Fast Pitch!!!

GriffinEd is terribly excited to announce we have been chosen as semi-finalists in the Social Venture Partners’ Fast Pitch competition. Think “Shark Tank” for nonprofits with grant funding for prizes and, more importantly, a chance to build relationships with various philanthropic organizations. I will be participating in a lot of coaching and mentoring to tune my presentation and then, if GriffinEd is chosen as one of ten finalists, I will have three minutes to persuade a large audience of potential donors that GriffinEd is worthy of their interest and support.

Here are the main points I want to make, though I will almost certainly need to pare it down before the main event in March:

For all the billions of dollars we have spent trying to close the achievement gap between well-off and disadvantaged students, the gap persists. During my eighteen years of teaching at Title-1 schools in LAUSD, my colleagues and I found that a big part of the problem is the deficit of basic background knowledge and vocabulary for the kids we serve. To be plain, teachers in low-income neighborhoods spend so much time bringing the kids up to a level where they can access grade level curriculum that we don’t have much time to actually teach grade level curriculum.

At GriffinEd, we are a team of educators and musicians using music to help kids learn the basic content and vocabulary they will need for success in school. If you remember Schoolhouse Rock you get the idea, but if not: you know that awful commercial jingle you can’t get out of your head? We do that, but with Newtonian mechanics and the Periodic Table. Students who work with our music for four minutes a day are significantly better prepared to access grade level curriculum, and we can prove it.

We offer live shows and songwriting workshops upon request, but our most important tool is our website. is a free online library of fun teaching songs for kindergarten through eighth grade, easily searchable by subject and grade level. You want songs that will help you learn the fourth grade life science standards? Boom.

GriffinEd is NOT a music program, we are an academic support program with an emphasis on the STEM subjects. We use music as a tool because it works really, really well. If you see kids singing and dancing and getting excited about science and math; that is just a side effect and is really not our fault.

So, how is GriffinEd innovative? People have been using music as a memory aid at least since the days when Homer sang of the wrath of Achilles, so you know GriffinEd didn’t invent educational music; but a few things have changed since Schoolhouse Rock was on TV:

1) We now have several decades of research validating the theory behind arts inclusion, in addition to our own field trials. So now we don’t just think this works, we empirically KNOW it works.

2) We now have common academic standards between states, which means a song written to teach the fifth-grade math standards in California will work just as well in 44 other states. And even in Texas, fifth grade works pretty much the same as in California.

3) The internet now allows us to stream music on demand, curated to the individual user. This means GriffinEd can serve ten million kids as easily as ten thousand, and every one of them will be getting content designed for the specific standards on which they will be tested this year. This bears emphasis: we can raise achievement in every internet-connected classroom in the United States and it will have no impact on our operating cost.

So, what do I want from you (addressing the Fast Pitch audience)? First, we are now making animated music videos of our best teaching songs for the GriffinEd channel on YouTube; we are looking for sponsors and we’ll put your name in the credits if you’ll allow it.

Second, I want partners who will help GriffinEd reach a level of organizational and financial sustainability sufficient for me to hand over my executive director position to someone who wants it, so I can focus my own time and energy on what I do best: working with the teachers, songwriters, and performers who are creating GriffinEd’s award-winning teaching songs.

Finally, I need you to help me get the word out to the whole world. Please check out our web site and if you agree that GriffinEd is a powerful tool for learning, tell everyone! I want to get our music into every elementary and middle school classroom. Together, we can significantly raise academic achievement through fun educational music in just a few minutes a day.