K-12 Education

Our Goal
To significantly increase the number of Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty who graduate from high school, enroll in a postsecondary institution, and are on track in their first year to obtain a credential with labor-market value.
Picture element
Students, like those in this 8th grade social studies class in Chicago, need safe, nurturing learning environments where they are equipped to meet high standards.

At a glance

  • A great K-12 education is a proven path to social mobility and economic prosperity and a bridge to opportunity.
  • Over the past decade, tremendous gains have been made in U.S. education, but more must be done. Progress hasn’t come fast enough for many students, especially Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty.
  • We work with grantees and other partners, teachers, and education leaders to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality public education and to help more students graduate from high school with the skills they need to enroll, succeed in, and complete college.
OUR STRATEGY

Our strategy

We know we can accomplish so much more for our students. In the United States, a high-quality public education is a bridge to opportunity—particularly when it comes to good jobs and career paths, social mobility, and personal growth and fulfilment. Our K-12 strategy is driven by a direct focus on schools because that’s where teaching and learning happens. Excellent schools—led by leaders who focus on continuous improvement grounded in data and evidence—are critical to student success.

We support schools in their work to improve student outcomes, particularly for Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty, by partnering with middle and high schools and identifying new, effective approaches that can be replicated in other schools.

We invest in networks of schools to solve common problems using evidence-based interventions and data-driven approaches that support continuous learning. We invest in ensuring that teachers and leaders have what they need to be successful—high-quality preparation, standards-aligned curriculum and tools, and professional learning opportunities. Throughout, we keep our eyes on the horizon, advancing research and development in support of innovations that will help the U.S. education system keep pace with our rapidly changing world.

We need to rebuild the public education system to get us closer to the effective and fair system that our students deserve. We do that when we lead with equity.
Bob Hughes
Director, K-12 Education
AREAS OF FOCUS

Areas of focus

To ensure that schools are set up for success and that teachers and leaders have what they need to help their students excel, we focus on seven priorities.

We invest in partnerships between networks of schools and school support organizations so they can collaboratively solve common problems by using evidence-based interventions that best fit their needs. These networks also use continuous learning approaches that are driven by data—in which schools use data to identify a problem, select a strategy to address the problem, set a target for improvement, and iterate to make the approach more effective and improve student achievement.

The need to train new, effective teachers and leaders is particularly pronounced in communities and schools that serve Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty. We support organizations and programs that prepare teachers and school leaders to better serve these students.

We want to expand the number of high-quality public charter schools, with a specific focus on improving outcomes for students with disabilities, including special needs students. We identify the most effective approaches to help greater numbers of students with disabilities achieve their educational goals, and we hope to see these approaches shared with other charter schools and beyond.

We work with partners in the field so middle and high school teachers have access to high-quality, aligned curriculum choices in English, math, and science.

We invest in building the evidence base for social and emotional learning and expanding the field’s knowledge of adolescent development. We translate research findings into tools and best practices and help spread that knowledge and those tools and practices.

We seek to significantly improve student learning in math by supporting research and innovation that centers on the needs of Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty who are in grades 3 through 9. Our investments aim to build inclusive learning environments, strengthen teacher practice, and ensure that students are engaged and challenged in math.

We support improving outcomes for Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty through long-term innovation, research, and development. Our investments in education research and development are focused on new ideas and practices with the potential to significantly improve the trajectory of student learning outcomes over the next 10 to 15 years. We are exploring innovative ways to facilitate and accelerate the integration and translation of evidence-informed teaching practices and research into scalable education practices, programs, and tools that support teachers and students.

WHY FOCUS ON K-12 EDUCATION?

Why focus on K-12 education?

Thanks to the leadership of educators, policymakers, and others who recognize the value of a quality K-12 education, tremendous gains have been made in U.S. education over the past decade, including increasing high school graduation rates and progress in 4th and 8th grade reading and math scores in large urban areas.

Despite this progress, graduation rates for Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty lag behind the national average and are lower than the rates for white students. The percentage of high school graduates who enroll in postsecondary institutions has remained flat.

We have learned from the field and from our own investments that boosting student achievement requires that teachers have access to standards-aligned instructional materials, real-time assessments for

gauging student progress, and in-school learning and leadership opportunities. At the same time, principals need support for creating an environment in which both administrators and teachers can use data to help improve teaching, instructional supports, and student learning.

We envision a public education system that expands opportunity for all students—and particularly Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty—and allows them to gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workplace and participate in the American Dream.

STRATEGY LEADERSHIP

Strategy leadership

Visit our U.S. Program website

Our U.S. Program works to ensure that everyone in the U.S. can learn, grow, and get ahead, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or family income. We work with local leaders and engage with state and federal policymakers to support efforts that transform schools, systems, and society to create life-changing opportunities for learning, growth, and prosperity.

RELATED PROGRAMS

Related programs

The foundation’s programs in the U.S. work to transform schools, systems, and society to create life-changing opportunities for learning, growth, and prosperity.
Postsecondary Success
Postsecondary Success

The Postsecondary Success team supports colleges and universities in making institutional reforms that eliminate race, ethnicity, and income as predictors of educational success. 

Economic Mobility and Opportunity
Economic Mobility and Opportunity

The Economic Mobility and Opportunity team works with partners to ensure that more people in the United States can climb the economic ladder and improve their lives. 

Pathways
Pathways
The Pathways team supports efforts to ensure that Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty can access at every stage the skills development, support, and relationships necessary to thrive in education and the workforce.
A family newly housed at Croft Place Townhomes, a low-income housing complex in West Seattle.
Washington State

The Washington State team works with partners to ensure equitable opportunities for children and families in Washington, where the Gates family has lived for generations.