Innovative Firms Partner to Bring Executive Function to Selected Head Start Programs

Innovative Firms Partner to Bring Executive Function to Selected Head Start Programs

Acelero Learning, Reflection Sciences and Venn Foundation are collaborating to introduce Executive Function measurement and interventions within select Head Start campuses

— Press Release — New York, NY (September 20, 2018) – In a unique three-way partnership unveiled today, Acelero Learning will deploy Reflection Sciences’ Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS App™) within their network of Head Start programs.  Venn Foundation will provide the initial proceeds to support the roll-out with funds provided through a Program-Related Investment (PRI).

Screenshot of the MEFS App

Through this collaboration, Acelero Learning will be able to track the development of executive function (EF) skills over the course of the early childhood years. EF, often referred to as the “air traffic control” system of the brain, describes the set of skills required for impulse control in children. These skills are predictive of not only school-readiness and academic success, but also social-emotional functioning, career achievement, and mental and physical health. Acelero Learning will capture growth in EF using Reflection Sciences’ Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFSTM App). The MEFSTM App is a scientifically valid and reliable game-like measure of EF for children as young as 2 years through the lifespan.  Acelero Learning currently instructs over 5,000 children through their nationwide network of Head Start programs.

“We see in our classrooms every day that being ready for school is about more than reading and math.  We need children to enter kindergarten prepared to learn in fundamental ways we could never have measured in the past, and we are hopeful that the implementation of the innovative MEFS App™ assessment and related training will provide us new tools to improve child outcomes,” says Melissa Field, Chief Program Officer of Acelero Learning. “It is crucial that teachers and families have accurate, useful data to facilitate lesson planning and determine opportunities to support children individually. Our partnership with Reflection Sciences will complement our ongoing focus to improve the use of data in supporting school readiness for each of our Head Start and Early Head Start children, and we hope to extend what we learn from this collaboration throughout our network over time.”

Initial funding provided by Venn Foundation will allow Acelero Learning and Reflection Sciences to train targeted Acelero educators on the MEFS App assessment, test as many as 500 children in 2018, plan for initial interventions that the companies will produce together and evaluate this initial implementation.  Future funding will stretch the MEFS assessment and training to all 5,000+ children in the Acelero Learning network and allow both organizations to refine and improve an intervention curriculum.

Dr. Stephanie Carlson, Reflection Sciences’ Co-founder and Chief Science Officer, adds, “We have always admired the mission of Acelero Learning and the important work they do around early childhood education and the achievement gap.  With this partnership, we aim to make our unique MEFS App™  assessment and intervention strategies meet the needs of children and teachers in Head Start settings.”

Added Jeff Ochs, President and CEO of Venn Foundation, “Program-Related Investments are powerful because they can provide catalytic capital to any organization, whether non-profit or for-profit, that is willing to take on a challenging charitable cause.  In this case, we think this charitable effort will also be good for business for both for-profit Acelero Learning and Reflection Sciences, which in turn should help them to scale our desired charitable impact.”

Ultimately, all three organizations hope their findings will inform public policy efforts and decisions regarding opportunities and challenges facing early childhood education and specifically the Head Start network.



Acelero Learning is a pioneering provider of early childhood education and family engagement services, all of which are focused on closing the achievement gap for thousands of Head Start children and families across the country.  Today, Acelero Learning directly serves 5,000 children and families in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin and through its Shine Early Learning network, works closely with more than 35 Head Start programs around the country.

Founded by University of Minnesota Professors Dr. Stephanie M. Carlson and Dr. Phil Zelazo in the College of Education & Human Development’s Institute of Child Development, Reflection Sciences provides professional development, training, and tools for assessing and improving Executive Function skills. Their Minnesota Executive Function Scale is the first objective, scientifically-based, and normed direct assessment of executive function for ages 2 years and up.

Venn Foundation is a nonprofit public charity on a mission to unleash the full power of Program-Related Investments (PRIs) to achieve charitable impact.  By opening a special donor-advised fund called a Venn Account, any philanthropic individual or entity can recommend that their tax-advantaged, charitable donations be used by Venn to make PRIs.  Venn can syndicate any one PRI among any combination of Venn Accounts.  Financial returns from these PRIs go back to participating Venn Accounts for donors to recommend redeployment into new PRIs or grants.

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