalen’s leadership on making a measured impact on education across the country. Transform Consulting Group can help develop an outcome driven plan for your organization. Contact us today and we’ll show you the way!



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The 30 Million Words Gap

What’s the 30 million words gap? A 1995 landmark study found that a child born into poverty hears 30 million fewer words by age 3 than a child born to well-off parents, creating a gap in literacy preparation that creates far reaching socioeconomic and educational disadvantages. We see those disadvantages in statistics such as those that show lack of school-readiness in low-income children and failure to perform at grade level for minority public school students.In order to find ways to bridge this language gap, researchers at the University of Chicago have completed the first research trial of the Thirty Million Words Project, in which home visits were made to low-income mothers to train them in a parent-talk curriculum. The study is not complete, but early research indicates dramatic increases in parent-child interaction, which in turn, should result in stimulating child language development. Program founder Dr. Dana Suskin says, “Babies aren’t born smart, they’re made smart by parents talking to them.”

The Thirty Million Words Project falls in line with a relatively new idea in low-income child intervention programs: the idea that school-based intervention may be too late. The most effective interventions for children in poverty may occur much earlier, perhaps even before birth. Cognitive development gap trends have been identified in poor babies as young as nine months old, and that gap only increases with age. Home visiting interventions build relationships with the entire family and may be the key to preventing poverty’s devastating effects on a child’s development.

Indiana has several local home visiting programs for low-income families including the Nurse Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers and Healthy Families Indiana. The Nurse Family Partnership, part of Goodwill Industries, is an evidence-based community health program that partners vulnerable mothers with a registered nurse early in a pregnancy and provides ongoing nurse home visits that continue through the child’s second birthday. Parents as Teachers is a national program provided by several nonprofits across Indiana, that provides personalized home visits by a certified Parent Educator, play groups, parent meetings, early developmental screenings, and a referral network for parents. Healthy Families Indiana is a voluntary home visitation program that provides a variety of services to at risk families of children under 5, including child development evaluation, access to health care and parent education.

Transform Consulting Group can help your organization use the latest research like that from the Thirty Million Words Project to help identify trends and make recommendations to maximize the impact of your work. Yogi Berra stated “If you don’t know where you are going, how are you gonna know when you get there?” Contact us today and we’ll help you get there.

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UWCI 2014 Student Success Competitive Grant


Success Grant PhotoUnited Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) is expanding its investment in education by making available Student Success Grants to help high-need students in Central Indiana. The Student Success Grant was created to help foster dramatic student growth and school turnaround, and this year the field of eligible candidates has been expanded to include charter schools and child care centers. The grant was created with the intention for schools to have the flexibility to depart from traditional district or center policies in order to be successful. The grants reward innovative reforms that are driven by teachers and principals who have been given autonomy and superintendent or school board approval to implement evidence-based improvement strategies. Applications must cite research-based evidence supporting strategies and outcomes and clearly identify how success will be measured.

Grants may be for one to three years and range from $50,000 to $750,000 out of a total grant pool of $750,000. Eligible applicants must meet these criteria:

  • Serve Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Marion and Morgan counties.
  • Have less than 75% of their students passing the Indiana State ISTEP Math and ELA assessments.
  • Have at least 30% of their students on the free and reduced price lunch program.
  • For child care centers must be non-profits and operating at Levels 3 or 4 on Paths to QUALITY™.
  • Child care centers must also have 30% of their students participate in the Child and Adult Care Food program.

United Way will also consider applications from a consortium of schools meeting these eligibility criteria. Private schools are not eligible. Grant proposals must be submitted by January 16, 2014, and recipients will be announced March 27, 2014.

In April, UWCI’s first Student Success Grants were awarded to: Sunnyside Elementary in Lawrence Township to fund an extended school day for 300 English learners, professional development for teachers and support for families; Snacks Crossing in Pike Township to help a large English learner and Special Education population improve performance; and, The Center For Inquiry III at IPS 27 to help the school become an International Baccalaureate World School where students take greater responsibility for their own learning and behavior. For more information on this grant opportunity, click here.

Transform Consulting Group recognizes the link between successful school turnaround and high quality, evidence based reform. We can help you identify resources and write compelling grant proposals. Contact Transform Consulting Group today to learn more!



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Transformational Organizations: Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015 (EcO15)


EcOEcO15 is a great example of a public-private partnership that was created to improve economic opportunities within a community by focusing on education and its residents. Funded by grants from Lilly Endowment Inc., and regional industry and community partners, EcO15 is led by the Community Education Coalition (CEC) of Columbus, Indiana and Heritage Fund – the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

The first phase of EcO15, included an investment of $38 million in infrastructure and common support services with an overarching goal of helping each person in southeast Indiana move up at least one level in their education, training or job placement within the region’s three strongest economic clusters: advanced manufacturing, health care, and hospitality/tourism.

