Andrea Bradford is a SEEDS of Learning transitional kindergarten tutor at Allendale Elementary. Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest.

With a holistic view of what it takes for a child to succeed in school and in life, our work in the Oakland community grew in 2016, establishing several programs and exploring new strategies to support young learners. We continued to realize the results of our early groundwork. From our core initiatives to research and grantmaking, the evidence is clear: We are making an impact on literacy and school readiness for Oakland’s children.

Our goal is for every child in Oakland to read at or above grade level by third grade. Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

Giving Kids a Fair Shot

With striking differences in the typical language experiences of young children, Oakland preschoolers present some of the largest known disparities in terms of vocabulary; 43% score in the bottom tenth percentile nationally for productive vocabulary. The Rainin Foundation is compelled to help every Oakland child be ready for kindergarten and reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade, and we’re making progress. After one year in a SEEDS of Learning classroom, only three percent of kids are left below targets for productive vocabulary.

We don’t claim to have all the answers—we believe in asking meaningful questions, engaging the best partners, and using evidence-based practices and data. We collaborate with teachers and families, and we work alongside top thought-leaders and researchers in the field so that we can support the best possible early childhood experiences.

“Vocabulary is one of the strongest predictors of later life success—from academic and socio-economic success to health and longevity.”

Marc Hernandez, PhD, NORC at the University of Chicago


Number of teachers who have participated in our SEEDS of Learning professional development program in just three years

According to Oakland Unified School District data, children’s reading skill level as early as the first few weeks of kindergarten predict whether they will graduate from high school


Amount invested by the Rainin Foundation in 2016 to improve literacy among Oakland’s children

Teachers in our SEEDS of Learning program are helping Oakland children achieve double-digit gains. Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

Scoring Big Gains in Classrooms

The Foundation has funded and implemented SEEDS of Learning, a relationship-based professional development program that provides Oakland teachers and parents with strategies for building social, emotional, language, and literacy skills in young children. In 2014-2015, our first year, we saw impressive results in our partner preschool and transitional kindergarten classrooms, but we acknowledged that data from just one year may not indicate proof of consistent results. The second year, the results were even more positive—with almost every child entering kindergarten with key language and literacy skills. “We are planting the seeds of promising practices,” said Jennifer Rainin, PhD, Rainin Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer. “Through this rigorous process of seeing what takes root, we will be able to spread effective practices to as many children as possible.”

In 2016-2017, we are building on everything we learned in our first two years of SEEDS. We have expanded to teachers in 72 SEEDS classrooms, where we are seeing solid, remarkable results. This work involves collaborating closely with the school district, several charter management organizations, and independent charter schools. Working hand-in-hand with teachers, our team spends a significant time in classrooms observing, helping, and collecting data on students. We are in it together. And we give teachers all the tools they need to accomplish their work—monthly training, coaching, books, vocabulary cards, CDs, tools for helping children who aren’t yet progressing, and more.

Keeping the Momentum

We have increased investments in elementary schools to continue accelerating progress for our preschool and transitional kindergarten children. Fifteen elementary schools received grants in 2016 in our new Early Elementary Literacy cohort to continue quality instruction and interaction with children in kindergarten and first grade. We believe that when we build children’s skills—including their social-emotional skills and love of learning—over multiple years, our schools will be transformed. Not only are we helping teachers, principals, and administrators to provide the most effective instruction, but we are also giving Oakland’s kids a better chance of success in school—and, most importantly, in life. Thank you to all the educators learning with us in this first year!

“Lifting expectations for the futures of Oakland children helps turn Oakland into a City of Readers”

Susan True, Director, Education Strategy & Ventures


Melvin Tamoro, SEEDS Tutor

Melvin Tamoro, a tutor in our SEEDS of Learning program and an integral part of children’s lives at Sankofa Elementary, is an essential partner to transitional kindergarten teachers. He works closely with students, enabling them to flourish by providing one-on-one and small group instruction to help children love learning and gain key skills. We invite you to learn about his breakthrough moment in this video.

