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East Tampa Academy

Students in East Tampa are at risk for academic failure. We're using the best of what science tells us about how young minds learn to create a high-quality, tuition-free school for kids 3 to 8 years old to break the cycle of poverty in this community. We are bringing science, practitioners, and the East Tampa community together to provide a place for young children to develop the social, emotional, and academic tools they need for success.

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In at least one of the local schools in East Tampa, a staggering 80% of children are failing by the time they reach 3rd grade. That’s why we decided to be a part of the solution. The East Tampa Academy opened in August 2017 as a tuition-free charter school based on the original purpose of charter schools – to develop new strategies for effective learning by the students. We work closely with the school district and other agencies to share knowledge. The aim is to improve academic outcomes for children in our community in order to help break the cycle of poverty and to do so in a way that is replicable and scalable.

By bringing the best of what years of scientific research tells us about how young minds learn, the Evolution Institute has created an engaging environment, effective instructional approaches, and an improved curriculum to foster a love for learning that will make a measurable impact in the East Tampa community. Building upon the past successes of our community partners, the Academy is designed to be a place where children will be in a learning environment built on a foundation of practical knowledge, experience, and science. The latter includes current research in brain development, literacy learning, and the development of social and emotional skills.

  • Who do we serve? The Academy opened its doors in August 2017 to Kindergarten and First graders. In the following years, it will expand to serve children from 3 years old through Second grade.  Instead of an 80% failure rate, the students will be at or above grade level by the time they graduate this program. Many will transfer to area public schools where they will arrive prepared for the rigors of traditional education and standardized assessment.
  • Why focus on this age? These are the critical foundation years for kids.  When the proper foundation is built, children are more likely do well in school for the rest of their school career and beyond. They will have developed the foundation for literacy and math skills; they will have developed the basic social and emotional skills to work in teams and to address conflict.
  • How much is needed? We raised $19,500 of our $36,000 goal. $16,500 remains for our fund drive.
  • What is the timeline? Phase I – Completed with Kindergarten and 1st grades in operation since Fall 2017 Phase II – opening of 2nd-grade program and Pre-K in Fall, 2018 Phase III – opening of 3-year-old classroom.

“Children did not evolve to sit quietly at desks in age-segregated classrooms being instructed by unrelated and unfamiliar adults.” – David Bjorklund

Developmental Psychologist, author and co-author of more than 100 peer-review publications and nine books on youth and childhood.

  • In addition to the science of learning, administrative issues needed to be addressed. The current system has a relatively incoherent approach to these early years where no one agency is empowered to address the children’s needs. In low-income areas, children frequently are in three separate education systems by the time they reach elementary school.  While they may have succeeded in one of the systems, it does not necessarily translate to success in the next system. We see the data that many children are unprepared for school success. One of the unique aspects of our project is spanning this gap between early systems in order to assure continuity and success as they transition between systems.
  • Partnerships are essential. A second unique aspect is a partnership between the scientific community and the practitioners.  This is not always an easy task but one that we have extensive experience with.  This creates a process that allows for translation of science into practice. Further, it helps advance the science through the feedback and information learned from the practitioners.
  • Parent and community engagement produce better outcomes. Our advisory board includes representatives from the caregivers of the students, community groups, local agencies, nearby institutions such as churches, and residents.  This type of engagement produced a 100% turnout for parent conferences. This is unheard of at schools in the community.
  • All of this leads to the most important aspect: the children are in a learning environment built on a foundation of practical knowledge, experience, and science. The latter includes current research in brain development, literacy learning, and the development of social and emotional skills. The school will look different from other schools, especially as we get into the K-2 years. This marriage of on-the-ground practitioners and the academic world is a critical piece in creating a successful model.

What are our qualifications? The Evolution Institute (EI) was co-founded by leaders in their respective fields to bring scientific knowledge into practical applications to improve quality of life for people across the globe. The EI has sponsored four conferences on youth and education that brought together researchers from around the world. This has resulted in scientific publications, a book, and an applied program that saw students, who had been failing at least three of their core course, achieve grade parity within a year due to the redesign of the classroom environment around scientific principles. We have science advisors who are leaders in their field who have committed to assist with the project. Additionally, we have received endorsements from some of the leading scientists of our generation and worked with a Nobel Laureate in designing our prior school project. We bring individuals with extensive experience in school programming, administration, teaching, prevention programming, as well as research and organizational development.