The second phase includes:

  • A Seamless High School/Post-Secondary Framework: breaking down systematic barriers to learning by creating a re-designed framework for recruiting, educating, and placing thousands of secondary students enrolled in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-based courses (especially Project Lead the Way) into a grades 11 through 16 “seamless” educational process.
  • Community Learning Centers as Catalyst for Educating Adults: creating and improving education programs for adults and actively recruiting students into targeted STEM programs at the learning centers. EcO15 is attributed with serving as a “catalyst”, causing two of these centers to be established and two centers to be enhanced.
  • Common Support to Expand & Enhance the Region’s Learning System: continuing implementation of the Project Based Learning Academy (PBL Academy) that serves nearly two hundred fifty teachers in the region’s K-12 school districts.

Ec015 is also data driven and monitors its progress with a Scorecard, which is updated every six months to show program progress. Transform Consulting Group applauds EcO15’s use of public-private partnerships to build on what works for college/career readiness and workforce development in southern Indiana. To find out more about Eco15’s programs, click here.

Interested in how your organization can make a similar successful impact? Contact Transform Consulting Group today for a consultation!



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Transformational Organizations: The M.A. Rooney Foundation


Teacher and StudentThe M.A. Rooney Foundation is transforming the lives of children and having a ripple effect in Indiana. The Foundation’s mission is to ensure that ALL kids are reading at grade level. Founded in 1969 by the owners of Golden Rule Insurance Company in Indianapolis, today the M. A. Rooney Foundation concentrates its efforts and resources on helping educational and youth professionals improve literacy and educational excellence. The Rooney Foundation operates under the spirit of the old saying, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

At Transform Consulting Group, we often say that the Rooney Foundation is one of Indiana’s best kept secrets… until now! While they might be most known for their work with school districts and schools, they have also expanded their FREE resources to community based organizations that work with schools and have a mission to improve academic achievement for students. The Rooney Foundation provides three key services:

  1. Data Management – assists schools by collecting, warehousing and reporting on current and historical student demographic and achievement data. They create informative and detailed student data reports that are customized to specific outcomes and shared with school staff (at all levels) and community partners.
  2. Strategic Planning – provides collaborative planning processes that include success plan development, meaningful and timely classroom and district data reports, and analysis structures that deliver results.
  3. Professional Development – supports educational professionals in learning and implementing the best practices that lead to increased student achievement and success. They work closely with staff and leaders to review the data collected, develop an action plan for improvement and implement it.

Funders and policy makers are increasingly becoming more focused on results and outcomes for schools and community organizations that work with students. Gaining access to real-time, objective data is critical for schools and organizations to know that what that they are doing is making a difference and improving student achievement.

Through our evaluation consulting services, Transform Consulting Group has been working closely with the Rooney Foundation to connect community-based organizations with student achievement data. Equipped by a team of seasoned educational professionals and statisticians (from the insurance side), the Rooney Foundation is a dynamic asset in Indiana. Transform Consulting Group thanks the Rooney Foundation for making a significant difference in the lives of Hoosier children! The Rooney Foundation is a great example of an organization that is transforming lives and making a ripple effect in our schools, community based organizations and neighborhoods. Interested in how your organization can make a similar successful impact? Contact Transform Consulting Group today for a consultation!



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Transformational Organizations: Felege Hiywot Center


Felege Hiywot LogoTransform Consulting Group wants to highlight the impact that the Felege Hiywot Center (FHC) is having on the lives of urban youth and creating a ripple effect in Indianapolis. FHC serves Indianapolis students, second generation Ethiopians in Indianapolis, and orphans in Ethiopia.  FHC teaches gardening and environmental preservation, embracing Ethiopian heritage, and community service.

Founder and Executive Director, Aster Bekele, is a native Ethiopian who has lived as a U.S. citizen in Indianapolis for more than three decades. A retired Eli Lilly scientist, Bekele got the idea to teach and mentor children about math and science through creating a garden center in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood.

By participating in summer, after-school and in-school programs, students develop:

  • Gardening skills
  • Awareness of nature and nutritious food
  • Commitment to environmental preservation
  • Ability to make nutritious food choices
  • Entrepreneurial skills to sell the bounty of their crops
  • Recycling and composting skills

FHC’s agricultural and environmental training also incorporates language arts, math, science, and social studies lessons. Each child has the opportunity to become an active community servant, a helpful team player and a responsible family member. FHC’s afterschool program reduces intergenerational stress by helping second-generation Ethiopian youth understand their heritage, history, and culture. Participants learn to share with each other and with others in the community while developing leadership skills. FHC also facilitates one-on-one financial supports between American families and individual Ethiopian orphans. Lastly, because of the location of FHC, they are creating access to nutritious foods in a neighborhood that is considered a “food desert”.

