Mebane Foundation + 4.0 Schools = Opportunities for Educational Entrepreneurs


by Jeanna White

What is the future of school like? What is school for?  How can we help every student maximize their potential?

These are the questions innovators in education are asking and the questions that 4.0 Schools and the Mebane Foundation are trying to answer.

Redefining “School” 
Launched in New Orleans in 2010, 4.0 Schools is an early-stage education incubator that brings educators, entrepreneurs and technologists together to launch ventures that redefine school. To date, 4.0 has launched more than 20 ventures and trained more than 400 in its approach to innovation in education. An average of 10-15 new businesses and schools are started every year.

4.0 Schools

“The world has changed but school hasn’t,” said 4.0 Schools’ Founder, Matt Candler. “At 4.0 we help find the most promising innovators in our country – parents, kids, techies, teachers – and we help them design vital experiments that teach us about what the future of school in our country can be.”

4.0 Schools Fellowships

“4.0 Schools finds, trains, and invests in passionate people solving the most important challenges in education,” he added. “We help build communities around entrepreneurs and their ventures to help them grow their ideas into successful, sustainable organizations.”

Looking for Ideas on the “Credible Fringe”
The organization’s passion for the future of education attracted the attention of the Mebane Foundation, which strives to be a catalyst for literacy innovation in North Carolina and beyond.

“Mrs. Mebane and I visited 4.0 Schools about 5 years ago and we were impressed with the program and the people who were participating,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “But at that point, they were really focused on charter schools and developing different school models while the Foundation was looking at public schools.”

“When they expanded their focus, we decided to take another look,” he added. For Colbourne, that second look involved attending a 4.0 Schools “Community Summit,” a meeting with leaders piloting breakthrough schools, learning spaces, and tools from across the country.

He was impressed with what he found. “The 4.0 Community brings together a community of educational thought leaders that want to improve the way we think about how we educate our children,” Colbourne said. “Here at Mebane Charitable Foundation we like to refer to these great ideas as those on the “credible fringe,” he added. “We want to engage with these innovators because we are always looking for new and exciting ways to support our families and our students.”

To create this engagement, the Mebane Foundation recently gave 4.0 Schools a two-year, $200,000 grant to support Essentials Fellowships, Tiny Fellowships, and to offer start-up funds for promising ventures. Essentials Fellowships assist innovators in delving deeper into the problem they hope to solve by offering training and the feedback needed to help make the venture a success while Tiny Fellowships provide funding to innovators who have received early-stage validation continue to test their ideas.

4.0 Schools Tiny Fellowships

“Funding 4.0 Schools offers us a national platform and gives us access to great educational thinkers across the country,” Colbourne said. “Our goal is to find  entrepreneurs with ideas that align with our mission so that we can become a larger downstream funder in the future. Ultimately, we would like to bring an idea to scale and then bring it back to North Carolina and Davie County.”

“I encourage anyone with a promising idea to look into 4.0 Schools and to consider applying for an Essentials or Tiny Fellowship,” he added. “4.0 Schools is hosting webinars about the programs on May 8th and applications are due by May 14th.”

Mebane Foundation Grant to Fund Five Year Multi-Million Dollar Transformative Strategic Initiative with Davie County Schools to Address Early Literacy

Mebane Foundation Pre-K Student Activity Feature Image

by Jeanna White

The Mebane Charitable Foundation has approved a grant of almost $2.5 million to Davie County Schools to support a five-year early literacy initiative to improve kindergarten readiness and to increase the percentage of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

“The Mebane Foundation has been funding quality literacy interventions for years, but we felt it was time to find a partner and aggressively move the needle toward kindergarten readiness and reading proficiency by the end of third grade,” said Larry Colbourne, President of the Mebane Foundation. “Over the years we’ve invested heavily in Davie County and many of those assets remain and are alive and well, making Davie County the obvious choice for this long-term and strategic early literacy initiative.”

Davie County Schools has a rich history of academic success and consistently ranks in the top 10-15 percent of districts in the state of North Carolina. But despite the county’s successful academic performance, approximately 30 percent of students do not enter kindergarten “ready” according to DIAL scores (Developmental Indicators for the Assessment of Learning) and 34 percent do not show reading proficiency by the end of the third grade as demonstrated on the NC End-of-Grade (EOG) Reading Test..

The goals of this initiative are to improve kindergarten readiness from 70 percent to 90 percent and to increase reading proficiency in third grade from 66 percent to 80 percent by 2022. This project will impact approximately 2,300 students each year over the 5-year implementation period.

“Our county leadership and community partners all seem to be working from the same sheet of music, thus we felt the time was right to throw out such a bold set of metrics that if reached, would put Davie County schools at the top in North Carolina,” Colbourne said.

“We’ve been following closely the recommendations of the Business Roundtable, a national group of CEO’s from around the country, led by folks like North Carolina’s own Jim Goodnight of SAS, and at this moment in time we believe, as do they, that kindergarten readiness and reading proficiency by third grade are the keys to the future success of our workforce and our country.”

Initially, this project will be a collaborative effort between Davie County Schools, Smart Start, and the public/private preschools. The grant from the Mebane Foundation will provide professional development, materials, and specialized support staff totaling $2,447,188.00 over 5 years, with additional supplementary funding for the Read to Achieve Summer Camp for at-risk first, second, and third graders who need extra academic support beyond the regular school year. In addition, this project will develop and build the professional capacity of 111 preschool through third grade classroom teachers in Davie County Schools and 14 preschool teachers in private facilities. These educators will continue impacting countless students for years to come.

The partnership will demonstrate how districts can leverage high quality professional development and technology to support individualized learning and improve overall reading results, especially for those students who are most difficult to reach.

Colbourne added, “Through the partnerships created with the Healthy Davie Initiative we feel this five-year plan will only get stronger as we move forward. Initially, I see it heavily involving our partners at Davie County Schools, Smart Start and our county daycares, but as it evolves, we have the ability and county partnerships to make enhancements on the fly. We will do this!”

“Davie County Schools is extremely excited to partner with the Mebane Foundation and other community organizations to make significant improvements in early literacy,” said Dr. Darrin Hartness, the Superintendent of Davie County Schools. “This partnership will be a national model for ensuring early literacy in preschool through third grade.”

“This public-private partnership between Davie County Schools and the Mebane Foundation creates a unique opportunity to provide high quality professional development, strengthen instruction, and deliver the most effective learning experiences for all children in Davie County.  We will focus efforts to ensure our children are developing foundational literacy skills from preschool through early grades.  Research clearly indicates the correlation between reading proficiency by third grade and success in school; equipping our children early with these essential literacy skills prepares them for life.  Through this collaboration, improvements in literacy will open doors of opportunity for students, and our community will be on a path to a more competitive and prosperous future.”

“We want to thank the Mebane Foundation leadership and Board of Directors for their confidence and continued investment in Davie County,” continued Hartness. “Your generosity and support allow us to provide experiences far beyond what can be funded in other public schools.  You have challenged us to dream and to sharpen our focus.  Our teachers and the children we serve are blessed by your intentional efforts to change lives through literacy.”