One of the great things about working for an education company is that you feel like you’re doing some of the most important work in the world. That chorus is echoed in our halls here at The Grove School continuously. However, it’s always great to get an inspiring reminder of why education, and particularly early education, is such important work.
Recently, the Harlem Children’s Zone has gotten a lot of attention as the result of Paul Tough’s book, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America. The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) is the manifestation of Geoffrey Canada’s vision to provide a comprehensive education program that touches parents, infants, preschoolers, elementary and high-school and children. The ultimate goal being to increase the chance of success later in life for poor children in Harlem.
Canada’s results are stunning. In an area of extreme poverty, his programs have produced children who outperform their peers throughout the state of New York. At the end of the 2008-09 school year, 65% of the HCZ’s prekindergarten students (the Harlem Gems) had reached an “advanced” school-readiness classification, up from 33.5% being at that level upon program entry. Additionally, 100% of the program’s third graders (which comprise the Promise Academy) tested at or above grade level on the state’s math exam.
In many ways, Canada embodies the spirit of the “human capital” thesis, which looks at education more from an economic perspective. Economist James Heckman has spent years studying this topic and has concluded that, “the rate of return to a dollar investment made while a person is young is higher than the rate of return to the same dollar at a later age.” Geoffrey Canada’s basic goal upon founding the HCZ was to change the lives of poor children in sizable numbers, and in a way that could be replicated nationwide. The net result is that the children who come out of this program, and programs like it, will be likelier to graduate college, enter the workforce, and stay out of the judicial system, all of which will have positive societal and economic impacts.
As the strategy guy at The Grove School, I’m always trying to answer the question, “How can we best spend our limited resources to be as effective as possible?” One of my favorite books on this topic is Jim Collins’ Good to Great, which attempts to identify what separates companies that perform well from those who don’t. The “great” companies have what Collins calls a Hedgehog Concept: a single, unifying idea that defines what will be the focus of the organization. The Hedgehog Concept is formed by answering three questions:
1. What are you deeply passionate about?
2. What can you be the best in the world at?
3. What drives your economic engine?
The first two questions are critical to understanding what an organization’s mission and core competencies are. The third question, however, is perhaps the most important in terms of focus. The goal isn’t to identify a set of measurements that will tell you how your business is performing, it is to identify a single measurement that will be a leading indicator of all critical areas of focus.
For example, Wallgreens’ concept was, “the best, most convenient drugstores with high profit per customer visit.” Focusing on this simple statement allowed them to organize all their efforts, planning and investment efficiently, confident that everything else would fall into place as a result. In doing this, they managed to out-perform Intel, GE, Coca Cola and Merck over a 15-year period.
My point in all of this is that “high-quality, early education programs with high elementary-school readiness rates” seems to have a lot of potential as a Hedgehog Concept for a well-functioning, high-performing society. If we look at early educational success as a leading indicator for future graduation rates, job growth, health care costs, judicial costs and crime rates (which numerous studies have proven is the case), it becomes easy to understand why this is perhaps the single most important measure of our society’s well-being. It obviously requires long-term vision, but the rewards we gain years from now will be exponential.
And that’s why all of us here at The Grove School are doing what we do. If we do our job well, we can change the world.
The last week in February marked our grand opening celebrations at both Cary and Plano. I had the privilege of attending both events, which made for an exciting, energetic, and (slightly) exhausting week! The schools were in top-notch shape, the faculty was energized, parents were wowed and children were laughing, playing, running, stretching, dancing, and posing (for yoga, that is).
The one word that truly embodies the spirit of that week for me is passion. Every single person who has become a part of our community has done so because they are passionately invested in what The Grove School stands for. Take Dr. Shefali Parmar for example, one of our parents who is also a pediatrician. She spoke at The Grove School of Cary about the importance of children’s health, and gave other parents a great list of things to do for their children to ensure an all-around healthy lifestyle. As I listened to her workshop, I found myself taking notes to use at home for my daughter.
Another great example is Stephanie from Stretch-n-Grow, who at The Grove School of Plano took children through a set of exercises and an obstacle course, all while teaching them the names of various muscle groups. I loved hearing the class of 3-year olds pronounce “trapezius” in unison!
Or, take Ms Ali at The Grove School of Cary, who I personally watched scrape the ORTs from her plate into a bin for composting, and then recycle her plastic plate. Talk about passion!
