Our Projects


Building an Advisory Board to Guide Program Expansion


The Challenge

BELL is an established, award-winning summer learning and afterschool program. When BELL leadership approached The Learning Agenda, the organization served young people from K through 8th grade, and sought to expand to serve pre-Kindergarten youth. The importance of and need for high quality early learning is clear, and closely aligned with BELL’s mission to ameliorate the achievement gap; but development of a year-round Pre-K program model was not yet in BELL’s wheelhouse.

BELL aimed to launch a high quality Pre-K pilot program in a select number of sites nationwide. To ensure maximum impact and the greatest chance of success, BELL sought to form a national Pre-K Advisory Board (PKAB) composed of experienced educators, researchers, and advocates who value innovation and have expertise in early childhood education policy, practice, and pedagogy. The PKAB would work collaboratively with BELL to create a scalable program model. Lacking the capacity to research, vet, recruit and on-board PKAB members, BELL turned to The Learning Agenda.

The Learning Agenda Approach

TLA worked closely with BELL to pinpoint the areas of expertise needed on its advisory board, including child development and social emotional learning, early literacy, pre-numeracy, physical development, assessment, parent engagement, state and national policy, as well as program strategy, implementation and quality standards. Once prioritized, TLA leveraged its knowledge and networks to identify and research more than 50 potential board members across the United States. Candidates represented some of the most prestigious nonprofits, universities, research institutions, advocacy organizations, foundations, Head Start associations, city, county and state agencies already making significant impact in the field of early childhood education. TLA vetted all candidates through a process that paid close attention to BELL’s needs and core values, the current political and funding landscape and the desire for a diverse range of representation. Once selected, TLA recruited and oriented eight advisory board members through one-on-one conversations, an introductory webinar, and visits to BELL summer sites located around the country.

TLA continues to facilitate BELL’s work with the Pre-K Advisory Board. Through webinars, one-on-one conversations and coaching, and in-person meetings, TLA is leading the team through a 12-18 month planning process to develop the Pre-K program model. TLA is part of the BELL program development team, providing technical assistance to inform program design, partnership strategy, planning and management, human capital, quality standards, and assessment.

The Results

BELL now has an engaged, eight-member advisory board supporting its ongoing development and improvement efforts. In response to input from board members and pilot sites, BELL strengthened its youth and family recruitment strategies, curriculum, assessment methods, and approach to staff hiring and training. In summer 2017, BELL will have the opportunity to implement refined Pre-K programming in seven districts across California as a key partner of The Big Lift initiative – up from four districts in summer 2016. BELL is actively seeking additional partners for their Pre-K programming.

In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words

“We were struck by how knowledgeable and open advisory board members were. They pushed us to think broadly and innovatively. They also helped us to identify areas of potential policy conflicts, funding issues, etc. Without The Learning Agenda to guide us in this process, we would struggle to access this type of knowledge to inform program development.”

Jessica Banks
Senior Advisor for Strategy & Impact, BELL