“I don’t ever want to teach without SEEDS.”

Callie Shanholt, Kindergarten Teacher at Eres Elementary

Supporting Families Through Research

From our extensive research, we have learned a great deal about the specific skills that are predictive of later school success, but we didn’t know how this research might—or might not—specifically apply to Oakland children. We wanted to better understand local families’ experiences and needs. So, we partnered with NORC, an independent research institution at the University of Chicago, to complete an extensive, first-of-its-kind survey of Oakland parents. In 2016, we presented preliminary data to our community partners and will use it to strategize more effective ways of engaging families and supporting their dreams and vision for their children. Learn more about our Household Survey.


Learning from Oakland Families


doors were knocked on to identify a representative sample for our survey

97% of eligible families agreed to participate in the two-hour interview


parents of kids from birth to 5 years participated in the survey

Young children gain important language development skills in the Lotus Bloom program at Allendale Elementary. Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

Investing in Literacy Development

Our Education grants support strategies to reduce early disparities in language and literacy development, working toward our goals of enriching adult-child relationships, promoting everyday literacy-rich experiences, and fostering grade-level reading.

“Lotus Bloom staff and the playgroup have been integral to my child’s positive social-emotional development and have been an invaluable resource to me as a parent. I literally breathe a sigh of relief as I walk through the door… I know this program is getting my child ready for school.”

—Mother of a three-year-old student

Springboard Collaborative offers an intensive summer program that gives students continuous access to learning. Photo credit: Ana Homonnay

Reversing Summer Learning Loss

Without ongoing opportunities to learn, kids can lose six months of learning over the summer. Our grantee, Springboard Collaborative, has found a way to reverse this trend and achieve a three-month reading gain for students. After a successful pilot in 2015, we supported bringing their five-week program to 16 Oakland schools last summer. In addition to teacher professional development and coaching, the program provides daily reading instruction to children while their parents benefit from weekly workshops and home visits to help them support reading at home. This strong family engagement component helps teachers build warm, collaborative relationships with families.

“I used to fight with my daughter every day about reading because I never really knew how to help her. But this summer, I learned that I can actually do this. I know how to read with her and help her learn and understand, so we can cuddle up and enjoy reading and have fun together. It’s totally changed our relationship. It’s just amazing!”

—Mother of a Springboard scholar


Aspire Public Schools:

  • Berkley Maynard Academy
  • College Academy
  • Eres Academy
  • Monarch Academy
  • Triumph Technology Academy

City of Oakland Head Start Preschool Classrooms

Community School for Creative Education

Education for Change:

  • Achieve Academy
  • Cox Academy
  • Lazear Charter Academy
  • Learning Without Limits

Literacy Lab

Northern California Community Loan Fund

NORC at University of Chicago

Oakland Public Library

Oakland Unified School District:

  • Allendale Elementary
  • Bella Vista Elementary
  • Bridges Academy
  • Burckhalter Elementary
  • Carl B. Munck Elementary
  • East Oakland Pride Elementary
  • Emerson Elementary
  • EnCompass Academy
  • Esperanza Elementary
  • Franklin Elementary
  • Garfield Elementary
  • Glenview Elementary
  • Greenleaf Elementary
  • Hoover Elementary
  • Horace Mann Elementary
  • Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy
  • La Escuelita Elementary
  • Lincoln Elementary
  • Manzanita Community Elementary
  • Manzanita Seed
  • New Highland Academy
  • Parker Elementary
  • Place @ Prescott
  • Reach Academy
  • Rise Community School
  • Sankofa Academy

Opportunity Institute

Reach Out and Read

Reading Partners

Roses in Concrete Community School

SEEDS of Learning

Springboard Collaborative

St. Mary’s Center Preschool

Tandem, Partners in Early Learning

Urban Montessori Charter School

YMCA 21st Street Preschool

View more information about these grants.

Explore the Foundation’s website to learn more about our Education program.