To me, meeting these folks just helped to reinforce that we’re all here not because it’s a job, or because it’s a convenient place to take our kids. We’re here because we all truly believe in a similar set of ideals, and are passionate about living them out (personally, professionally, or through our children). Of course, I’m no exception. While traveling, I managed to successfully adhere to my diet which consists of lean meats, fruits and veggies, and specific fats (and excludes grains, gluten, legumes, dairy, and heavy starches – check out the Paleo Diet). I also managed to seek out a local CrossFit affiliate, where I train back home 5 times per week. My coworkers gently kid that I’m obsessed.
It’s was great to spend a week amongst such passionate people. But most importantly, it was great to see children getting such a great educational experience at the school. When we sought out to build The Grove School, our goal was simply to create the best preschool a family could ask for. After being there and witnessing such amazing educational experiences, I can confidently label The Grove School “best” in any category.
New families are coming to check out the schools every day. One of the questions we always ask is, “How did you hear about us?” Most people answer, “from a friend.”
We’re thrilled by the response to The Grove School and want to thank the people in our community who send new families our way. To do that, we’ve started a “friends” of the school referral program. Here’s how it works:
Friends of The Grove School Referral Program
What You Get:
When you refer a family to our school, we’ll send you a $25 Whole Foods gift certificate for each new child enrolled.
What They Get:
Besides an amazing preschool education, parents you refer get a $100 tuition credit for each child they enroll. Plus we donate $100 to the Wake Audubon Society (Cary) or the Holifield Science Learning Center (Plano) in their family’s name.
How to Get your Gift Certificate
Contact the Head of School in your area. In Cary, that’s Scott Andersen. In Plano, it’s Wendy DeSpain. They will give you a referral card you can hand out to a prospective family. You’ll need to include your name and contact info on that card to be eligible for the $25 Whole Foods gift certificate.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions.
New families will receive a $100 tuition credit for each new child enrolled. The Grove School will also make a $100 donation per family to either the Wake Audubon Society or the Holifield Science Learning Center (“Donation”). Tuition credits and Donations are only valid for new families who enroll at The Grove School. Families currently enrolled at The Grove School who refer a new family will receive a $25 Whole Foods gift certificate (“Gift Certificate”).
Offers expire 12/31/2010, have no cash value and are non-transferrable. Gift Certificates and Donations are limited to one per family. Offers are not valid with additional offers or discounts and subject to age acceptance and availability. Contact Head of School for further details.
See what both of our recently opened schools in Cary, NC and Plano, TX look like inside and out.
One of the things I am personally very passionate about is physical health and its two necessary components: exercise and nutrition. As the father of an 18-month old, I try to model healthy behavior for her, and give her a well-rounded diet that includes an appropriate amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
That being said, it’s difficult to see the multitude of unhealthy food options available – and marketed to – the parents of young children. When you factor in the realities of modern society – busy schedules that leave little time for exercise and a plethora of convenient, yet unhealthy, food options – it’s no wonder that obesity rates are on the rise in the U.S. This is one of the pressing reasons that we felt The Grove School was necessary (and why I am personally involved). We wanted a place where we could model, teach and foster healthy behavior for future generations.
A recent study by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention entitled, “The Future Costs of Obesity,” outlines the potential costs to America in the coming years of this trend. The authors find that, beyond the obvious social and public health problems, rising obesity rates will have a real economic impact, primarily in health care costs, over the next ten years. Other major findings by the study include:
· Obesity is growing faster than any previous public health issue our nation has faced. If current trends continue, 103 million American adults will be considered obese by 2018.
· The U.S. is expected to spend $344 billion on health care costs attributable to obesity in 2018 if rates continue to increase at their current levels. Obesity-related direct expenditures are expected to account for more than 21 percent of the nation’s direct health care spending in 201.
· If obesity levels were held at their current rates, the U.S. could save an estimated $820 per adult in health care costs by 2018 – a savings of almost $200 billion dollars.
Clearly, we aren’t going to fight this problem alone. However, our first two schools are an important step toward elevating the importance of health in those two communities. Furthermore, as we look to expand nationally, we hope that The Grove School will play an important role in not only curbing the rise of obesity, but in setting an example for other schools and pushing the education field toward the future as well.
In order to address this and other pressing social issues, we must start by educating our children.
