Below is a roundup highlighting some of the impactful work our grantees and Foundation staff accomplished in May 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect many of our grantees and those they serve. You can learn more about how our Foundation is responding through some of the stories below and by reading this post.

Helping kids get K-ready: Waterford UPSTART

Image via Waterford UPSTART

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many children preparing to enter kindergarten this fall are at home without access to early education programs, like Pre-K. 

To ensure that children are ready for their first day of school, Waterford Upstart launched its Summer Learning Path program for students in Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Utah. The program, funded by Overdeck Family Foundation, The Studio @ Blue Meridian, and The Valhalla Charitable Foundation, aims to provide learning opportunities to children and families affected by COVID-19 either through economic hardship or the closure of the usually available Pre-K or Head Start options.

“It’s really designed for families who’ve lost access to summer learning, families who’ve been laid off or are unemployed as a result of the pandemic, families concerned about summer learning loss, which is already a problem, and families who want that extra boost to make sure their children are ready for the first day of school,” said Kimberly Krupa, executive director of Achieve Escambia in Florida. is a national early education nonprofit with a mission to achieve universal literacy through access, equity, and parent empowerment. The entire Waterford Upstart summer program, including educational songs, activities, and curriculum, will be provided online, with additional virtual coaching and support for parents. The condensed summer program is used for 25 minutes a day, five days a week.

Waterford UPSTART is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Examining the effects of COVID-19 on teachers: RAND Corporation

COVID-19 and the State of K–12 Schools, a RAND Corporation report released last month, provides information about the sample, survey instrument, and results from the American Educator Panels’ (AEP) COVID-19 surveys administered to principals and teachers this spring. The AEP asked teachers and administrators about how they navigated the challenges created by COVID-19, including the management of school closures and distance learning. 

A more detailed analysis from RAND is expected, as well as further discussion about the implications of these findings. You can find more information here.

RAND Corporation is a grantee in the Innovative Schools portfolio.

Engaging parents in learning: Springboard Collaborative

Photo via NY Daily News

Springboard Collaborative Founder & CEO Alejandro Gibes de Gac penned an op-ed for the NY Daily News arguing that, for distance learning to succeed, we cannot recreate the in-classroom experience at home. Instead, we need to enlist and equip parents to support their children’s learning.

“Even with a tablet in the hands of every low-income student in America, the achievement gap wouldn’t magically shrink. The only way to prevent COVID-19 from deepening inequality for an entire generation is to equip families to support learning at home,” writes Gibes de Gac. “Approximately one-third of the families that Springboard Collaborative serves cannot read the book their child is holding, because of either literacy or language barrier. Nevertheless, these parents help their children make a three-month reading gain in just five weeks. How? By engaging their kids in dialogue, asking questions before, during, and after reading. An analysis of nearly 10 million students found that 15 minutes seemed to be the ‘magic number’ for substantially positive reading achievement.”

While closing the digital divide is critical, it’s not a panacea. In a follow-up interview for Forbes, Gibes de Gac shares practical advice for educators to make meaningful parental engagement an essential part of K-12 education after the pandemic.

Springboard Collaborative is a grantee in the Early Impact portfolio.

Providing virtual STEM resources: Engineering is Elementary (EiE)

Catalyzing Change,” a report released last month by the Teachers of Mathematics, suggests a series of policies and strategies educators can take to boost students’ success with and confidence in math. One way is to hook students on math early by creating a sense of awe through hands-on STEM activities that incorporate both the process of math and its creative side. Engineering is Elementary (EiE), for example, is a curriculum program developed by the Museum of Science, Boston, to address the need for effective STEM education. Since 2003, EiE has been shared with 15 million 6- to 11-year-olds, introducing them to the principles of STEM through design and experimentation.

To bring their content to even more students during the COVID-19 pandemic, EiE has partnered with AVID, a national education nonprofit, on an open-access educational platform. As reported by the Monterey County Weekly, the program provides free, high-quality digital teaching resources—like grab-and-go lesson plans, videos, and class activities—to make STEM education easy, accessible, and engaging. It works with whatever curriculum, devices, and platforms the school may already use and requires no prior experience with a particular program to get started.

EiE is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

Measuring impacts of COVID-19: Opportunity Insights & Zearn

Photo via Opportunity Insights

Opportunity Insights—an initiative led by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Nathaniel Hendren—launched their OI Economic Tracker to provide policymakers with detailed, real-time data to help measure the economic and societal impact of COVID-19 before, during, and after recovery efforts at the local, state, and national levels. The tool has been cited by the New York Times as a way to visualize and track economic indicators like consumer spending and hours worked at small businesses compared to milestone dates during the COVID-19 epidemic. 

Additionally, Opportunity Insights is tapping into Zearn Math’s aggregated datasets to illustrate the impact of school closures on children’s math achievement. The Zearn data in the Economic Tracker illustrates the impact of school closures on the activity and progress of students who were using Zearn Math before closures, offering valuable data points for policymakers to understand the needs of their communities by income-level and geography.

Opportunity Insights is a grantee in the Data for Action portfolio; Zearn is a grantee in the Innovative Schools portfolio.

Bringing STEM home: STEM Learning Ecosystems

To keep kids engaged and learning this summer, UBTECH Education launched Camp:ASPIRE, an at-home summer program in robotics and engineering designed to immerse children in hands-on STEM activities, design challenges, and creative fun with robots, reports the Monterey County Weekly.

Developed in partnership with the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice, a global initiative dedicated to preparing every child to thrive through high-quality STEM education, Camp:ASPIRE combines exceptional virtual instruction by accredited educators with hands-on activities with robots from the comfort and safety of home. 

Underscoring their commitment to addressing inequities in STEM education, UBTECH and the STEM Learning Ecosystems are also providing funds and additional resources to support equitable access to vital STEM learning resources. 

“This year is an unprecedented situation where schools and summer camps are scrambling to keep students learning while adhering to social distancing guidelines,” said STEM Learning Ecosystems Director Veronica Gonzales. “We are excited about the partnership with UBTECH because it enables us to provide a valuable service to the communities and students we serve.” 

STEM Learning Ecosystems is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.


Ensuring access to high-quality care: Afterschool Alliance & All Our Kin

Image via Education Dive (with permission from Sheldon Erb)

While many childcare centers across the country have closed due to states’ stay-at-home orders, many in-home providers have continued caring for children of essential workers. For example, in Connecticut and the Bronx, two-thirds of in-home providers affiliated with All Our Kin remain open. As states begin opening up and parents return to work, these in-home providers could see a surge in enrollments, writes Linda Jacobson in EducationDive, because they are often more convenient, personal, and affordable for families. And, compared with the often larger size of childcare centers, in-home providers offer smaller, more consistent groupings of children, which complies with the urgings of public health officials to control the spread of COVID-19. 

In-home childcare isn’t limited to young children. Roughly a quarter of the 600,000 school-aged children enrolled in federally-funded afterschool programs attend in-home childcare programs. If schools open this fall employing rotating schedules, demand for childcare services for older children may also increase, says Jodi Grant, executive director of Afterschool Alliance. However, staffing these programs may present a problem. As afterschool program staff have been forced to take on part-time jobs until they can get back to work, program directors are concerned that they will not return after the spread of COVID-19 slows

“It’s a field where it’s hard to get quality people to begin with. We need them when we’re ready to gear up again. We knew that from the beginning that eventually we’d be going back,” said Tracey Lay, EdAdvance’s chief talent and collaboration officer and director of before- and afterschool programs. 

Afterschool Alliance has published a financial planning tool, funded by Overdeck Family Foundation, to assist afterschool program leaders with scenario planning during these uncertain times. 

Afterschool Alliance is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio; All Our Kin is a grantee of the foundation.


Getting ready for reentry: Chiefs for Change

Image via Yuri Smityuk / Getty Images

As school leaders prepare for the start of a new school year this fall, experts doubt we will return to full-time face-to-face instruction until there’s widespread access to a COVID-19 vaccine. In this op-ed for the 74, Mike Magree, CEO of Chiefs for Change, and David Steiner, Executive Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, share four concrete steps to make learning more accessible, more effective, and more meaningful to students amid the pandemic. 

As reported by Forbes, the authors recommend that all school reopening plans start with two goals: first, ensuring that physical spaces comply with public health guidelines to prevent viral spread, and, second, fostering confidence among educators and families for a safe return to the classroom. As leaders begin their scenario planning, the report also offers useful advice about timing, talent, student social and emotional wellness, and academic planning.

Chiefs for Change also launched a new website, “Teacher to Chief,” to reach early-career teachers with the potential to become system leaders. The program aims to provide clear career pathways and eventually leverage its network members to offer placements within districts and state education departments.

“We need to give educators a fuller picture of the chief role, how chiefs can make an impact, and the pathways to leadership,” said Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova. “Virtually every job I’ve had, I got because somebody tapped me on the shoulder and encouraged me to go after it. That made a huge difference for me. It’s important to recognize those with the potential to serve as leaders and help them to advance.” 

