Earl Phalen

Ashoka Fellow
Dorchester, Massachusetts, United States
Fellow Since 2008


This profile was prepared when Earl Phalen was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Summer and after school enrichment programs are not new, but they have long been seen as a kind of second-class educational opportunity—a place for children to play sports and do crafts, rather than to be challenged academically through serious, rigorous programming. Earl led the way in shifting this paradigm when he founded Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), a structured academic tutoring and character-building program with research-based curricula, certified teachers, regular evaluation, and a rigorous approach to after-school and summer programming.

Today, out-of-school-time (OST) education is one of the primary solutions for improving the academic performance of children, and BELL continues to lead the movement to increase the role of summer and after school programs. No longer viewed as a time solely for enrichment and sports (or as punitive time, in the case of summer school), high-quality OST programs are now defined by “best practices” including: Highly trained staff of professional educators; skills-based curricula; rigorous evaluation; mentorship and social development components; and, a focus on parental involvement. Earl included all of these ingredients in BELL’s programs, and it remains one of the only programs with scientific evidence of its effectiveness.

Earl’s remarkable success is a result of his seeing and addressing a void in the OST educational arena, and creating a program that was more professional, rigorous, and scalable than other efforts to fill that void. BELL’s award-winning program was named one of the “Top 25 organizations changing the world” by Fast Company and the Monitor Group.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

More For You