Alejandro Gac-Artigas is a 1st grade teacher turned social entrepreneur. His passion for education—ignited when his family immigrated to the U.S. seeking educational opportunity—led him to the classroom. In 2009, Alejandro joined Teach For America and spent two years as a first grade teacher in a low-income community in North Philadelphia. While he loved teaching, Alejandro was incredibly frustrated by the fact that his students faced a 3-month reading loss each summer. His colleagues casually referred to this phenomenon as the “summer slide,” and seemed unmoved by its persistence. But Alejandro refused to passively accept this slide because he knew that it would cause his students’ reading loss to accumulate over time, thus increasing the achievement gap between them and their wealthier peers.
His frustration with a system disserving his students led him to found Springboard Collaborative in 2011. Springboard Collaborative closes the reading achievement gap by coaching teachers, training family members, and cultivating reading habits so that scholars have the requisite skills to access life opportunities. Springboard’s innovation is simple but powerful: they redefine parent-teacher collaboration as an engine for transforming the way students learn. When parents and teachers work together to help students practice their reading, the summer slide phenomenon melts away and reading progress hastens throughout the school year.
Springboard’s primary offering is an intensive, five-week summer literacy program for Pre-K through 3rd grade students and their families. This summer program, and the work Springboard staff do to support teachers and families during the school year, has successfully narrowed the achievement gap for hundreds of students in Philadelphia. School districts around the country are now seeking out Springboard’s support, and the organization has formally expanded to Washington D.C., New York City, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
MNSF is proud to have been the first foundation to support Alejandro’s work in launching Springboard Collaborative. Our funding began at a critical juncture for Alejandro in 2012 when he had just completed the pilot of the summer program with 42 students in one school. With a boost of resources and buy-in from the Philadelphia School District and several charter school partners, Alejandro was able to turn Springboard into a model that would be both replicable and sustainable.