With all the buzz around the first two Grove Schools opening in Plano and Cary, it may seem a bit funny to be thinking, “where do we go next?” Well, that’s our style at The Grove School. We’ve always been forward thinkers, and are always looking ahead to new opportunities.
That said, we’re now looking at cities all over the US to try and find that perfect “Grove School fit,” and we’d love your help in deciding where to go. We’ve created a link under the “Connect” area in the upper right corner (look for the Suggest a new Grove School link) that allows you to send us an email with your suggestions.
Do you think your home town would be a good match? Send us an email and tell us why. (We WILL read them!) Then encourage your neighbors to check out our website and do the same. If we get enough interest in a specific area, neighborhood or town, we’ll take notice. If we decided to put a Grove School in your town, we might even ask you to sit on our community advisory panel to help us get the school up and running!
In our future locations for The Grove School, we’re looking for a communities with:
· Families dedicated to making a difference
· Parents who value a top-notch, extraordinary preschool education
· Best-in-class teachers and educators who want to work for an innovative school
· People who value healthy living, environmental sustainability and volunteerism
If you haven’t noticed, we want to be part of a community, in every sense of the word. We want to create meaningful relationships with children, parents, businesses and governments to truly build – together – the best preschool possible. Sound like the place you live? Send us an email and tell us about it!
1. I know that the staff at the school–from the Head of School to the Education Manager to the teachers–will all be of a caliber that is unparalleled in the preschool industry. Not only will they be exemplary at teaching kids, but they’ll have such a unique culture. We’re going for staff that aren’t just great at teaching, but are forward thinkers as well.
2. I’m attracted to the overall emphasis on health. I know that The Grove Schools will be clean, healthy places.
I honestly can’t wait for a school near me so I can enroll my daughter!!!
I came on board with The Grove School in July 2008. Ty Durekas, our president, sent an email asking me to be part of a small, diverse team of people to develop a best-in-class early education brand. I was enthusiastic from the start and jumped at the invitation. As the parent of a young daughter, I recognized that there was a large opportunity to fulfill a need among parents.
Also, rarely do you get the opportunity to help build something from scratch. So often in your job you’re picking up where other people left off, or focusing on transforming something that’s already in existence. It’s been such an amazing experience to truly build this concept from the ground up, where we’ve had such freedom to make it the way we’d like to.
To make sure our concept resonated with parents, we did three research studies. We found that there was a segment of parents who were interested in an exceptional early education offering who wanted high-caliber teachers and staff, very clean and organized facilities, and so forth.
Additionally, we saw that these same parents were very interested in a focus on health, specifically clean air and water in the schools, exercise incorporated in the curriculum, healthy food options, etc.
Finally, through our own research, as well as through overall market trends, we saw that there was an increasing focus on environmental sustainability. By looking at other preschool offerings, we knew that no provider was currently offering such an integrated concept. So, we talked with parents about the idea (once again), and they loved it.
Pieces of The Grove School concept have changed slightly over the past year, but the core idea has remained the same. It’s all about the convergence and tight integration of a healthy mind, body and planet across all facets of the school–from the curriculum to the staff to the facility.
I interviewed the Head of School candidates in Cary, and I can say in all seriousness that it was inspiring. The people we spoke with were beyond our expectations–they were energetic, passionate, incredibly credentialed, and diverse.
We loved that beyond their impressive qualifications, they were all energized about what The Grove School stood for as well. This was perhaps the first concrete evidence for me that we had a truly appealing concept. These amazing educators were so eager to jump in and help us build it.
Our Head of School in Cary, Scott Andersen, will have any incredible impact on The Grove School–both at his school and for all schools moving forward. He’s truly an inspirational guy to speak with. I know that he will help us learn and improve on these first two schools, pushing us above and beyond what we hoped to accomplish.
Choosing the first two markets for The Grove School was an exciting and interesting exercise.
Part of it was definitely demographics. But demographics alone would never have got us there. We needed to find the right communities that would be a good fit for The Grove School. We looked at the types of parents in the area, the kinds of businesses, the activities the local governments were focusing on, the non-profits in the area. All of which were aimed at giving us a total picture of an area.
We also realized that we could be more “Grove-like” by using a facility that was already existing and could be “recycled,” instead of building something new. So we looked at the facilities we owned, compared them with the rest of the criteria, and ultimately landed on Cary, North Carolina and Plano, Texas. These are two great communities that really value education, health and sustainability.
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