Transform Consulting Group applauds FHC’s use of the natural environment to teach, its efforts to increase cultural identity and emphasis on community service. To find out more about the Felege Hiywot Center’s programs, click here. Interested in how your organization can make a similar successful impact? Contact Transform Consulting Group today for a consultation!



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48 Success Indicators in Early Education


Markers that Matter Cover PageTransform Consulting Group is always looking for useful frameworks for organizations to measure success. A new report developed by FSG with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, “Markers that Matter: Success Indicators in Early Learning and Education,” offers 48 early childhood indicators that reflect the healthy development of young children. The report also highlights 10 emerging themes, areas that are not sufficiently addressed by existing indicators and where further inquiry is needed. These indicators are categorized into groupings affecting the child, family, education and care settings and community.

The report also discusses the value of these indicators’ potential to forge, sustain, and strengthen connections among community actors. The authors highlight two examples of how communities have used early childhood indicators in collaborative approaches that focus on supporting the healthy development of all children. Click here for the full report.

Transform Consulting Group is excited about how we can help organizations across Indiana use research-based outcomes and indicators to support actions that address the needs of our community! Contact Transform Consulting Group today for a free consultation to assess your organization’s outcomes and indicators!



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New Race to the Top Grant Opportunity for Schools and Community Organizations



The U.S. Department of Education is accepting applications for its $120 million Race to the Top district level grant competition, which will support bold, locally directed improvements in learning and teaching that will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness. The grants are open only to schools (or a consortium of schools) to demonstrate how they can personalize education for all students; however, there is a competitive preference priority for applicants that propose to extend their reforms beyond the classroom and partner with public or private entities in order to address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students.

The Department plans to support high-quality proposals from applicants across a variety of districts, including rural and non-rural as well as those already in a State with a Race to the Top grant and districts that are not. These 4-year awards will range from $4 million to $30 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan.  Click here for more information.

Interested districts need to submit their intent to apply by August 23, 2013, and applications are due October 3, 2013. Does your organization need help with a grant application or are you looking for ideas for new community partnerships? Contact Transform Consulting Group today for a consultation!



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Intervention is Key to Third Grade Literacy


Young ReaderTransform Consulting Group is sharing updated research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that underscores the urgency of ensuring that children develop proficient reading skills by the end of third grade, especially for those living in poverty. The Early Warning Confirmed report further supports the link between reading deficiencies and broader social consequences, including how living in poor households and high-poverty neighborhoods contribute to racial disparities in literacy skills in America and how low achievement in reading impacts an individual’s future earning potential. Third-grade reading proficiency is crucial to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

The report also identifies the key factors in reaching the goal of third grade literacy, many of which can be successfully addressed by local organizations serving children, families and communities, as well as by traditional schools. Improvements in educational outcomes produced a long-term return to society of $8.24 for every dollar invested during the first four to six years of school, including prekindergarten. These key factors in successful outcomes include:

  • school readiness
  • regular attendance at school
  • summer learning opportunities
  • healthy, unstressed families
  • high-quality teaching in schools, homes and communities

Indiana, like many other states, requires that if a child cannot pass the reading portion of ISTEP+ standardized test in the third grade, that child must be retained unless an exemption applies.

However, the Early Warning report indicates that neither passive social promotion nor mandatory retention is a good policy strategy. Instead, individualized intervention programs for children who are at risk of being retained can substantially increase their academic achievement.

Transform Consulting Group can provide research like this that validates a best practices approach for the specific needs of an organization. Most recently, Transform Consulting Group utilized this information to help United Way of Central Indiana expand and enhance its readUP literacy-tutoring program through securing a $260,000 AmeriCorps grant. Contact Transform Consulting Group today to learn how we can help your organization frame both problems and solutions in a data-rich, evidence-based context.



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Poor Planning Skills Contribute to Student Achievement Gap


To Do ListTransform Consulting Group works with our clients to build strategy that is current with industry trends and the latest research. Recent research from Cornell University indicates that efforts to enhance the academic performance of low-income children need to consider multiple aspects of their development, including the ability to plan in a goal-oriented manner. The study is published in the July/August issue of Child Development. Children from low-income families tend to do worse at school than their financially better-off peers. Poor planning skills, which can emerge as early as kindergarten and continue through high school, are one reason for the income-achievement gap. Researchers believe the group of skills called executive function, which includes planning skills, can be strengthened through interventions. Such interventions are being developed and tested for children as young as the preschool years.

The study found that the children’s performance in fifth grade could be explained, in part, by how they did on the third-grade planning task, even when taking IQ into consideration.

Using income as well as math and reading scores, the study also found that the lower the household income during infancy, the worse the children’s performance on reading and math in fifth grade – replicating the well-known gap between income and achievement.

Transform Consulting Group can conduct research on your industry to inform the planning process with the current trends and best practices such as these. Contact Transform Consulting Group today for a consultation!



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