Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

Our Education investments are centered on every child in Oakland entering kindergarten ready to learn.


When we wrote our 2019 Turning Points, we reflected on a different world. Now, we are all confronted by the economic and social effects of a global pandemic and the many inequities it has exposed. As we grapple with immense challenges what has not changed for me is the need to listen. Listening to you will lead us to the best way forward. With you as our partners and co-creators, we can find our way together. Continue reading.

Showing Up For Literacy

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation is committed to unlocking potential in all of Oakland’s children. We envision every child entering kindergarten ready to learn and able to read at or above grade level by the end of third grade. That requires investing in the adults who nurture them—from their parents and guardians to caregivers and teachers. We’re dedicated to building children’s social, emotional, language and literacy skills. Skills that make learning fun and enable children to flourish.

“The Rainin Foundation listens to and uplifts grantee partners who work hard to achieve educational equity. We use our voice to promote solutions, to build bridges across sectors, and to identify openings for innovative action.”

Loren Harris, Chief Program and Strategy Officer

Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

Achieve Academy uses the SEEDS of Learning model to support Oakland’s youngest learners.

Setting The Stage For Learning

Education begins with believing in every child. That belief lies at the heart of our Education Program. It also drives Shaheena Khan, our Director of Education Strategies and Ventures, who was appointed in July 2019. With her leadership we sharpened our focus on equity and reaffirmed our commitment to disrupting conditions that inhibit children’s learning.

Believing in every child is by necessity forward-looking. Making equity-centered investments in early childhood education sets the stage for sustaining the impact we can have on every child’s future. With our Oakland educators and partners, we are aiming to achieve equitable, system-level solutions that recognize the broad context for student learning.


Further Together

Video credit: Forward Ever Media

The Rainin Foundation invests in learning and relationships by partnering with caring adults to unlock children’s full potential. Watch this video to find out more about how our leadership in early childhood education is strengthened by community partnerships.

A Community Of Practice

Collaboration—through authentic and meaningful engagement with our community—is crucial to finding equitable solutions to complex challenges. Increasingly, the Rainin Foundation is centering the voices of people who are marginalized and disenfranchised. Too often, these voices are absent from conversations that impact their community and children. We want to change that. Our vision for Oakland’s children requires us to be more intentional about approaching our work with an equity lens. Looking at it any other way perpetuates systems that have not worked.

In 2019, we took another step along the path toward equity. We have long known that listening to our stakeholders informs and improves our philanthropic practices. To provide an accessible structure for those conversations, we are creating a Community Strategy Council for Educational Equity and Excellence. The membership draws on a range of experiences, backgrounds and relationships. It includes teachers, school leaders, administrators; students and parents; and our literacy coaches.

The Council will be listening and learning from those who are closest to the problems we’re collectively trying to solve. By trusting the wisdom of these community members, we can better understand the root causes and co-design solutions. We want to be a part of building a community of shared practice that centers equity and fuels a thriving future for children.

“The advantage of proximity in a community is important. People who are closer to a problem are in the best position to identify and understand root causes and provide input on solutions.”

Shaheena Khan, Director of Education Strategy and Ventures

Photo credit: Eric Peterson, BANANAS

Over 300 early learning professionals gathered at the first-ever Oakland Early Learning Symposium.

Powerful Learning For Educators

The Rainin Foundation continues to champion community alliances focused on professional development for early childhood educators. Last October, the Oakland Early Learning Symposium drew more than 300 participants. Mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Superintendent, Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, kicked off this first-of-its-kind day of training and networking. We served as co-funder and thought partner to a broad coalition of city agencies and community groups who organized this event. The hosting team included OUSD Office of Early Childhood Education, City of Oakland Head Start, BANANAS, Oakland Starting Smart & Strong and the Oakland Literacy Coalition.

Event organizers were responding to a range of needs expressed by Oakland’s dedicated educators and caregivers. And the women and men working in both the formal and informal systems showed up with enthusiasm. Designed around “powerful interactions for powerful learning,” a morning keynote and two special sessions offered simultaneous translation into Spanish and Mandarin. Six afternoon workshops, all led by experts from the community, covered a variety of early childhood education issues. Topics included dual language learning, supporting families with developmental concerns and addressing implicit bias in adult/child interactions. The day featured plentiful opportunities for networking, along with a chance to get up and dance together.

“I love having the opportunity to work around little scientists, seeing how everything is a joy to them. I love being a part of the learning process and being able to scaffold them to the next level.”

Steven Salinas, Rice and Beans Co-op Preschool (Symposium participant)

Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

The SEEDS of Learning model has been used in Oakland to train community members to be highly skilled classroom tutors.

Locally Sourcing The Next Generation Of Male Educators

Another collaborative effort is focused on drawing from the local community to increase the diversity of early childhood educators. Our 2018 planning grant supported a partnership with the Unity Council and OUSD’s Office of Equity and Office of Early Childhood Education. Designed over the last year, The Men of Color Early Education Teaching Fellows Pilot will launch in the 2020-21 school year.

The pilot combines professional development with life skills mentors and other wraparound supports geared to men of color. It aims to increase teacher retention through culturally responsive instructional practices and community-centered workforce development. The program will leverage the successful SEEDS of Learning model to train community members to be highly skilled classroom tutors. We are hopeful about the potential for this work, knowing that students, especially boys, benefit when teachers share their race or gender.


