COVID-19 has disrupted lives across the globe, affecting the lives and livelihood of millions of people, many of them students and families. Arguably no one area has been as impacted as education, which touches over 70 million children in the U.S. alone. School closures and the quick shift to remote learning have upended what many of us think of as “school,” leading to new challenges and new opportunities.

As education grantmakers, we’ve had a bird’s eye view of how schools, educators, and districts are responding to the crisis. Our grantees support families both in- and out-of-school, from birth to graduation and everywhere in between. They help new parents support their children’s language skills, provide educators a way to identify high-quality curricula, support the development of student-centered learning environments, and bring high-quality afterschool STEM programs to children across the country. All of this has been impacted, in one way or another.

Extraordinary circumstances call for unique action.

In an effort to be as responsive as possible to the needs of our grantees, our Foundation has spent the past several weeks approving a series of “rapid response” grants across four categories: digitizing services, growth and expansion, educational materials, and research. As of today, we have approved a total of $2.6 million in grant funding specific to our grantees’ COVID-19 efforts. While this is not the way we usually operate, we realize that extraordinary circumstances call for unique action.

This funding is in addition to the funds we’ve committed to Robin Hood’s Relief Fund to support under-resourced and vulnerable New Yorkers, as well as our commitment to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, which is supporting COVID-19 relief efforts throughout the state. 

Digitizing Services

$825,000 for organizations digitizing formerly in-person services

  • LENA Foundation$105,000 for LENA to digitize LENA Start, an evidence-based group program for families that uses regular feedback from LENA technology to help increase interactive talk between adults and young children. 
  • Public Impact$100,000 for Public Impact to move 360+ Opportunity Culture schools online and provide teachers with materials and services that support remote learning and prevent a lost year of student learning growth. Funding will support preparing materials and services for new Opportunity Culture schools, as well as supporting current school partners.
  • Teaching Lab: $100,000 over 6 months to digitize teacher professional learning content, allowing Teaching Lab to deliver educator professional learning online and support teachers while teaching students virtually and planning for a return to their classrooms. 
  • FIRST$100,000 for the FIRST at Home project, focused on continuing to engage the FIRST global community in meaningful educational activities that both increase STEM skills and tie back to FIRST Core Values.  
  • Springboard Collaborative$75,000 to support teachers and low-income families with Springboard digital resources and virtual training to help kids read on grade level. This includes building out newly launched family and teacher resource portals including weekly lesson plans and weekly Facebook Live family workshops, making content freely available to a larger audience, and developing a plan to move summer learning programming online.
  • Family Connects$75,000 to support Family Connects sites and staff to provide telehealth home-visits for families and newborns. Family Connects provides home visits three weeks after the birth of a child. 
  • Instruction Partners$75,000 to build out Instruction Partners’ Leadership Toolkit, which has downloadable workbooks that teams can adapt and work in directly to launch and manage distance learning in schools.
  • Leading Educators$75,000 to build technological capacity to enhance Leading Educators’ ability to deliver programming virtually. Through virtual supports, Leading Educators is in the process of planning for recovery and reentry with school partners across approximately 10 school systems between now and April 2021. 
  • Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors (AP/OD)$50,000 for the digitization and virtualization of the AP/OD content, which includes offering virtual Facebook Live mini sessions in Spanish and English using the AP/OD curriculum, providing mini-session content, activities, and worksheets for parents on the website, and creating a social media video series.
  • Saga Education$25,000 to provide Saga’s virtual math tutoring to up to 350 students in three cities (Chicago, NYC, and DC). This covers five sessions per student per week at 50 minutes per session from now until the end of the school year in June.
  • ExpandEd$25,000 to support ExpandEd in digitizing their services and training to ensure schools and their community-based partners are equipped to continue supporting remote learning in literacy, STEM, work-based learning, and other critical areas during the spring and through summer. 
  • Zeno$20,000 to support Zeno’s efforts to expand the digital availability of existing early math programming, increasing the opportunities for families of color in low-income communities and educators to access high-quality early math resources.

Growth & Expansion

$1,400,000 for organizations experiencing increased growth and demand due to COVID-19

  • UPSTART$500,000 to help UPSTART bring its expedited K-readiness learning program to 15,000 children this summer. The newly developed Waterford Upstart Summer Learning Path aims to support the students and families who have been affected by COVID-19 either through personal economic hardship or due to the indefinite closure of many Pre-K and Head Start options. By adapting UPSTART’s daily usage model from 15 minutes to 25 minutes a day, children will reach UPSTART’s recommended 1,500-minute threshold over the course of 13 weeks, increasing their literacy skills and readiness for Kindergarten.
  • MIND Research Institute / ST Math$500,000 to support the expansion and improvement of ST Math’s research-based digital math curriculum to over 1 million new at-home users. Since March, ST Math has provided free access to its programming for any K-8 student, parent, or school in the U.S., which has led to a 45% increase in users.
  • Khan Academy$250,000 to support Khan Academy as they experience a 250% increase in traffic and a 6x increase in teacher and student registrations. The rapid response support helps fund the creation of new content and resources by the school and teacher support team, hosting costs associated with increased usage, and quick responses for all students, parents, and teachers who submit user support requests.
  • Bright By Three$150,000 to support scaling Bright by Text while offering it for free to organizations and families through 2020. Bright By Three expects to reach more parents and caregivers with timely and relevant resources, deliver 1-2 program messages per week to subscribers nationwide providing stay-at-home activities or mental and physical wellness guidance, and train and assist partners to create community messages for COVID-19, including local health department information, online learning resources, community services (diapers, meals, and housing), and digital attractions (zoos, museums, etc.) and activities to do at home.

Educational Materials

$300,000 for the distribution of educational materials that allow for learning continuity 

  •$300,000 to support DonorsChoose Keep Kids Learning, where vetted teachers order and distribute learning resources directly to their students through $1,000 e-gift cards on the platform. All donations go to teachers at schools serving low-income communities where most students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. $200,000 of the funding is specifically set aside to cover all the projects in New Jersey.


$84,000 for research that has commenced or been delayed due to COVID-19

  • National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)$60,000 to the NIEER to fund a nationally representative survey of parents of children ages three to five to inform immediate and long-term policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis. The survey aims to describe home learning activities broadly defined and to investigate what preschool programs are doing to support learning when classrooms are closed.
  • TNTP$24,000 to extend TNTP’s Rigor, Relevance, and Responsiveness (R3) research project collection through the next school year, to compensate teachers for the additional time in the study. In response to the recent school closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak, TNTP coaches are maintaining relationships with their teachers and are working to support them as they set up virtual learning for their students.

We are incredibly proud to support the work of the grantees above, as well as all of the grantees in our portfolio who are doing all they can during this time to ensure that children keep learning regardless of where that learning occurs.