Chiefs for Change is a grantee in the Exceptional Educators portfolio.

Making high-dosage tutoring virtual: SAGA Education

With many summer jobs and internships canceled, tutoring programs may offer college students and young adults opportunities to help the next generation and be exposed to a career in education. And with millions of students spending months out of the classroom, tutors will likely be in high demand.

When executed correctly, evidence shows that high-dosage tutoring (HDT) can have a significant impact on student learning. It’s also possible to deliver HDT remotely while schools are closed due to the pandemic or for summer vacation. Organizations like SAGA Education, for example, have already adapted HDT for distance learning. SAGA partners with public school districts to provide trained tutors to students who are falling behind regular teaching instruction in math. The organization leverages technology and individual instruction to maximize learning, improve student confidence, and help students feel connected to a caring adult in school. 

In this Brookings post, Matthew Kraft, associate professor of education and economics at Brown University, and Michael Goldstein, founder of Match Education, provides guidance to policymakers and school districts who hope to launch a successful HDT program. 

SAGA Education is a grantee in the Innovative Schools portfolio.


Decreasing parental math anxiety: Khan Academy and math anxiety research

Image via Quartz

People aren’t inherently bad at math. Research from Sian Beilock, the president of Barnard College, shows that the root of poor math skills in the U.S. is math anxiety, which leads to math avoidance, writes Jenny Anderson for Quartz.

“As anyone who has played an instrument, participated in athletics, or tried to master any nature of new task can tell you, failure to practice, or to spend time working on getting better at a thing, tends to produce less-than-stellar results when it comes to developing any type of skill,” Beilock wrote previously in Quartz. Worse, other research by Beilock, and the University of Chicago’s Susan Levine, found that math anxiety is contagious. Children of math-anxious parents learned less math during the school year and were more likely to be math-anxious themselves when their parents provided frequent homework help. 

With so many schools making the transition to distance-learning, parents are taking a more active role in their children’s education. Resources like Bedtime Math, Khan Academy, and others are helping them by exercising the three ‘Ps’: be positive about math, point out the math in everyday life, and praise effort (not talent). Read more from Quartz

Khan Academy is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio; the portfolio also funds research on math anxiety.


Challenging pre-college students: Center for Talented Youth (CTY)

Virginia Roach

Image via Johns Hopkins University Hub

For more than 40 years, the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) has developed the talents of academically advanced pre-college students from around the world. In May, the CTY announced the selection of its next executive director, Virginia Roach, reports the Johns Hopkins University Hub.

Roach, an experienced educator and extensively published scholar on educational reform, has been the dean of the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University since 2015 and previously held the same position at Bank Street College of Education in New York. She earned her EdD in educational administration at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a MAS in public administration from Johns Hopkins’ School of Continuing Studies (a precursor to the current School of Education and Carey Business School). In March, she was recognized by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as one of the 35 outstanding women in higher education.

“I have always had a keen focus on meeting the needs of diverse students. If academic needs are not met at either end of the spectrum, students are not happy and productive, and it is a waste. The fundamental role of education is to make sure every student has the opportunity to work at the top of their potential,” said Roach.

The Center for Talented Youth is a grantee in the Inspired Minds portfolio.

Providing rapid relief in New Jersey: New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund

On May 9, the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund announced 27 grant awards to New Jersey organizations providing relief in areas severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this round were 16 grants to agencies assisting with the gathering and distribution of food to those in need, and 11 grants to community agencies and healthcare providers addressing the physical and mental health needs of high-risk clients.

The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund (NJPRF) launched just three days after the stay-at-home order took effect in New Jersey. “We anticipated there might be needs on the ground,” Tammy Murphy, First Lady of New Jersey and founding Chair of NJPRF, said. “We could watch what was going on around the world, and it was pretty clear that, if the United States, and especially in New Jersey, were going to follow in the same stream, that there were going to be people who would be isolating at home and would likely take a hit.”

Distributed to all 21 New Jersey counties so far, these grants will enhance the capacity of existing organizations to meet the increased demand for their services. 

New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund is a grantee of the foundation.

Foundation News

The foundation’s $2.6 million of rapid response grants was listed as one of the few examples of education foundations stepping up to help grantees affected by COVID-19 in coverage by Inside Philanthropy. To respond to our grantees’ needs, we’ve issued grants in four categories: digitizing services, growth and expansion, educational materials, and research. We’ve shared more about our rapid response grants in this blog post.

We’re Hiring

Interested in joining our team? We are looking for a Program Director and  Impact Assessment Manager.