why do we invest in education?

All young people deserve rich, supportive and challenging educational experiences that affirm who they are and prepare them to thrive as adults in family, community and career.

Our education system, however, was designed for a previous generation when fewer careers required college degrees, the student population was far less diverse, and antiquated, destructive ideas about race, indigenous people, gender and disability status shaped perceptions of whether a student could succeed and which communities deserved good schools.

For the success of our communities, democracy and economy, that must change. Fortunately, young people and educators across diverse communities are working to redesign our education system for the world today. The Raikes Foundation is eager to support their efforts as we strive for a more equitable future for American education.

Our Strategy 

We believe there are three pillars to transforming public education in America as we know it:

Centering Equity in Everything We Do

Along with our partners, we envision an equitable education system where race, class, gender, language and ability-status no longer predict a student’s chance of graduating from high school, being suspended, or completing a post-secondary degree. To achieve educational equity, we need ambitious, universal goals to prepare every child for our fast-changing world and targeted strategies that acknowledge all young people do not have the same access to opportunity.

Leveraging the Science of Learning and Development

The science of learning and development reveals that while what students learn is important, designing learning environments based on how learning happens is essential to their success. When schools affirm and nurture students' identities, surround them with supportive relationships, help them explore their personal values, and make the connection between what students do in school and a purpose beyond themselves, all students can learn.

Building Systems Equipped to Evolve

Our schools were not designed to achieve ambitious goals for all students’ educational outcomes, adapt to the rapidly changing needs of our society, or integrate new and emerging research that sheds light on how students learn and develop. We must build schools that are responsive to the needs of students and empower educators to continuously identify what’s working for students to improve educational experiences for all.


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Our Work

Here’s how we're working to design an education system that supports all students to succeed.

Redesigning Schools and Systems

  • The path toward educational equity must be inclusive, bringing together diverse perspectives from educators, learning and development experts, young people and their communities to inform meaningful change. That’s why we’re supporting initiatives like the BELE Network and the Student Experience Project (SEP) to create a more equitable path forward for our students.
  • The Building Equitable Learning Environments (BELE) Network connects leaders, thinkers and innovators in research, practice and philanthropy to expand high-quality learning opportunities for students who have been historically underserved. Recognizing the complexity of creating learning practices that are responsive to all young people, its diverse members are taking a range of approaches to create learning environments that meet all students’ needs.
  • The Student Experience Project (SEP) is a network of post-secondary institutions and researchers working together to ensure students from all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging in college and are able to successfully complete their post-secondary degree.

Creating Conditions for Change

  • To create an education system that ensures equitable opportunity for all, we need to advance policies and encourage educators to adopt culturally-responsive practices that support students’ success in the classroom and beyond.
  • The Raikes Foundation is convening researchers, legislators, advocates, educators, and funders across the field to correct longstanding inequities in school finance and resources at the state and local levels.
  • We also support efforts to empower policymakers and advocates to learn more about the science of learning and development to lead meaningful change in our education system at the state and local levels.

Investing in the Science of Learning and Development

  • The Raikes Foundation funds research on how young people learn, develop and thrive to empower educators to adopt more equitable practices in the classroom.
  • The Mindset Scholars Network (MSN) – a group of nearly 30 researchers from an array of disciplines – is conducting research to better understand how learning mindsets can improve student outcomes and expand educational opportunity. MSN is designing and testing strategies and measures to help schools foster engaging, inclusive growth-oriented learning environments.

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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.