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Earl Martin Phalen
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CEO and Founder, Phalen Leadership Academies and Summer Advantage USA.

In 1967, Earl Martin Phalen was born into the foster care system. 70% of his African-American male peers in foster care would end up in jail, but, as a result of his adoption by George and Veronica Phalen and their passion for education, he graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School.

Having witnessed the transformative power of education, Phalen has dedicated the past 20 years of his life to expanding the life opportunities of children through learning and academic engagement.

As a Harvard Law School student Phalen co-founded BELL, which grew from a community service project educating 20 children to a national non-profit annually educating 15,000 scholars with a budget of $27.5M.

In 2009, he founded Summer Advantage USA. Recognized by the White House initiative, United We Serve, TIME Magazine and MSNBC, Summer Advantage’s research-based summer programs impact the performance of school districts across the nation.

Based on the high achievement of Summer Advantage scholars, in 2012 the Indiana Charter School Board granted approval to the George and Veronica Phalen Leadership Academies to open 10 Academies. Named after Earl’s parents, the Academies will provide a high quality, academic and enriching blended learning curriculum to over 10,000 children.

Phalen’s work has been noted by the New York Times, Parents Magazine, Education Week, ABC World News, and recognized by the entertainment industry at the BET Awards.

In August of 2010, David Von Drehle wrote in TIME Magazine, “Phalen has become one of the country’s leading education reformers…”.

Entries by Earl Martin Phalen

Refocusing On Rural Education

(0) Comments | Posted December 6, 2013 | 6:46 PM

As somebody who has spent the last 20 years of my professional life focused on serving children living in low income communities throughout the country, these last few years have been a learning process for me. For several reasons, including demand and funding, my past work had focused exclusively on...

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A Solution in Chicago: The Learn and Earn Program

(3) Comments | Posted July 11, 2013 | 1:03 PM

According to the New York Times, over 500 people were murdered last year in Chicago.

In light of the violence, it's imperative that we continue to discuss positive solutions that will engage and keep our children safe. The Learn and Earn Program, a summer youth development program...

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A Q & A with Super Mom and Anchor Andrea Morehead

(0) Comments | Posted May 20, 2013 | 1:41 PM

One of the challenges facing many working women is how to balance career, family and life responsibilities. Four-time Emmy winner and the anchor for Indianapolis' #1 news broadcast station, NBC affiliate - WTHR, Andrea Morehead is a role model for working women across the nation.

A former...

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The Importance of Parental Involvement in Schools

(0) Comments | Posted April 4, 2013 | 2:44 PM

According to a PBS report, close to one million American children drop out of school every year. In light of the staggering rate and our current crisis, it is important parents are involved in their children's education early.

I sat down with Principal Jeremy Baugh to discuss...

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Raising a New Generation of Readers

(4) Comments | Posted January 23, 2013 | 9:24 AM

It's 2013, and reading has never been more important. Our world has become a fast-paced blur of information. Everywhere we go, we are presented with an overload of data that needs immediate attention and a quick response. Life is not slowing down, and more and more people are being left...

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A Television Classic Meets the Digital Age

(2) Comments | Posted December 14, 2012 | 3:31 PM

A Conversation with Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton

"Butterfly in the sky...I can go twice as high. Take a look, it's in a book! A Reading Rainbow."

Millions of children over three decades grew up singing along to these catchy lyrics. For more than 20 years, the PBS series Reading...

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On Penning Verse, Creating Readers, and Loving Libraries: An Interview With The Hunger Games Director Gary Ross

(0) Comments | Posted November 14, 2012 | 12:12 PM

He turned a book for young readers into one of the biggest movies of the year. And now, in a reversal of roles, The Hunger Games director Gary Ross is an author himself.

The acclaimed screenwriter, director, and producer has just released his first children's...

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Cheri Daniels and the Scholastic Summer Challenge

(0) Comments | Posted July 18, 2012 | 4:39 PM

She's a wife, a mother of four, a grandmother, a fitness enthusiast, and a first lady.

And she's also a passionate champion for literacy.

Cheri Daniels, wife of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, is one of 48 U.S. governors' spouses who have signed on as "Reading...

