why do we invest in education?

At the Raikes Foundation, we believe that all young people should have access to rich, supportive and challenging educational experiences that affirm who they are and prepare them to thrive as adults in family, community and career.

While we’ve made progress as a country in raising high school graduation rates, race and class remain the most reliable predictors of students’ educational outcomes at a time when our school system and our nation are becoming more diverse. In fact, the post-secondary completion gaps by race and income have increased over the last several decades.

Why? The education system we have today is a relic of another era. It was designed to provide the quality educational experience every young person needs to only a privileged few, sorting and tracking young people on the basis of their sex, their race and their family’s income. And while that system is no longer overt, its legacy remains.  So how do we create an education system that serves all young people well? Results over the past two decades show us that we can’t address educational disparities simply by increasing rigor and focusing on teacher quality. Standards are important but they don’t address how and why children learn and the environments that help them thrive.

The science of learning and development is showing us the way. Many of the lessons this research teaches us reinforce what we learn when we listen to the voices of underserved students, their families and the educators who work with them. It is time to reimagine an education system that is responsive to the needs and experiences of all young people, particularly students of color and those from low-income backgrounds. This will require an acknowledgment and understanding of how schools have historically disenfranchised and underserved certain groups of students and concrete action to change the way we organize our education system to meet the needs of every young person. Investing in an equitable education system is one of the most important contributions we can make to help create a more just and economically viable society.

 

 

what we Are learning

The science of learning and development reveals that while what students learn is important, the environment adults create to support them is essential to their success as adults. When schools affirm students' identities, surround them with supportive relationships, help them explore what they value, encourage them to recognize their strengths and skills, and make the connection between what students do in school and their lives and a purpose beyond themselves, all students can learn and achieve. When students are valued and respected as individuals and are not reduced to a stereotype, they persist in school, learn deeply and become lifelong learners.

The right school environment can help enable the learning mindsets and skills that allow all students to be successful. Students have learning mindsets when they know that intelligence grows with mental effort, understand that struggling with new challenges is a normal part of the learning process, can relate lessons to their own lives, and believe that they belong and can succeed in the classroom. Learning mindsets work hand in hand with educational skills such as time management, goal setting, and knowing when to ask for help. Together, learning mindsets and skills give students the beliefs, tools and habits they need to learn more of the content they are taught, seek out new challenges and persist through them.

 


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How we work

Invest in the Science of Learning and Development. We fund research on how young people learn, develop and thrive and work to translate it into the classroom. Our investment in the Mindset Scholars Network is building the evidence and insights about how students’ psychological experience of school matters to their learning and life outcomes. In addition to funding basic science, we also work with researchers to design and test strategies and measures that teachers and schools can use to create classrooms that will foster engaging, growth-oriented, meaningful and equitable learning environments.

Redesigning Schools and Systems. We believe deep and meaningful change in our education system will only happen at the intersection of the perspectives of learning scientists, educators, young people and their communities. We support powerful networks that engage and integrate diverse perspectives to redesign schools and systems that work for all young people. The Raikes Foundation created the Building Equitable Learning Environments (BELE) Network to bring together a diverse group of organizations that are already working with schools to use the science of learning and development to improve outcomes for students of color and low-income students. We also support the College Transition Collaborative and Project for Education Research that Scales to help post-secondary institutions implement interventions and make institutional changes that will enable students to persist and complete college.  

Create the Conditions. To ensure our public education system promotes opportunity for all we need education policies and educator preparation that foster equitable learning environments. We invest to support communities, educators and policymakers as they create policies that leverage the science of learning and development to advance equity.  We also support field building efforts to advance the science of learning and development and its application in education. 

 


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  • Partner spotlight

    Transcend

    David, a student at Van Ness Elementary School (a district PK3-5th grade school in Washington, D.C.), is brilliant. He’s curious about the world around him, and always seeking new opportunities to learn. No matter the situation, he is a teambuilder, peacekeeper, entrepreneur and thought leader. Nonetheless, on all formal measures of achievement, he is ‘below level’ in reading and math and – at most schools – would be at risk for having to repeat 3rd grade.

    But what if a school figured out how to leverage David’s strengths, tapping into his non-academic skills and providing him with diverse and meaningful learning opportunities, while also addressing his academic needs? This dual focus on academic achievement and the development of the whole child is the goal of educators at Van Ness, who have partnered with Transcend, Inc. since 2016 to build and spread a powerful new school model rooted in social-emotional learning (SEL).

    Transcend supports visionary leaders like Cynthia Robinson-Rivers, Van Ness’s principal, and vibrant school communities with research and development (R&D) capacity that helps them innovate, pilot and spread breakthrough school models. Since its launch in July 2015 by Jeff Wetzler and Aylon Samouha, Transcend’s work has been built on five key pillars: 

    • It is time to reimagine school as we know it.
    • Communities must be in the driver’s seat.
    • Targeted supports can help design teams advance progress.
    • Access to models that others have developed gives communities more options.
    • Innovation can either perpetuate or disrupt inequity – Transcend believes the latter.