Number of children who developed early literacy skills in SEEDS of Learning classrooms during the 2018-2019 school year

Over 250 transitional kindergarten students are part of a five-year study to understand if positive SEEDS outcomes persist through third grade


Number of teachers and tutors who received training in SEEDS of Learning methodologies during the 2018-2019 school year

Evaluating Seeds Of Success

Since 2014, the Rainin Foundation has funded and implemented SEEDS of Learning. The program is a proven method for supporting teachers and unlocking the potential of Oakland’s youngest learners. Its strategies are rooted in evidence-based practices that nurture the language, literacy and social emotional skills children need to thrive. The role of caring relationships and high-quality interactions are central to SEEDS of Learning. Through our research, we know that meaningful relationships with adults are essential to a child’s social and emotional growth. That’s why we’re invested in the adults who interact with children every day.

Our research is now focused on longer-term questions. How long does it take for teachers to achieve mastery in SEEDS of Learning practices? And how long do these learning outcomes last? The Rainin Foundation teamed up with NORC at the University of Chicago to assess impact.

Our first study focused on understanding time to teacher mastery as measured by child outcomes. Using randomly controlled groups of students, it involved 26 Kidango preschools over three academic years. A portion of the results will be available in 2020. The second effort is a longitudinal study following 400 transitional kindergarten students across 26 OUSD classrooms. It will help us understand if positive SEEDS outcomes persist through third grade. Results from this study will be available in 2025.

“We are excited to partner with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation in a longitudinal study of SEEDS. It’s important to evaluate and learn about the impact of our collective efforts to ensure children are successful in their early years. We look forward to using the results to inform our continued work together.”

Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, OUSD Superintendent

Photo credit: Lori Halloran

Teachers at San Antonio Head Start in Oakland are helping students make dramatic progress using SEEDS of Learning strategies.

Nurturing The Whole Child

Through our investments in organizations that nurture the whole child, we’re seeing how culturally responsive approaches are fundamental to their success. They strengthen family relationships and create more successful learning environments for children. Lincoln‘s programs provide family coaching, classroom supports and summer learning opportunities that create a sense of belonging and positive identity. SEEDS of Learning teachers at San Antonio Head Start learn words from more than eight different languages as building blocks for connection and literacy, helping every child to feel comfortable, safe and loved. The family resource centers led by the East Bay Agency for Children and Lotus Bloom provide literacy-rich, early childhood programs and parent supports. These programs, and so many more, elevate family learning and literacy.

“Every summer I see what our kids are capable of. Freedom School provides a totally different environment—there’s consistency, a culture of positivity, a culture of family and love.”

La’Cole Martin, Lincoln Program Director

Photo courtesy: Tandem, Partners in Early Learning

Tandem, Partners in Early Learning’s school-to-home book-sharing program provides high-quality books to children and families.

Investing In Learning And Literacy: 2019 Grantees

The Rainin Foundation invested over $6 million in 2019 to improve literacy among Oakland’s children.

Education grantmaking supports programs that help ensure Oakland children are ready for kindergarten and on track for third grade reading success.

Note: Financials are subject to audit verification

We are honored to partner with these schools and community-based organizations who are helping children become confident, capable and joyful learners! View more information about these grants.

Aspire Public Schools:

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

Book Trust

City of Oakland Head Start

City of Oakland Mayor’s Director of Education

Community School for Creative Education

East Bay Agency for Children

Education for Change:

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

Friends of the Oakland Public Library

KIPP Bay Area Public Schools

  • KIPP Bridge Academy

Lighthouse Community Charter School

Literacy Lab

Lotus Bloom Family Resource Center

National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago

Oakland Literacy Coalition, Inc.

Oakland Unified School District:

  • Allendale Elementary School
  • Bella Vista Elementary School
  • Bridges Academy
  • Brookfield Elementary School
  • Carl B. Munck Elementary School
  • East Oakland Pride Elementary School
  • Emerson Elementary School
  • Encompass Academy
  • Esperanza Elementary School
  • Franklin Elementary School
  • Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy
  • Fruitvale Elementary School
  • Garfield Elementary School
  • Glenview Elementary School
  • Global Elementary School
  • Greenleaf Elementary School
  • Horace Mann Elementary School
  • Howard Elementary School
  • Laurel Elementary School
  • La Escuelita Elementary School
  • Lincoln Elementary School
  • Madison Park Academy
  • Manzanita Community School
  • Manzanita Seed
  • Melrose Leadership Academy
  • New Highland Academy
  • Parker Elementary School
  • Piedmont Ave Elementary
  • Place @ Prescott
  • Reach Academy
  • Rise Community School

Oakland Unified School District Office of Early Childhood Education

Oakland Unified School District—Men of Color Early Education Teaching Fellows Pilot Project

Reach Out and Read, Inc.

Reading Partners

San Francisco State University—Edvance Program

Springboard Collaborative—Summer

St. Vincent’s Day Home

Tandem, Partners in Early Learning

Urban Montessori

Vincent Academy


A Decade Of Unlocking Potential

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation celebrated 10 years of formal grantmaking in 2019. See the incredible work of our Education grantees and what we’ve learned along the way.

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