Dear BELL Friends and Families,
It is an honor to write my first annual report letter as CEO of BELL. Today, we find ourselves at one of the most pivotal points in BELL’s 25-year history. We are laying the foundation to scale our reach even farther to transform the lives of exponentially more children. I hope you enjoy reading about our key accomplishments in 2017, and that you are as excited as I am about our vision for the future.
2017 was a year of growth and success that serves as a testament to the impact our model is having on communities across the nation. Evaluation results continue to show that BELL scholars are experiencing both academic and life success, with scholars gaining an average of 2 months in literacy skills and 3 months in math skills during the summer months, when most students experience summer learning loss. BELL Summer served 14,408 scholars at 150 sites in 34 U.S. states, while BELL Afterschool continues to serve 977 scholars. The impact we are having on the lives of scholars and communities is profound and inspiring.
While we are proud of our accomplishments, we understand the enormous challenge before us. Summer learning loss and the achievement gap are complex challenges that require a new way of thinking. Year after year, we witness the BELL model leading to measurable academic success. School districts understand the power of expanded learning time to help highest-need students. Yet, there remains millions of children from under-resourced communities who are performing significantly below grade level. Like many nonprofits, BELL has grappled with the question: how can we scale to reach exponentially more children?
We believe the answer lies in technology and innovation.
In 2017, BELL launched an ambitious strategic plan to dramatically scale our impact, expand our evidence-base and strengthen the way we engage our partners. With the generosity of Ballmer Group, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and countless others, we have begun to execute on this plan, a key piece of which is the creation of a technology platform to improve the way BELL is delivered. With the support of a digital environment, school administrators, partners, teachers and staff will have on-demand access to evidence-based strategies and tools to design, deliver and measure learning programs within their communities. Teachers will be empowered via e-learning platforms that help to hone their practice both in and out of the classroom. At the click of a mouse, program leaders will access and analyze data to ensure differentiated instruction. Online learning communities will serve as venues for the sharing of pedagogical strategies and insights.
This platform will make it easier and more effective than ever for BELL partners to deliver learning experiences that lead to measurable academic gains for thousands of more scholars. I could not be more excited about the potential that this platform, along with our work to build our evidence-base, can have on the quality and quantity of BELL’s impact in the coming years.
Yet, rest assured, while these are transformative times at BELL, our core mission remains steadfast: to transform the academic achievements, self-confidence and life trajectories of children living in under-resourced communities. I look forward to continuing to work together with our staff, supporters, partners and families as we usher in this new chapter in BELL’s rich history of expanding education and opportunity for all children, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or economic status.
- Lauren Sanchez Gilbert