    Guided by these core beliefs, Transcend is working to build equitable learning environments that prioritize personalized learning, meaningful teacher and student experiences, cultural responsivity and parent engagement, among other factors, in two ways. First, by supporting communities’ efforts to redesign their school systems and connecting them with innovative models and structured processes for implementing them. And second, by partnering directly with schools to build and spread “catalytic models” that offer communities a diverse range of relevant, high-quality school design options they can adopt and adapt to meet the unique needs of their student population.

    Transcend doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to school redesign, which is why they’re creating a menu of approaches that all kinds of schools and communities can adapt to fit their needs. “We touch every kind of community: charter, urban, rural, district, magnet schools,” said Jeff Wetzler, Co-Founder of Transcend. “We are pushing boundaries across pre-k-12, across the country, both in school and out of school.”

    For the past three years, Transcend has partnered with Valor Collegiate Academies, a network of public charter middle schools in Nashville, Tennessee, whose students rank in the top 2% in the state in growth and achievement. Valor uses SEL as a foundation for its school community. The network pioneered a model called “Compass,” which is meant to guide every member of the school, including staff members, through their own adaptive developmental process. Early in the partnership, Transcend’s support helped Valor to run a pilot to better understand exactly how and to what extent “Compass” was benefitting kids, helping Valor refine its model.

    “The level of intimacy and emotional intelligence that gets engaged and is developed at Valor is extraordinary,” said Wetzler. “Academics of the school are top-notch and the relationship between the two is special.” 

    Today, Transcend is helping Valor to spread its “Circle” discussion and community-building protocol – in which students and teachers gather in small groups once a week for an open dialogue about their feelings, experiences, and relationships – to 50+ schools across the US.

    Van Ness and Transcend’s partnership began shortly after the school opened, when Principal Robinson-Rivers and others participated in a collaborative 10-month program that helps schools develop and sharpen their innovative ideas and center the community’s strengths and aspirations through empathy work. When Van Ness teachers noticed that children were not coming into school ready to learn, they evolved their school model to help students get into a learning mindset first thing. Van Ness now begins every day with “Strong Start,” a morning routine that helps students get into an executive functioning state (which in turn allows them to focus and learn). Encouragingly, other schools in DC have taken notice; this fall, with support from the Van Ness and Transcend’s R&D team, five other district elementary schools are starting to pilot this approach and other aspects of Van Ness’s SEL model in their own classrooms.

    “When we help schools create a proof of concept in their own building, it can really catch like wildfire and incentivize transformation across the field,” said Dr. Jennifer Charlot, a partner who leads research and development for Transcend. 

    Even with “Strong Start,” Van Ness noticed that some students lost their focus after the morning. Transcend is now helping Van Ness conduct research and development around this model to make it even more effective.

    Funding from the Raikes Foundation has helped Transcend strengthen the way they think about research and development as a whole, connecting them to others in the field who do improvement work through the Building Equitable Learning Environments (BELE) Network and other channels. This is helping Transcend fine tune their research process with schools so they can share it with the field in the coming years.

    “We believe in the importance of evidence-based research that connects research and practice,” said Charlot. “We’re constantly working to develop and refine the best tools possible to help visionaries redesign their schools and classrooms, realize their most ambitious dreams and reimagine education.”  

     


    Read More

    Partner spotlight

    Transcend

    David, a student at Van Ness Elementary School (a district PK3-5th grade school in Washington, D.C.), is brilliant. He’s curious about the world around him, and always seeking new opportunities to learn. No matter the situation, he is a teambuilder, peacekeeper, entrepreneur and thought leader. Nonetheless, on all formal measures of achievement, he is ‘below level’ in reading and math and – at most schools – would be at risk for having to repeat 3rd grade.

    But what if a school figured out how to leverage David’s strengths, tapping into his non-academic skills and providing him with diverse and meaningful learning opportunities, while also addressing his academic needs? This dual focus on academic achievement and the development of the whole child is the goal of educators at Van Ness, who have partnered with Transcend, Inc. since 2016 to build and spread a powerful new school model rooted in social-emotional learning (SEL).

    Transcend supports visionary leaders like Cynthia Robinson-Rivers, Van Ness’s principal, and vibrant school communities with research and development (R&D) capacity that helps them innovate, pilot and spread breakthrough school models. Since its launch in July 2015 by Jeff Wetzler and Aylon Samouha, Transcend’s work has been built on five key pillars: 

    • It is time to reimagine school as we know it.
    • Communities must be in the driver’s seat.
    • Targeted supports can help design teams advance progress.
    • Access to models that others have developed gives communities more options.
    • Innovation can either perpetuate or disrupt inequity – Transcend believes the latter.