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With 319 Students Shot, Historic Partnership Offers Hope

(1) Comments | Posted July 5, 2012 | 11:43 AM

The city of Chicago is facing an alarming rate of violence. According to the Chicago Tribune and police reports, 319 children within Chicago Public Schools were shot during the past year. With seven-year-old Heaven Sutton's death on June 27th, community leaders and families continue to struggle...

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Soledad O'Brien on Parenting and the Magic of Reading

(0) Comments | Posted June 21, 2012 | 2:51 PM

Our country is in the midst of an early literacy crisis. Studies have found that only 30% of children from low income communities enter kindergarten with the basic language skills necessary for literacy development, such as recognizing letters of the alphabet.

I was delighted when one of...

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Tia Mowry on the Joys of Motherhood

(1) Comments | Posted June 15, 2012 | 5:50 PM

As the CEO of Reach Out and Read, I am always happy to talk to celebrities who support early childhood reading and can share helpful parenting tips.

Television actress and author Tia Mowry is a role model for parents across the nation. Millions watched her...

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The Importance of Literacy: A Q & A With Author Walter Dean Myers

(0) Comments | Posted May 10, 2012 | 10:51 AM

"You cannot live this life anymore without the ability to read." - Walter Dean Myers

He grew up in Harlem in the late 1930s, a foster child who taught himself to read by the age of 5 and started writing stories and poems shortly thereafter. Despite dropping out of high...

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A Conversation About Literacy With Congressman Jim McGovern

(2) Comments | Posted March 30, 2012 | 1:06 PM

Since he took office in 1996, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) has been a tireless advocate for causes that reach far beyond his district and his home state.

Among his top passions is literacy. I am proud that Congressman McGovern is Reach Out and Read's strongest...

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600 Summer Learning Scholarships for Chicago Students

(0) Comments | Posted March 16, 2012 | 3:39 PM

With an increasing number of students dropping out of school and budget cuts creating a decrease in educational opportunities and an increase in summer violence and hopelessness among youth, it's imperative to keep our children engaged over the summer.

Studies compiled by the National Summer...

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Melissa Harris-Perry, a Q & A on Literacy, Parenting, and Politics

(11) Comments | Posted March 9, 2012 | 2:02 PM

With less than 50% children under 5 being read to daily and 32% of American children entering kindergarten without the ability to recognize letters of the alphabet, early literacy is not just a parental challenge but also a political issue.

Having dedicated my...

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Beyond Books: Thoughts on Children's Literacy Going High Tech

(6) Comments | Posted February 23, 2012 | 6:01 PM

It was 1989. Pediatricians and early childhood educators developed Reach Out and Read at Boston Medical Center. The concept was simple: During well-child checkups, doctors would deliver books to children and critical messages about the importance of reading aloud to parents.

Fast forward 23 years.

The concept...

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The Joy of Reading Can Take You So Many Places: A Chat With Gayle King

(0) Comments | Posted February 2, 2012 | 11:01 AM

Parental engagement and a commitment to early literacy are two factors that can have a significant impact on the educational success of our children. Having been born into the foster care system (in which 70 percent of my peers ended up in the penal system) and later being...

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Looking Ahead: How We Can Make 2012 the Year of the Nonprofit

(0) Comments | Posted January 19, 2012 | 6:28 PM

Last year was not an easy one for our country, our citizens and our world.

Many of us in the nonprofit sector struggled to raise funds and engage donors in this tight economy. We were forced to make tough organizational cuts and prioritize among equally compelling needs.

Some of...

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Treating Our Children: An ADHD and Medication Q&A with Dr. Robert Needlman

(4) Comments | Posted December 23, 2011 | 9:48 AM

As an educator who's worked with children from birth through high school over my 20-year career, I'm deeply concerned about the recently adopted American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for diagnosing children with ADHD. The new guidelines recommend that pediatricians start evaluating children for ADHD at age 4 and...

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Unforgettable Moments

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2011 | 5:04 PM

Henry Drummond once said, "You will find, as you look back on your life, that the moments that stand out are the moments when you have done things for others."

During this holiday season, as we give to family and friends, we must not forget children who are growing...

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