Academic Achievement

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation identifies and invests a portion of its funding in strategic grant initiatives to expand educational opportunities throughout the United States. The Foundation partners with educational leaders that share our commitment to advance the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need.

Selective public high schools provide a uniquely stimulating learning environment for students. Increased exposure to rigorous content, deep engagement, and academically-oriented peer support benefit high-achieving students and lead to strong preparation for top colleges and universities. The Foundation recognizes that high performing youth from low to moderate-income families often must overcome challenges regarding access to information and adequate preparation necessary to gain admission to highly selective high schools; those admitted benefit from sustained, attuned support to graduate successfully.

Competitive Programs Will

  • Serve students with financial need who demonstrate strong academic potential through testing, grades, work samples and/or teacher recommendations
  • Present a distinctive, noteworthy program and practices that can be replicated
  • Possess a clear plan to sustain increased access and support for students with financial need beyond the term of the grant
  • Have a deserved reputation for operating high-quality programs that achieve outstanding student outcomes

This grant program provides one-time grants totaling up to $100,000, with the opportunity to use grant funds over the period of two years between June 1, 2018 and May 31, 2020.

Funding may be used for:

  • Direct, program-related expenses
  • Scholarship funding
  • Personnel costs
  • A portion of administrative or overhead costs (not to exceed 15%)
  • Data collection and evaluation

Grant funds may not be used to:

  • Subsidize or supplant the program’s existing administrative or scholarship costs, unless such costs are related to the expansion of services to high-achieving students with financial need.
  • Enhance the program’s physical plant.
  • Influence legislation, engage in propaganda, or influence the outcomes of any election.

Letter of Interest Guidelines

Your Letter of Interest should be a one-page (up to 700 words) executive summary of the proposed project, and must include the following information:

  • School Overview: A brief overview of your school that demonstrates recognition as a thought leader in education. To what extent does the purpose of this this grant align with your school’s mission, goals, and beliefs?
  • Program Description: Describe with specific details the proposed access and success program. What evidence suggests that your proposed program is an effective intervention for high-achieving students with financial need? Name the persons chiefly responsible for the proposed program, provide their titles, and the percentage of time (FTE) they will allocate to this initiative.
  • Student Population: Provide general demographics for the student population to be served, such as grade levels, family income, gender, race/ethnicity and information about the schools and communities from which they come.
  • Selection Criteria: How will you determine the academic and financial eligibility of the students you will serve in the program? Explain your criteria for exceptional academic ability and financial need and the process you will use to reach out to and select students for your proposed program. What is the total number of students you expect to serve directly through this grant each year?
  • Timeline: Detail your proposed timeline for program planning and implementation. Keep in minds that funds can be used over one or two years.

Required Documentation

In addition, you will need to upload written proof of your organization’s status as an educational/governmental entity or a 501(c)(3) public charity. You may submit one of the following:

  • IRS Affirmation Letter
  • A letter from an authorized government official
  • A copy of the legislative act creating a government body
  • IRS tax determination letter

Highlights from Past Recipients

Carver High School for Engineering and Science, Philadelphia, PA
Carver High School launched Saturday STEM Scholars (SSS) to build academic leadership capacity of 10-12th grade students at Carver and support 7th and 8th grade prospective students through a yearlong bi-weekly STEM exploration program. The program served nearly 60 students over two years by engaging them in collaborative, inquiry-based classes to learn about engineering design, computer science, applied mathematics, sustainability and the environment from Carver teachers and high school peer mentors. Carver’s program addresses the limited positive academic peer support network that students from low to moderate-income communities may face by training high schoolers to serve as STEM role models and create stronger bonds with younger students. During the two years of Saturday STEM Scholars, Carver expanded the program to provide additional supports to incoming HSES students such as Saturday tutoring for students accepted as 9th graders to help them transition successfully to high school; this additional support enabled Carver to accept students into HSES who may not have been competitive in the traditional application process.

Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and the Ingenuity Project at Poly successfully engaged 900 middle schools students over two years in a 26-week advanced STEM Capstone Challenge. Working closely with nine science teachers at participating schools, the Ingenuity Project designed the program to meet the potential of academically talented youth through curriculum-aligned challenges that include team-based, above-grade level math skills, and the application of technology, innovation and complex problem-solving. As a result, the Capstone Challenge has become a tool for the identification of high achieving students from typically underserved areas across Baltimore City. In just two years, the number of applicants from participating schools has more than tripled, and Ingenuity accepted almost five times the number of students from Capstone schools compared to two years ago. The success of the initiative led Ingenuity to design a math-related capstone challenge and professional development services for K-5 elementary schools in the region to strengthen the pipeline before middle school grades.

