Press Releases | May 15, 2014

Longtime district educator awarded The Mind Trust’s Education Entrepreneur Fellowship

INDIANAPOLIS -A Pike Township principal who is a national award-winning educator will launch a Spanish-language immersion public charter school in Indianapolis through The Mind Trust’s prestigious Education Entrepreneur Fellowship.

Mariama Carson is the eighth recipient of the Education Entrepreneur Fellowship since The Mind Trust launched the program in 2008. Through the two-year fellowship, talented education leaders receive a full salary, benefits, and a startup stipend ($250,000 in total) so they have the necessary time and support to launch break-the-mold initiatives addressing key education challenges in Indianapolis. More than 3,600 applicants hailing from 48 states and 36 countries have applied for the fellowship since its start.

Carson, a former classroom teacher, has received other honors during her 17-year career in education, including the $25,000 Milken Educator Award, known nationally as the "Oscar" of teaching. In 2013, she also received United Way of Central Indiana’s Student Success Grant, securing more than $242,000 to implement innovative practices school-wide to enhance student learning. Carson is The Mind Trust’s first Indianapolis-based Education Entrepreneur Fellow and the first fellow to start a charter school.

"My life’s calling is helping all students to reach their innate potential, and I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to do that as a teacher and school leader," said Carson, who is currently the principal at Snacks Crossing Elementary School in Pike Township. "The Education Entrepreneur Fellowship will give me the opportunity to create an outstanding academic experience for some of our city’s most underserved students and use my passion for educating students on a greater scale."

Carson’s charter school will serve primarily economically disadvantaged students in pre-K through eighth grades. Students will receive instruction in both Spanish and English throughout the day and will develop strong critical thinking skills through a curriculum that engages their creativity. Teachers will closely monitor student performance to ensure those who need help receive academic support and those who excel are engaged and challenged.

The school will incorporate key elements of Carson’s successful approach to education. As a classroom teacher, she found compelling ways to engage students in learning by focusing on the multiple ways students learn and differentiating instruction to push all students academically.
As a school leader, she has leveraged her success in the classroom to impact students on a larger scale. For example, Carson worked with her staff and parents to implement daily reading intervention to provide support for students who struggle most.

"The measure of a strong school is how educators support students with the greatest needs and how we hold ourselves accountable to the success of these students," Carson said.

As principal at Snacks Crossing, where 72 percent of students receive free- or reduced-price lunch, Carson has transformed the instructional culture to be centered on data based decisions and student outcomes. From 2008-09, the year before Carson began as principal to the 2012-13 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, the percentage of Snacks Crossing students passing both math and English sections of ISTEP+ tests has jumped by 22 points, and the school’s state letter-grade rating has risen from a D to a B.

"We are so fortunate that Mariama Carson is using her exceptional talent and passion for educating students to improve the lives of Indianapolis’ children – particularly those from challenging circumstances," said David Harris, Founder and CEO of The Mind Trust. "The school Carson will launch through the support of our Education Entrepreneur Fellowship will be life-changing for students and a great asset for our community."

The Mind Trust’s seven other Education Entrepreneur Fellows have received national recognition for their work, which has been featured in several publications, including TIME Magazine, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, and Essence Magazine. Through their fellowships, they have started initiatives that engage and retain great teachers; help low-income students to advance, rather than fall behind, during the summer months; and provide critical support to help foster children achieve better educational outcomes, among others.

Carson was selected through a months-long application process that involved an extensive written application, two rounds of written document review, and two rounds of interviews with The Mind Trust’s team members and local and national experts.

"We were thoroughly impressed by Carson’s ability to articulate a clear and compelling vision for her school, and based on her impressive experience and track record of success, she is well equipped to execute on that vision," said Sekou Biddle, Vice President of Advocacy for UNCF and one of the national judges for Carson’s final interview. "This fellowship award is truly a win for Indianapolis."

Carson will begin as an Education Entrepreneur Fellow in August 2014 and plans to launch her school in 2016.

To view clips of Carson in the classroom, watch this video that was compiled when she won the Milken Educator Award: