While we’ve made some 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 systems and our nation are becoming more diverse, completion gaps by race and income have increased over the last several decades. Clearly, we need a different approach.
That’s why we doubled down on our investments to build schools and systems that are centered on equity and informed by what science tells us about how young people learn and develop. Research shows us that by affirming a student’s identity, instilling a sense of belonging and fostering a growth mindset we can unlock an innate love of learning. When students are surrounded by caring adults and supportive environments, we can begin to close opportunity gaps and help all our students thrive.
Highlights from our education work this year include:
Advancing the science of learning and development
In 2017, our partners at the Mindset Scholars Network (MSN) made huge strides developing the field of mindset science into a high-impact, practical area of the science of learning and development. MSN also began work on the largest-ever nationwide study of learning mindset practices and early findings from this research are confirming positive results—particularly for previously lower-achieving students.
We also collaborated with multiple funders across a range of sectors, including juvenile justice, education, racial equity and health, on the Adolescent Brain Science Translation Project to synthesize the science of adolescent development. Insights from this research will allow policymakers and practitioners to make more informed decisions as they design youth-serving systems and institutions.
Building Equitable Learning Environments: Year two
In 2016, we launched the Building Equitable Learning Environments (BELE) Network to bring together school support organizations and research entities in a learning community dedicated to designing models to advance equity in the classroom. In year two of this national network, the 10 school support organizations that make up the BELE Network have piloted innovations to their models in the areas of professional development, measurement, continuous improvement, targeted universalism and internal organizational equity practices. BELE Network organizations have reached thousands of students across the country and have accelerated progress on developing ideas that can be shared and scaled.
Breaking ground on post-secondary work
This year we developed a new strategy focused on student retention, success and closing completion gaps in higher education. Often, we focus on getting students to high school graduation and then college, but what happens to students after that? Stubborn completion and opportunity gaps tell us that first-generation students, low-income students and students of color face unique barriers to success that colleges and universities have the power to address.
We’re developing a unique research-practice partnership that centers student experiences in the design of success and retention efforts in higher education, with a focus on students historically underserved. Our aim is to help colleges and universities create more equitable learning environments that close completion gaps by supporting student success and well-being.
Our vision is a world where no young person is ever forced to sleep outside or in an unsafe situation for lack of a place to call home. This year we made great progress at the local, state and national level—making investments to both improve the way systems respond when a young person slips into homelessness and to prevent young people from becoming homeless in the first place. We’re collaborating with our partners to develop innovative solutions that meet youth experiencing homelessness where they are and to scale the most promising solutions from across the country. Highlights from our youth homelessness work this year include:
Accelerating efforts to end youth homelessness
Working with the Schultz Family Foundation, A Way Home Washington, the Mockingbird Society and the Rapid Results Institute, we supported teams in King, Spokane and Pierce Counties to undertake “100-Day Challenges” to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness. In just 100 days, the teams collectively housed more than 600 homeless young people by trying new things, breaking out of “business as usual” and operating with unprecedented urgency.
We also collaborated with the Medina Foundation and YMCA to bring a new housing solution for homeless young people to Seattle. Host Homes matches unstably-housed young adults with a member of the community who can provide safe housing while the young person works towards stability and independence. Host Homes have been hugely successful in cities across the country, and we’re excited to see this program take root in our own backyard.
Groundbreaking research on the scale of youth homelessness
The youth homelessness field has long been hampered by a lack of reliable data, hamstringing efforts to provide sufficient housing and other necessary support for young people experiencing homelessness. That’s why we co-funded Voices of Youth Count, a groundbreaking, multiyear research project by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. This year Chapin Hall released the first research brief from the project, “Missed Opportunities,” which definitively showed that more than 4.2 million young people in the U.S. ages 13-25 experience homelessness annually. More research briefs slated for release in 2018 will dive deeper on the demographics of homeless young people, helping the field to design more effective prevention and response strategies.
We know that to end youth homelessness we must not only improve the services available to homeless youth, but also prevent young people from experiencing homelessness altogether. In collaboration with Washington state’s Office of Homeless Youth, we are supporting pilot projects in King, Pierce and Kitsap counties to prevent young people from leaving public systems, like juvenile detention or foster care, and becoming homeless.
We also continue to support the Mockingbird Society’s Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness chapter, which brought several recommendations for improving foster care and preventing youth homelessness to the Office of Homeless Youth and Washington Legislature this year.
Expanded Learning Opportunities
In 2017 we continued working toward a system of high-quality expanded learning programs throughout Washington state. We know that students keep learning long after the school day ends, making afterschool and summer learning programs an essential part of a student’s academic, social and emotional development. But too often low-income students and students of color have limited or no access to high-quality expanded learning programs, exacerbating opportunity gaps and denying those students a chance to develop new skills and discover lifelong passions.
By building a statewide system of expanded learning we can ensure that every student has access to programs that can help them excel in the classroom and in life. Some highlights from our expanded learning opportunities work this year include:
Completing the Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative
Working with 50 expanded learning programs across King, Pierce, Spokane and Walla Walla counties, Cultivate Learning at the University of Washington and School’s Out Washington (SOWA) completed Washington state’s Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative this year. The Initiative demonstrated that when we support afterschool and summer learning programs with the right resources and training, they can deliver high-quality, transformative programming to young people.
The result of a public-private partnership between the Raikes Foundation and Washington state, the Initiative showed that our state is on the right path to creating a first-in-the-nation quality expanded learning system for K-12 students. Using data and information from the study, Cultivate Learning and SOWA have strengthened services and programs for youth development professionals, including advanced coaching and professional development “Two Minute Tips” to help program staff deepen their skills.
Launching the nation’s first Youth Program Registry
This year we also partnered with SOWA to launch a unique database of expanded learning programs and youth development professionals in Washington state. The Youth Program Registry is helping our state build a robust database of afterschool and summer learning programs which can be used to understand who these programs are serving, where we have gaps in access and where to find high-quality programs. The registry is also helping us better understand the youth development workforce in our state.
This year we launched our Impact-Driven Philanthropy initiative because we believe more can be done to help donors who want to give with impact. Over the next several decades Americans will contribute nearly $20 trillion to nonprofit organizations, presenting a unique opportunity to make progress on our most pressing challenges—from income inequality to systemic racism to climate change. Most of this giving will come from individuals. However, most of the resources to guide giving with impact are geared toward professional staff in large foundations.
Our goal with this new strategy is to unlock the knowledge we have as a sector about what works and how to give with impact for individual donors, the largest segment of philanthropy. A highlight from our impact-driven philanthropy work this year includes:
Launching Giving Compass
In the summer of 2017 we launched Giving Compass to aggregate the best information to support donors who want to give well. Through Giving Compass, we’ve already reached tens of thousands of donors with tips and resources to build an impactful giving strategy and are deepening donors' learning through partnerships with leading organizations in the sector.