Kauffman Foundation Elects Education Leader Earl Martin Phalen to Board of Trustees

KANSAS CITY, Mo., (March 10, 2016) – The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation today announced that nationally recognized education leader Earl Martin Phalen has joined the Foundation's Board of Trustees. Phalen is founder and CEO of Summer Advantage and the George and Veronica Phalen Leadership Academies.

“Earl brings a lifelong commitment to education and a track record of successful leadership and innovation to guide our work in this field,” said Janice Kreamer, chairman of Kauffman’s Board of Trustees. “His experiences and insights align with Ewing Kauffman’s desire to help individuals attain economic independence by advancing education and entrepreneurship. We are fortunate to have him join our team.”

Phalen began his career in education while a student at Harvard Law School, where he founded Building Educated Leaders for Life, which operates after-school and summer education programs in several major U.S. cities. Under his leadership, the organization grew from a local community service project to a national non-profit educating 15,000 children annually, and from a $12,000 annual budget to $27.5 million annually.

Phalen then founded Summer Advantage USA, a summer reading program that partners with school districts to provide quality summer learning programs for children in grades K-8. The program is one of only two scientifically proven models in the country and has served more than 15,000 children in five states since its inception in 2009. As a result of the impact of Summer Advantage, Phalen and his team expanded their 25-day summer program model into a network of K-8 blended learning charter schools called the George and Veronica Phalen Leadership Academies in honor of his parents.

The Phalen Leadership Academies, or “PLA,” will ultimately enable them to serve 10,000 students each year. The first academy opened in August 2013 in Indianapolis. While the vast majority of PLA’s students live below the poverty line, 100 percent of its third graders passed the IREAD-3, demonstrating reading proficiency on par with their peers across the state. Additionally, students across all grades increased from 49 percent to 76 percent proficient in reading; and from 66 percent to 77 percent proficient in math. Because of its demonstrated results, PLA was selected by the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) district to take leadership of one of its persistently low-performing schools and to partner with IPS to transform the school into the state’s first officially designated “Innovation School.”  

Phalen was awarded the President’s Service Award in 1997 by President Clinton for his impact on the lives of children. He also is a Mind Trust and Ashoka Fellow; was awarded the Black Entertainment Television (BET) National Hero Award; and is a three-time recipient of Fast Company’s Social Capitalist Award. Phalen has earned recognition in numerous national media outlets, including a cover story in TIME Magazine; a feature interview on MSNBC's Education Nation; coverage in Parent Magazine's feature on summer learning slide; and in Education Week for using technology in innovative ways.

Phalen holds a bachelor of arts in political science from Yale University and a law degree from Harvard. In 2014, the NCAA awarded him its Silver Anniversary award – along with NFL stars Troy Aikman and Rodney Peete, and 12-time Olympic winner Dara Torres – for being an exceptional student-athlete and for his impact in the community.

Phalen joins eight other trustees on the Kauffman board. Benno Schmidt, who joined the Kauffman board in 2007, retired as a trustee in March, having served the Foundation’s limit of three three-year terms.