ELC Helps Teacher-Entrepreneur Expand Pilot Program
While teaching first grade in a North Philadelphia elementary school, Alejandro Gac-Artigas noticed that it took until nearly Thanksgiving for many of his students to re-acquire the reading level they’d attained the previous spring. In fact, summer reading loss is well-documented in elementary school kids from low-income communities. Research has shown that 2/3 of the achievement gap among high school students is attributable to summer learning loss during the elementary school years.
Alejandro’s teaching experience inspired him to address this persistent problem by launching his own venture, Springboard Collaborative, in 2011. He piloted the program first in the school where he had taught, serving 42 students over a four-week period. Funded by a Teach for America grant, as well as small contributions from private donors, the pilot garnered demonstrable results and enthusiasm, providing Alejandro with the “proof of concept” he needed to grow the program and seek additional financial support. But Springboard was lacking the requisite legal structure to obtain foundation money and expand the program.
In Fall 2011, Alejandro approached Penn’s Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic (ELC) for assistance in forming a federally tax-exempt, non-profit corporation. Since then, ELC students have also assisted Springboard with other issues critical to its growth and sustainability by structuring contracts between Springboard and the schools it serves, as well as the parents and teachers who participate in the program, and advising on privacy compliance, employment issues, copyright, trademark and more.
In summer 2012, Springboard served 340 students in four charter schools, replacing a 3-month reading loss with an almost 3-month gain, replicating the result of the pilot at 8 times the scale. This spring, an ELC student negotiated a contract with seasoned attorneys from the School District of Philadelphia to permit Springboard to expand into four additional schools, serving 480 additional students.