Society & Culture

First in-depth analysis of philanthropic investment in teachers and teaching

Teacher effectiveness is widely regarded as “what matters most” in fostering improved learning and better student outcomes. Organized philanthropy has recognized this and made improving teaching a priority for many years.

This focus on improving teaching is evident in recent grants. A new report on foundation activity, Critical Contributions: Philanthropic Investment in Teachers and Teaching ( ), released today by the University of Georgia and Kronley & Associates, found that foundations directed $684 million to teachers and teaching between 2000 and 2008.

The analysis, the first comprehensive examination of philanthropy activity in this area, also revealed that much of the funding came from a relatively small number of foundations. The top 10 foundations accounted for 50 percent of all grants and include:

1. Carnegie Corporation of New York $81,969,575
2. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation $78,167,363
3. Annenberg Foundation $36,725,000
4. Michael and Susan Dell Foundation $25,401,978
5. Broad Foundation $24,554,869
6. Joyce Foundation $23,773,256
7. Lilly Endowment, Inc. $21,224,576
8. Milken Family Foundation $20,700,625
9. Ford Foundation $17,581,716
10. Stuart Foundation $14,459,666

In addition, the study found that more than 60 percent of all foundation grants between 2000 and 2008 went to 10 organizations:

1. Teach for America $213,444,431
2. Academy for Educational Development $59,063,000
3. Northwest Educational Service District 189 $45,012,830
4. Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation $21,561,106
5. The New Teacher Project $17,955,680
6. University of California at Santa Cruz, New Teacher Center $23,773,256
7. Teacher Advancement Program $15,480,625
8. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards $12,401,350
9. Philadelphia Foundation $10,000,000
10. Teachers Network $9,441,402

Other highlights of the report include:

Driven by investments in Teach for America, which was awarded $213 million, recruitment was the largest grantmaking category, capturing 38 percent of funding. This was followed by professional development (22 percent) and teacher preparation (14 percent). All other categories combined received less than 10 percent of grant funding.|

Foundations’ contributions to improving teacher quality have been two-fold. They have supplied essential funds to support innovative approaches to improving teacher quality. Their funds also have been used consistently to provoke thinking about the teaching profession and systemic change in it. Some of these efforts have had success and others have not, as many issues have surfaced repeatedly over decades.

These persistent issues touch all aspects of teaching, including recruitment, training, induction, support and retention. Many reforms that foundations currently advocate for are also familiar. As early as the 1950s, foundations called for strengthening teacher training by focusing more on extensive clinical experience and reforming teacher compensation by instituting performance-based compensation systems. Both are change strategies now promoted by many foundations.

Today, there is a convergence between the philanthropic sector and federal policymakers. Policies and practices developed, tested and advocated for by foundations have been included in new federal initiatives, including “Race to the Top.” Funders are now seeking strategies to leverage the opportunities provided by the new federal programs while considering whether and how these programs might be sustained when federal funding ends.

The report also raises questions of philanthropic practice that respond to the elusive goal of ensuring that every child is taught by an effective teacher. These questions speak to foundations’ commitment of time to an initiative, the nature and scope of the collaboration between foundations, and increasing the rigor of evaluations of their work.

The analysis will be especially useful to funders and others who seek more systemic approaches to improving teacher effectiveness.

The report was developed collaboratively by a team of researchers from Kronley & Associates and the University of Georgia College of Education with support from the Ford Foundation. Arthur M. Horne, dean of the UGA College of Education, and Robert A. Kronley, president of Kronley & Associates, are co-principal investigators. Claire Suggs is the principal author, with significant input from Kathleen deMarrais. Additional members of the team included Karen Watkins and Kate Swett. The report can be downloaded at