The Talent Development Award recognizes exemplary practices that transform high-potential, economically disadvantaged elementary and middle school students into high achievers.  As shown in the Foundation’s report, The Achievement Trap, roughly half of the low-income students in the top academic quartile in the 5th grade drop to a lower quartile by the time they reach the 8th grade.  Moreover, even the top performing low-income students lag behind their higher-income peers in what is now referred to as the “excellence gap.” Too many young students with the potential to reach great heights, academically and artistically, simply won’t make it without targeted, excellence-driven interventions.  We are looking for organizations committed to optimal outcomes for high-potential, low-income students.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Talent Development Award is a one-time $500,000 grant intended to catalyze an organization’s work, bring strategies to a broader scale, and amplify conversations around one approach to cultivating potential.

Major Criteria Considered:

Alignment with the Foundation’s commitment to identify, cultivate, and/or promote exceptionally talented students who have financial need;

  • Focus on students in grades K-8;
  • Effectiveness in achieving outstanding student performance in academics, leadership, and/or the arts as demonstrated through internal reviews, external evaluations, or scientifically-confirmed research;
  • Strong leadership with a clear vision and the capacity to influence stakeholders;
  • Distinctive, noteworthy programs and practices that could be replicated.

High-quality summer learning programs can spark student curiosity and passion, augment academic achievement, nurture intellectual peer support, and influence educational and career trajectories. In focus groups conducted by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, high-achieving students have consistently identified rigorous summer enrichment programs as among the most important and valuable experiences during their middle and high school years. Research is clear on summer programs’ ability to stave off summer learning loss, and evidence is growing to delineate the specific benefits of summer programs for academically talented students.

Unfortunately, high-quality summer enrichment programs remain out of reach for many low-income, high-achieving youth who cannot afford the tuition and related costs of residential programs or whose local community does not offer a program specifically geared toward such students. Through the Summer Enrichment Program, the Foundation supports nonprofit organizations or universities who provide access to high-quality summer enrichment programs for high-achieving low-income students entering grades 6 through 12.

Middle and high school students need rigorous academics, real-world applications of what they are learning, and opportunities to envision their future in college and a career. To increase enrollment and success of low-income and minority students in high school Advanced Placement courses, the Foundation partners with organizations that connect high-achieving, lower-income secondary students to advanced coursework and experiential learning that prepares them for a bright future. Through its Advanced Learning grants, the Foundation is increasing enrollment and success of low-income and minority students in high school Advanced Placement courses.

Selective Public High Schools

Selective public high schools provide a uniquely stimulating learning environment for students. Increased exposure to rigorous content, deep engagement, and academically-oriented peer support benefit high-achieving students and lead to strong preparation for top colleges and universities. The Foundation recognizes that high performing youth from low to moderate-income families often must overcome challenges regarding access to information and adequate preparation necessary to gain admission to highly selective high schools; those admitted benefit from sustained, attuned support to graduate successfully.

Competitive Programs Will

  • Serve students with financial need who demonstrate strong academic potential through testing, grades, work samples and/or teacher recommendations
  • Present a distinctive, noteworthy program and practices that can be replicated
  • Possess a clear plan to sustain increased access and support for students with financial need beyond the term of the grant
  • Have a deserved reputation for operating high-quality programs that achieve outstanding student outcomes

This grant program provides one-time grants totaling up to $100,000, with the opportunity to use grant funds over the period of two years between June 1, 2018 and May 31, 2020.

Funding may be used for:

  • Direct, program-related expenses
  • Scholarship funding
  • Personnel costs
  • A portion of administrative or overhead costs (not to exceed 15%)
  • Data collection and evaluation

Grant funds may not be used to:

  • Subsidize or supplant the program’s existing administrative or scholarship costs, unless such costs are related to the expansion of services to high-achieving students with financial need.
  • Enhance the program’s physical plant.
  • Influence legislation, engage in propaganda, or influence the outcomes of any election.

Letter of Interest Guidelines

Your Letter of Interest should be a one-page (up to 700 words) executive summary of the proposed project, and must include the following information:

  • School Overview: A brief overview of your school that demonstrates recognition as a thought leader in education. To what extent does the purpose of this this grant align with your school’s mission, goals, and beliefs?
  • Program Description: Describe with specific details the proposed access and success program. What evidence suggests that your proposed program is an effective intervention for high-achieving students with financial need? Name the persons chiefly responsible for the proposed program, provide their titles, and the percentage of time (FTE) they will allocate to this initiative.
  • Student Population: Provide general demographics for the student population to be served, such as grade levels, family income, gender, race/ethnicity and information about the schools and communities from which they come.
  • Selection Criteria: How will you determine the academic and financial eligibility of the students you will serve in the program? Explain your criteria for exceptional academic ability and financial need and the process you will use to reach out to and select students for your proposed program. What is the total number of students you expect to serve directly through this grant each year?
  • Timeline: Detail your proposed timeline for program planning and implementation. Keep in minds that funds can be used over one or two years.

