Educational Institutions

Touchstones Discussion Project, Inc.

  • Annapolis, MD
  • www.touchstones.org

Mission Statement

Touchstones builds critical thinking, communication, and leadership skills through respectful and engaged discussion-based programs.

Main Programs

  1. Program 1
  2. School Programs
  3. Executive Leadership
  4. Correctional Facilities
  5. Colleges & Universities
  6. Adult Continuing Education
Service Areas

Self-reported

International

USA; Canada; Amman, Jordan; Myanmar; Haiti; Tanzania; China; Brazil; South Africa;

ruling year

1997

Executive Director since 2009

Self-reported

Ms. Stefanie Takacs

Co-Founder & President since 1984

Self-reported

Mr. Howard Zeiderman

Keywords

Self-reported

Education, collaborative discussion, Educational Services, Schools, seminar, humanities, great books, classics, liberal arts, reading, critical thinking. leaders, communication, leadership skills

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Also Known As

Touchstones

EIN

52-2009938

Physical Address

143 Log Canoe Circle

Stevensville, MD 21666

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Elementary, Secondary Ed (B20)

Higher Education Institutions (B40)

Public, Society Benefit - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (W99)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Overview

Self-reported by organization

In every Touchstones lesson, students learn to teach themselves and each other, work with all members of their class, examine problems, craft solutions cooperatively, and become invested in their education. Using Touchstones' detailed and prescriptive lesson plans, teachers guide students to identify who can help them, and how they can assist others. These are the tools that all students must have for success - in school, in life, and in work - in the 21st century and beyond. The change in student performance in Touchstones programs is observable and quantifiable. Academic gains include improved reading comprehension, literacy, and fluency. Students also demonstrate strengthened socio-behavioral skills through respectful teamwork, greater cooperation with teachers and other adults and increased self-discipline. Schools using Touchstones report more positive, less oppositional learning environments and fewer incidents of bullying.

Programs

Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

1. Public, Private, and Charter Schools: Critical thinking, problem-solving, and cooperative learning through weekly discussions of provided, classical texts. Used in language arts, math, science, and social studies. Grades three through twelve. Results: increase scores on standardized tests. 2. Colleges and Universities: Used in freshman orientation to improve study skills, think critically, form opinions, and express them clearly in group settings. Faculty training in discussion-based learning. 3. Executives and Managers: Improve productivity through regular small group meetings using provided, classical texts. Participants learn to listen effectively, appreciate diverse opinions, and lead groups. 4. Prison Schools: Touchstones prepares inmates for twenty-first century jobs and cooperative living. Results: infraction rates decrease, scores on GED increase, and leaders emerge to take responsibility for teaching others. 5. Senior Citizens: Used by seniors in retirement communities or senior centers in weekly discussion sessions. Reduces isolation, increases outside activity levels, and builds self-worth.

Category

Population(s) Served

Budget

Program 2

School Programs

Teachers who use Touchstones programs develop their classroom management skills, guide and empower students through direct engagement, differentiate instruction based on individual students’ strengths and challenges, and become leaders among educators. To foster optimal implementations and outcomes, Touchstones provides professional development training that teaches educators the Touchstones discussion method through direct experience. Touchstones’ interactive workshops at three levels (Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced) help teachers to learn strategies for discussion leadership, to examine and devise solutions to issues in discussion dynamics, to practice associated discussion activities central to the Touchstones method, to tailor lessons to their students’ needs, to measure student progress over time, and to continue their own development as discussion leaders and classroom managers. In-class coaching provides additional and tailored guidance to support continued development in instructional and leadership capacities.

Students in Touchstones programming in grades 1 through 12 engage in Touchstones discussions one hour per week. They develop the skills essential for success in the emerging global and dynamic 21st century world by learning systematically to question, listen, and cooperate through respectful discussion. In Touchstones, they share exploration of texts and issues central to civil society and examine their roles as citizens. They evaluate their own work, self-correct unproductive behaviors, and set goals collectively for improved discussion outcomes. These essential skills transfer to many dimensions of academic settings and extend outside of school. Academically rigorous yet accessible to all, Touchstones’ school programs, after-school programs, and workforce development programs help students of all academic abilities and backgrounds become active collaborators in their own learning. Touchstones materials are used in programs for advanced learners, ESL and ELL students, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, AVID elective and critical reading, students with special needs, and in inclusive classrooms. Touchstones school programs are in more than 39 countries and have been translated into Arabic, Burmese, French, Haitian Kreyòl, and Spanish. More than two million students of all ages have used Touchstones programs since the organization was founded in 1984.

