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Courtney Perry

Our Approach

An Announcement about the Program:

Thank you for your interest in Education. Because of the recently announced shift in our grantmaking strategy, we are no longer accepting new grant applications in this program. A new program focused on building equitable and inclusive communities in Minnesota will replace this program. Look for those program guidelines in fall 2020. For more information, see our Grantmaking Transitions resource page. Below is a description of the Education program that the Foundation is responsibly winding down.

The Education program advances equitable, sustainable systems change in education by building pathways of diverse, effective educators and engaging families. Together, these strategies create school system conditions that enable student success. These are asset-based approaches that recognize the tremendous value of Minnesota’s linguistically, culturally, and racially diverse students, families, and educators.


Attract, Prepare, and Retain Diverse, Effective Educators

We invest in building educator pathways that enable diverse, highly skilled individuals to deploy their talents in schools across the state. This includes supporting efforts that advance the profession by creating favorable policy conditions and attracting diverse candidates to education. Additionally, we focus on providing high-quality, culturally relevant educator preparation that includes clinically rich experiences. These experiences should provide aspiring teacher and school leaders with opportunities to practice and receive meaningful feedback. Once these individuals begin teaching and leading, we aim to support schools and districts in recruiting and retaining the best talent possible.

As we work to create a more diverse pool of effective educators, our grantmaking criteria emphasize efforts that do the following:

  • advance the education profession by attracting diverse candidates to the field and ensuring that state and district policies increase educator quality and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • build innovative educator preparation pathways in the following ways:
    • advance high-quality approaches to educator preparation for diverse candidates
    • support data sharing and use among preparation providers and partner schools and districts
    • enhance school and district capacity to effectively recruit and retain educators in high-quality, culturally responsive schools

Engage Families as Advocates for Change

We also invest in strategies to engage families and communities as the most credible constituency for education systems change. We support opportunities for families to have meaningful voice in decisions that affect their children at the school, district, and state levels. We do this by partnering with community-based organizations that provide high-quality, culturally relevant information to families and enhance families’ capacity to act on that information in ways that reflect their particular contexts and their children’s needs.

As we support informed and engaged families in advocating for school system conditions that enable their students’ success, our grantmaking criteria emphasize efforts that do the following:

  • improve family and community access to high quality and culturally relevant information about schools and school systems
  • enhance family and community capacity to advocate for improved policies and practices at the school, district and state levels

In implementing both of our strategies, we emphasize the following:

  • that every child deserves access to high-quality, culturally responsive schools staffed by diverse, effective educators
  • innovation, including creating flexible policy environments with lower barriers to entry for promising new solutions
  • efforts that are responsive to community context and anchored in experience and evidence
  • opportunities for families and communities to meaningfully influence education systems
  • generating, synthesizing, and communicating data on educator effectiveness, student performance, school quality, and opportunity gaps, with an emphasis on information that is relevant and actionable for families and schools
  • increased opportunities for shared learning and collaboration among our partners
  • leveraging McKnight’s credible influence to build coalitions across issue areas
  • flexible use of McKnight’s robust toolkit, including grantmaking, collaboration, policy reform, research, and communications


In addition to the strategies above, the Education program funds Youthprise, an intermediary organization that invests in the future of Minnesota by investing in youth. Guided by a commitment to racial equity, Youthprise works to transform how funders, institutions, providers, and communities work with youth.

Prior Funding in Early Literacy

For information about McKnight’s prior work in early literacy, the Pathway Schools Initiative, visit for lessons learned. In addition, we have this comprehensive list of reports and resources related to the program. 

Geographic Focus

Our Education program has historically focused on the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, and we will continue to engage deeply there. Our ambitions for future work extend to the entire state, and we welcome funding inquiries from Greater Minnesota.

Theory of Change

Our two strategies, as described above and expressed in the diagram here, aim to catalyze change in schools from the inside by growing the pool of diverse, effective educators and from the outside by engaging families’ and communities’ inherent power to influence the education their children receive . Working together, these forces should create school system conditions that enable student success and ensure that Minnesota students succeed in an increasingly global society.

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