Required Documentation

In addition, you will need to upload written proof of your organization’s status as an educational/governmental entity or a 501(c)(3) public charity. You may submit one of the following:

  • IRS Affirmation Letter
  • A letter from an authorized government official
  • A copy of the legislative act creating a government body
  • IRS tax determination letter

Highlights from Past Recipients

Carver High School for Engineering and Science, Philadelphia, PA
Carver High School launched Saturday STEM Scholars (SSS) to build academic leadership capacity of 10-12th grade students at Carver and support 7th and 8th grade prospective students through a yearlong bi-weekly STEM exploration program. The program served nearly 60 students over two years by engaging them in collaborative, inquiry-based classes to learn about engineering design, computer science, applied mathematics, sustainability and the environment from Carver teachers and high school peer mentors. Carver’s program addresses the limited positive academic peer support network that students from low to moderate-income communities may face by training high schoolers to serve as STEM role models and create stronger bonds with younger students. During the two years of Saturday STEM Scholars, Carver expanded the program to provide additional supports to incoming HSES students such as Saturday tutoring for students accepted as 9th graders to help them transition successfully to high school; this additional support enabled Carver to accept students into HSES who may not have been competitive in the traditional application process.

Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and the Ingenuity Project at Poly successfully engaged 900 middle schools students over two years in a 26-week advanced STEM Capstone Challenge. Working closely with nine science teachers at participating schools, the Ingenuity Project designed the program to meet the potential of academically talented youth through curriculum-aligned challenges that include team-based, above-grade level math skills, and the application of technology, innovation and complex problem-solving. As a result, the Capstone Challenge has become a tool for the identification of high achieving students from typically underserved areas across Baltimore City. In just two years, the number of applicants from participating schools has more than tripled, and Ingenuity accepted almost five times the number of students from Capstone schools compared to two years ago. The success of the initiative led Ingenuity to design a math-related capstone challenge and professional development services for K-5 elementary schools in the region to strengthen the pipeline before middle school grades.

Talent Development

The Talent Development Award recognizes exemplary practices that transform high-potential, economically disadvantaged elementary and middle school students into high achievers.  As shown in the Foundation’s report, The Achievement Trap, roughly half of the low-income students in the top academic quartile in the 5th grade drop to a lower quartile by the time they reach the 8th grade.  Moreover, even the top performing low-income students lag behind their higher-income peers in what is now referred to as the “excellence gap.” Too many young students with the potential to reach great heights, academically and artistically, simply won’t make it without targeted, excellence-driven interventions.  We are looking for organizations committed to optimal outcomes for high-potential, low-income students.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Talent Development Award is a one-time $500,000 grant intended to catalyze an organization’s work, bring strategies to a broader scale, and amplify conversations around one approach to cultivating potential.

Major Criteria Considered:

Alignment with the Foundation’s commitment to identify, cultivate, and/or promote exceptionally talented students who have financial need;

  • Focus on students in grades K-8;
  • Effectiveness in achieving outstanding student performance in academics, leadership, and/or the arts as demonstrated through internal reviews, external evaluations, or scientifically-confirmed research;
  • Strong leadership with a clear vision and the capacity to influence stakeholders;
  • Distinctive, noteworthy programs and practices that could be replicated.
Summer Enrichment

High-quality summer learning programs can spark student curiosity and passion, augment academic achievement, nurture intellectual peer support, and influence educational and career trajectories. In focus groups conducted by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, high-achieving students have consistently identified rigorous summer enrichment programs as among the most important and valuable experiences during their middle and high school years. Research is clear on summer programs’ ability to stave off summer learning loss, and evidence is growing to delineate the specific benefits of summer programs for academically talented students.

Unfortunately, high-quality summer enrichment programs remain out of reach for many low-income, high-achieving youth who cannot afford the tuition and related costs of residential programs or whose local community does not offer a program specifically geared toward such students. Through the Summer Enrichment Program, the Foundation supports nonprofit organizations or universities who provide access to high-quality summer enrichment programs for high-achieving low-income students entering grades 6 through 12.

Advanced Learning

Middle and high school students need rigorous academics, real-world applications of what they are learning, and opportunities to envision their future in college and a career. To increase enrollment and success of low-income and minority students in high school Advanced Placement courses, the Foundation partners with organizations that connect high-achieving, lower-income secondary students to advanced coursework and experiential learning that prepares them for a bright future. Through its Advanced Learning grants, the Foundation is increasing enrollment and success of low-income and minority students in high school Advanced Placement courses.

Contact Us

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation typically awards only a limited number of grants to nonprofit organizations whose efforts complement our mission of advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. We rarely, if ever, fund unsolicited proposals.

However, if you would like to be added to our outreach list to receive Foundation news updates and information about future opportunities that may match your work, email your contact information to grants@jkcf.org.