UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Linsey Covert, a Penn State alumna and instructor in the Penn State College of Education, had a desire to have a positive impact on children’s lives, and that eventually lead her to start a company.
While obtaining her master of education in Penn State’s counselor education program in 2006, Covert developed a framework for a K-8 school-wide program to reduce bullying through team-building, leadership development and peer intervention. The program nurtures interconnected life skills like resiliency and leadership that motivate kids to succeed. She called the program Project TEAM.
“I strongly believed there was an opportunity to use this TEAM framework to make an impact on schools,” said Covert. “If we could help students understand their responsibility to each other and teach actionable skills that made sense to kids in school and beyond, it could have a tremendous impact in our schools and society.”
After soft-piloting the curriculum as a school counselor and having positive results, Covert partnered with colleagues Richard Hazler, professor of counselor education, and Jolynn Carney, associate professor of counselor education. The team spent several years testing and refining the program until September 2016, when they formally launched TEAMology LLC with the goal of providing the program commercially to schools. Their launch coincided with a million-dollar gift from the newly established King Family Impact Endowment in the College of Education, which was created to support intervention programs and research efforts focused on social issues in elementary and secondary schools, specifically combatting bullying in schools and communities.
While Project TEAM meets state-mandated requirements for bullying prevention programs, it is much more than that. The program is a holistic school-wide program that is having an impact on all students. It’s able to take a social-emotional learning program and make it fit into a school-wide model, while providing character education, career education and 21st-century skills.
The founders believe it is a comprehensive and extremely cost-effective option and has few competitors. Not only does the program meet bullying prevention requirements, it also meets requirements for the Future Ready PA Index, which provides career readiness standards with benchmarks starting in fifth grade, and Chapter 339, a district-wide comprehensive school-counseling plan. In addition, it aligns with Positive Behavior Intervention Support, a proactive school-wide positive behavior framework to establish behavior support, as well as Response to Instruction and Intervention, a comprehensive, multi-tiered standards-aligned strategy to allow for early identification and intervention for students at academic or behavioral risk.
Most importantly, the curriculum works. Participating schools have seen up to a 75 percent reduction in behavior incidents, a 25 percent increase in teacher perception of student success, and a 30 percent increase in teacher collaboration and sense of pride. TEAMology recently developed a first-of-its-kind web platform that houses the curriculum and provides opportunities for school-to-school collaboration, which the company anticipates will lead to even better results.
TEAMology has experienced overwhelming support from the entrepreneurship ecosystem surrounding the University. The startup received assistance from the Office of Technology Management to license its intellectual property. It was selected to participate in a 10-week startup accelerator program in the TechCelerator @ State College run by Ben Franklin Technology Partners, where Project TEAM won $5,000 in the TechCelerator’s final pitch competition. In its early commercialization phase, Project TEAM received a proof-of-concept grant from the College of Education and the Fund for Innovation. Early funding stages included ongoing consultation with Smeal College of Business MBA students, who helped the company explore market opportunities.
In 2016, Ben Franklin invested $75,000 into TEAMology to support the startup’s growth. In addition, TEAMology participated in the inaugural Invent Penn State Venture and IP Conference, where it earned second place in the Penn State Tech Tournament, winning a $25,000 award based on the strength of its business concept and product. The young company also was one of the first to receive $75,000 in JumpStart program funding from Invent Penn State’s new Fund for Innovation. JumpStart is designed to move emerging Penn State technologies to commercialization.
“Penn State’s partnership has been instrumental in our success with schools and students,” said Covert, who is CEO of TEAMology. “With the support we’ve received, we are able to continue to validate our effectiveness, as well as grow and evolve our exciting product.”
The company’s founders have high expectations for the success of Project TEAM, and soon will be onboarding schools to its innovative cloud-based platform that will provide opportunities for school-to-school collaboration; assist with reporting school progress to the Commonwealth; and allow easy access to curriculum, standards and policies. The company is hosting a platform-unveiling event June 8 in Pittsburgh.
About the Fund for Innovation
A signature program of the Invent Penn State initiative, the Fund for Innovation aims to de-risk and accelerate the development of Penn State’s commercially promising research for the purposes of licensing or venture formation. The program is a collaboration between Invent Penn State, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and the academic colleges. Since its founding, the program has supported nearly 50 emerging Penn State technologies, resulting in seven new ventures.
“Penn State’s partnership has been instrumental in our success with schools and students. With the support we’ve received, we are able to continue to validate our effectiveness, as well as grow and evolve our exciting product.”
CEO of TEAMology and instructor in the Penn State College of Education