Why RWJF is Funding Teacher Quality

A recent grant of $1.65 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the New Teacher Center raises the question: Is the RWJF, best known as a funder of health care projects, is entering the realm of K-12 education funding?

Well, yes and no. This funder has long been a strong presence in health care funding. Recently, for example, the foundation has supported projects related to the implementation and impact of the Affordable Care Act. The foundation also supports higher education projects related to nursing education and other aspects of health care.

The New Teacher Center (NTC), meanwhile, is a nonprofit that emphasizes teacher training and effectiveness as a means for improving student learning. The center provides mentoring and professional development to support new teachers.

While the grant to the NTC may look like a new course for the Johnson Foundation, it is actually consistent with the foundation’s interest in health. The grant is designed to support the NTC’s efforts to incorporate more content related to social and emotional learning in its teacher training curriculum. Both the foundation and the NTC believe social and emotional learning are essential elements of good teaching, and students who are socially and emotionally healthy are more likely to be academically successful.

The RWJF grant to the New Teacher Center is part of the foundation’s Vulnerable Populations program area, and illustrates the importance of approaching education with an emphasis on supporting the whole student — meeting social and emotional needs, as well as academic ones — to ensure success in school and later in life.