Education Learnings - Kenneth Rainin Foundation

Education Learnings

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation invests in research to better understand what is needed for the best literacy outcomes for Oakland children.

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation invests in research to better understand what is needed to get the best outcomes for Oakland children so they are ready for kindergarten and reading successfully by the end of third grade. We work collaboratively to test innovative ideas on the ground and share findings to inspire dialogue and benefit our partners and others involved in this work.

SEEDS of Learning Research (2021)

The Rainin Foundation wanted to understand if positive student results were impacted by the SEEDS of Learning professional development opportunities and teaching practice. We partnered with NORC at the University of Chicago to create a randomized controlled trial study design—the gold standard for determining the causal impact of a program on desired outcomes—at Kidango, an early learning nonprofit in Oakland, over three academic years. The study set out to answer two questions:

  • How many years of professional development are required before we see a positive impact on four- to five-year-old preschool students’ early reading?
  • If there is a positive impact, is it influenced by teachers’ knowledge of early reading?

The results showed that one year of SEEDS of Learning had a statistically significant, positive impact on both student early reading skills and teacher knowledge in the spring. Download the NORC research brief with illustrative charts.

An educator pointing out a bumble bee in a book to a young child.
SEEDS of Learning is helping to move the needle on students’ early reading skills. Photo courtesy of Kidango
A young child opening a book about colors.
Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

Oakland Household Survey Results (2016)

The Rainin Foundation partnered with NORC at the University of Chicago to complete an extensive, first-of-its-kind survey of Oakland parents. Families were willing and happy to talk—97% agreed to be surveyed and over 400 household interviews were conducted with families who have children up to age six. We found that supporting caring adult-child interactions continues to be one of the biggest levers for school readiness and later reading success.

Three Interesting Findings:

  1. There’s a huge opportunity for parents, teachers and community members to help young children build vocabulary. Supporting caring adult-child interactions continues to be one of the biggest levers for school readiness, and later reading success.
  2. Families make great use of Oakland Public Library services, but struggle to access services for special needs.
  3. Many families have access to a smartphone and have internet access in the home. The primary method of communication for most families is text or phone.

Read the interview questions we asked to learn about family demographics, child development, parent well-being, technology and communication, and neighborhood engagement.

School Readiness for Children Ages Birth to 5 (2016)

The quality of literacy opportunities has a profound impact on children’s trajectories. To better understand the skills and practices that impact kindergarten readiness, NORC at the University of Chicago conducted research to address these questions:

  • What are the key skills that predict kindergarten readiness?
  • What programs and best practices have a big impact on kindergarten readiness?
  • How do we know if Oakland children are school ready?

Key takeaway: Children develop within a context—home, community and early childhood education experiences. Plus, there is a strong research base of what early childhood skills are most predictive of later school success.

Download the full research reports:

A woman holding up a baby while a young girl claps and smiles.
Photo courtesy of LotusBloom / Stephanie Secrest.
A woman reading to her child, who sits in her lap.
By talking, reading and singing to our kids, we will help children become kindergarten ready and prepared to succeed in life. Photo credit: Filmsight Productions

Effective Practices in K-2 Literacy Instruction (2016)

NORC at the University of Chicago conducted a nationwide literature review of practices that support K-2 reading success. The aim was to uncover effective practices and programs that helped ensure children are reading successfully by the end of third grade. This research revealed:

  • The most important predictors of kindergarten readiness and later academic success
  • Evidence-based practices in curriculum, programs and interventions that increased literacy skills in K-2 children
  • “Active ingredients” in programs that have the biggest impact on kindergarten readiness and third grade reading
  • Descriptions of how math, social emotional development and approaches to learning are interrelated to support literacy skills

Key Takeaway: The best “bang for your buck” is to create multi-disciplinary learning opportunities that integrate content learning (science, math) with language arts. View the presentation to learn more about this research and the effective practices and programs it unveiled.