Category

Education

Population(s) Served

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)

Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)

Budget

$211,468

Program 3

Executive Leadership

Executives and managers in government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, businesses of all sizes, and private groups gain a better sense of teamwork through custom Touchstones programs and collaborative discussions. Executives systematically improve their abilities to access, assess, and utilize diverse perspectives and collective knowledge in problem-solving. At the same time, the Touchstones format helps them to grow their leadership capacity, build cohesive teams, and improve their organizational management.

Category

Community, Business & Industry

Population(s) Served

Adults

Budget

$34,328

Program 4

Correctional Facilities

Through Touchstones programs in correctional institutions, juvenile and adult detention centers, and jails, incarcerated participants reflect on their values and choices and take greater responsibility for their actions. Touchstones is actively used to strengthen socio-behavioral in a number of correctional centers in Maryland, Virginia, and California. Touchstones discussions afford prisoners the opportunity to experience efficacy in their own thinking and empower them through self-respect and respect for others. In Touchstones, participants learn essential socio-behavioral, cognitive, and meta-cognitive skills, which they employ to improve their lives in prison and to achieve and sustain productive lives after release. Each year, Touchstones donates hundreds of staff hours to run programs with the incarcerated and their families in Maryland prisons, the majority of whom are from minority households living below poverty level.

Category

Public, Society Benefit

Population(s) Served

Offenders/Ex-offenders

Military/Veterans

Budget

$19,745

Program 5

Colleges & Universities

Post-secondary students learn to examine, formulate, and articulate their ideas through reading, speaking, and listening in Touchstones’ collaborative seminars. They tackle challenging issues and academic concepts and learn to work independently and in teams. College students in Touchstones programs overcome the passivity that generally characterizes pre-college learning. They learn to evaluate and refine their own work and skills and take initiative in developing themselves as reflective and life-long learners and leaders in their communities. Touchstones curricula strengthen a range of essential skills that students in post-secondary programs must possess for success in rigorous academic environments and the workplace. Touchstones programming is used in U.S. college bridge programs, ELL and ESL courses, First-Year Experience courses, freshman orientation programs, teacher education courses, honors leadership seminars, and faculty & administration professional development.

Category

Education

Population(s) Served

Adults

Budget

$14,572

Program 6

Adult Continuing Education

Touchstones discussions provide a welcoming and friendly environment in which senior citizens stay intellectually and socially active. As a Touchstones group, seniors explore new ideas and perspectives as presented by their peers. They develop community and friendships within the program and stay connected to the world. Drawing from their own experiences, the seniors participate in lively and enriching discussions that continue well after the sessions end, providing access to continued, meaningful, and authentic engagement with others.

Category

Education

Population(s) Served

Aging/Elderly/Senior Citizens

General Public/Unspecified

Budget

$1,000

Results

Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one. These quantitative program results are self-reported by the organization, illustrating their committment to transparency, learning, and interest in helping the whole sector learn and grow.

1. Number of hours of coaching

Target Population
Children and youth (0-19 years), K-12 (5-19 years)

Connected to a Program?
School Programs
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric

2. Number of participants engaged in programs

Target Population
Children and youth (0-19 years)

Connected to a Program?
School Programs
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric
This represents minimally estimated new program participants around the globe for the year.

3. Number of participants attending course/session/workshop

Target Population
Children and youth (0-19 years), K-12 (5-19 years)

Connected to a Program?
School Programs
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric

Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    For 30 years, Touchstones' primary goal has been to address gaps in education in K-12 schools by teaching educators and students to use structured dialogue to activate and enliven their thinking and build cooperation and leadership.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    Touchstones offers a fully developed program curricula, which are delivered though over 60 titles in print, and in six languages. An estimated 380,000 Touchstones instructional volumes are in circulation. To complement this and to ensure program fidelity, Touchstones uses a teach-the-teacher approach to prepare discussion leaders to implement successful Touchstones programs.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    As Touchstones enters it fourth decade, it brings with it experience and expertise from 30 plus years of systematic program development, piloting, refinement, and increasingly broad implementation and application settings. In recent years, Touchstones organizational structure and business systems have been redesigned so as to more efficiently and effectively support core business while purposefully advancing the mission.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    Progress will be made to advance the organization's mission by systematically growing the program's reach to more students and more schools, significantly increasing earned income through book sales and professional development contracts and doubling the total charitable contributions received for program support. A comprehensive Five-Year Strategic Plan was initiated in 2014 to serve as the road map (available upon request) for this progress and also includes a leadership succession plan.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    In 2014, Touchstones provided free in-service professional development for 94 teachers valued at $14,742 and more than $20,000 in free Touchstones volumes. The organization allocated $22,143 of earned income for work in under-served public schools. Added 13,000 books in circulation, reaching an estimated 30,000 new students. Touchstones launched a 5-year, $1.6 million "Campaign for the Touchstones Revolution in Education" to expand our programming and engage more than 90,000 new students each each.
Service Areas

Self-reported

International

USA; Canada; Amman, Jordan; Myanmar; Haiti; Tanzania; China; Brazil; South Africa;

Social Media

Affiliations + Memberships

Association of Fundraising Professionals - Member

American Psychological Association

Videos

External Reviews

Source: greatnonprofits.org

The review section is powered by Great Nonprofits

Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

TOUCHSTONES DISCUSSION PROJECT INC
Fiscal year: Jan 01-Dec 31

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Touchstones Discussion Project, Inc.

Leadership

NEED MORE INFO ON THIS NONPROFIT?

Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2015, 2014 and 2014
  • Board Chair, Board Co-Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
Need the ability to download nonprofit data and more advanced search options? Consider a Premium or Pro Search subscription.

Executive Director

Ms. Stefanie Takacs

Co-Founder & President

Mr. Howard Zeiderman

BIO

Stefanie joined Touchstones first as a volunteer in 2004 and then as Executive Director in 2009. She has a BA from St. John's College and an MS in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in education evaluation from Fordham University in New York City. For Stefanie, joining the Touchstones staff was a natural progression in her professional development, which includes content development and extensive management experience in educational publishing, as well as program, fundraising, and organizational management in the non-profit sector. Prior to joining Touchstones, Stefanie was the Director of Development at St. John's College; the Assistant Director of Abraham House, an alternative to incarceration program in the South Bronx; the Director of Content Development for the Princeton Review K-12 Services Division; Managing Editor for the Princeton Review K-12 Services Division; and Prevention and Outreach Programmer for the New Milford Youth Agency.

Stefanie is a member of the APA, AFP, and ASCD and is the published author of five titles on First Peoples for Children's Press (Scholastic): The Maya, The Inca, The Nez Perce, The Iroquios, and The Seminole. She is also the author of Touchstones middle grades volume Courage to Care: Building Community through Service, co-author of Touchstones 'Alif: Readings from the Arab Tradition, and the primary editor for the Touchstones Discussion Project.

STATEMENT FROM THE Executive Director

"For the last three decades, Touchstones has piloted, refined, and perfected its materials and approach to enable students of all cultures, backgrounds, and skill and age levels to flourish in the evolving world. Participants, ranging from elementary and secondary schools to colleges, in 38 countries and through six languages, have transformed their passivity into an engaged personal and professional creativity. They have found their voices, learned to think for themselves as individuals and explore collaboratively, and shared leadership and responsibility for themselves and their communities as students and citizens.

Touchstones is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Public support and helpful feedback of teachers who use Touchstones contribute to making the programs and materials as effective as they are. On behalf of Touchstones staff and the Board of Directors, thank you for your interest.

Sincerely,
Howard Zeiderman
Co-Founder & President"

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Gregg Steinberg

Growcentia, Inc

Term: Dec 2015 -

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices. Self-reported by organization

Yes

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Yes

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Yes

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Yes

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

No

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


ORGANIZATIONAL DEMOGRAPHICS

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

Gender
This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Volunteers.
Race & Ethnicity
This organization reports that it does not collect this information.
Sexual Orientation

This organization reports that it does not collect this information.

Disability

This organization reports that it does not collect this information.

Diversity Strategies
No
We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
No
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
No
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
No
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
No
We have a diversity committee in place
No
We have a diversity manager in place
Yes
We have a diversity plan
Yes
We use other methods to support diversity