    Guided by these core beliefs, Transcend is working to build equitable learning environments that prioritize personalized learning, meaningful teacher and student experiences, cultural responsivity and parent engagement, among other factors, in two ways. First, by supporting communities’ efforts to redesign their school systems and connecting them with innovative models and structured processes for implementing them. And second, by partnering directly with schools to build and spread “catalytic models” that offer communities a diverse range of relevant, high-quality school design options they can adopt and adapt to meet the unique needs of their student population.

    Transcend doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to school redesign, which is why they’re creating a menu of approaches that all kinds of schools and communities can adapt to fit their needs. “We touch every kind of community: charter, urban, rural, district, magnet schools,” said Jeff Wetzler, Co-Founder of Transcend. “We are pushing boundaries across pre-k-12, across the country, both in school and out of school.”

    For the past three years, Transcend has partnered with Valor Collegiate Academies, a network of public charter middle schools in Nashville, Tennessee, whose students rank in the top 2% in the state in growth and achievement. Valor uses SEL as a foundation for its school community. The network pioneered a model called “Compass,” which is meant to guide every member of the school, including staff members, through their own adaptive developmental process. Early in the partnership, Transcend’s support helped Valor to run a pilot to better understand exactly how and to what extent “Compass” was benefitting kids, helping Valor refine its model.

    “The level of intimacy and emotional intelligence that gets engaged and is developed at Valor is extraordinary,” said Wetzler. “Academics of the school are top-notch and the relationship between the two is special.” 

    Today, Transcend is helping Valor to spread its “Circle” discussion and community-building protocol – in which students and teachers gather in small groups once a week for an open dialogue about their feelings, experiences, and relationships – to 50+ schools across the US.

    Van Ness and Transcend’s partnership began shortly after the school opened, when Principal Robinson-Rivers and others participated in a collaborative 10-month program that helps schools develop and sharpen their innovative ideas and center the community’s strengths and aspirations through empathy work. When Van Ness teachers noticed that children were not coming into school ready to learn, they evolved their school model to help students get into a learning mindset first thing. Van Ness now begins every day with “Strong Start,” a morning routine that helps students get into an executive functioning state (which in turn allows them to focus and learn). Encouragingly, other schools in DC have taken notice; this fall, with support from the Van Ness and Transcend’s R&D team, five other district elementary schools are starting to pilot this approach and other aspects of Van Ness’s SEL model in their own classrooms.

    “When we help schools create a proof of concept in their own building, it can really catch like wildfire and incentivize transformation across the field,” said Dr. Jennifer Charlot, a partner who leads research and development for Transcend. 

    Even with “Strong Start,” Van Ness noticed that some students lost their focus after the morning. Transcend is now helping Van Ness conduct research and development around this model to make it even more effective.

    Funding from the Raikes Foundation has helped Transcend strengthen the way they think about research and development as a whole, connecting them to others in the field who do improvement work through the Building Equitable Learning Environments (BELE) Network and other channels. This is helping Transcend fine tune their research process with schools so they can share it with the field in the coming years.

    “We believe in the importance of evidence-based research that connects research and practice,” said Charlot. “We’re constantly working to develop and refine the best tools possible to help visionaries redesign their schools and classrooms, realize their most ambitious dreams and reimagine education.”  

     


    Read More

The sense of belonging that adults and peers create is essential to young people’s success. Belonging matters.

– Jeff Raikes, Co-Founder, Raikes Foundation

Illustrative Grants

National Equity Project

This grant supports the National Equity Project in managing and providing technical assistance to the Building Equitable Learning Environments (BELE) Network. The BELE Network is a group of nonprofit school support organizations and learning partners working to dramatically narrow opportunity and achievement gaps for students of color.

College Transition Collaborative

This grant provides support for the College Transition Collaborative to partner with colleges and universities to develop scientifically-proven, psychologically-informed approaches to placing student experience at the center of schools’ efforts to increase student engagement, retention, and completion.

Equal Opportunity Schools

Through the BELE Network, this grant supports the application of learning mindset research to increase the participation of low-income students and students of color in high school Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.

Learning Policy Institute

This grant supports the Learning Policy Institute’s synthesis of research and policy recommendations around equitable school funding in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Projects for Education Research that Scales (PERTS)

As a Learning Partner within the BELE Network, PERTS supports nonprofit school support organizations with quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, with the goal of ensuring students have access to equitable learning environments.

Mindset Scholars Network

This grant supports interdisciplinary research to advance understanding of learning mindsets that improve student outcomes and expand educational opportunity.