Expanding high-quality early education in Boston and Massachusetts.

Our legacy Early Education Program began when Barr Foundation made its earliest grants in 1999 and concludes in 2020, when transition grants for the portfolio end. We are no longer considering new funding proposals for this program.

Over a 20 year period set to conclude in 2020, Barr will have invested over $47 million through its Early Education Program. Principally focused on Boston, with targeted statewide investments, the Foundation supported a set of partners advancing (through practice and policy) developmentally appropriate early learning and school readiness. Twenty years ago, the field was largely focused on increasing access to childcare. Over time, that focus has both shifted and expanded to include not only increasing supply, but also enhancing quality programming that promotes healthy child development. That elevation of quality is now increasing attention to child outcomes—in other words, are children getting what they need to develop? Equally important, we learned about what it takes to build quality across settings—public schools, community-based programs, and home-based care and education—so that more families now access more options that support their children and meet their unique needs.

In 2015, as part of a strategy redesign at the Foundation, Barr decided to conclude its grantmaking in early education. We take enormous pride in the work of our partners, and we committed ourselves to a responsible exit from this field, awarding $4.6 million in transition grants to enable them to be as resilient as possible upon the sunset of funding.

Below, you can find further information about Barr's Early Education Program—what our goals and strategies were, who our grantees and other key partners were, what we achieved together, and what we learned about the role philanthropy can play in catalyzing and stewarding progress in a field.

We are no longer considering new funding proposals for this program. For any question related to Early Education at Barr, contact Kimberly Haskins.

Learn more about Barr's support of early childhood education, how our strategy adapted based on what we learned, and key highlights that occurred in our local early education field with our Early Education Strategy Timeline.

How were grant funds spent?

A donut chart depicting the $47.6 million spent on Early Education grantmaking.

Meet our partners:

For nearly two decades, we worked with organizations that focused on a variety of work that comprise the early education ecosystem. Below, we are pleased to highlight some of our partners' work, focusing on: families as first teachers, early literacy, early childhood facilities, policy and systems, and Pre-K in Boston.

Families as first teachers: healthy childhood development starts at home.

Raising A Reader Massachusetts

raising a reader

This early literacy organization works to close the academic achievement gap with a family focus.

Learn more about Raising A Reader Massachusetts

First Teacher

first teacher

Bringing to life a vision of powerful parents cultivating lifelong learners in every neighborhood.

Learn more about First Teacher

Smart from the Start

smart from the start square logo

How can supporting families through crisis create lifelong learners?

Learn more about Smart from the Start

Early literacy: evidence-based curricula, teacher supports, and data to build high-quality, effective programs.

Boston Public Schools

BPS Square Logo

Investing in data and community partnerships sets the stage for a lifetime of learning adventures.

Learn more about Boston Public Schools

Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester

bgc dorchester logo

An innovative community partnership works to close achievement gaps and set the stage for connections across the Commonwealth.

Learn more about Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester

Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot

Thrive in 5 Logo

A new model for Early Education quality improvement that puts infants, toddlers, and care providers at the center.

Learn more about Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot

Early childhood facilities: developmentally appropriate spaces to play and learn.

Children's Investment Fund

CIF logo updated 2018

It's not just what you learn, it's where and how you learn. Children's Investment Fund works to create safe physical learning environments for all young students.

Learn more about Children's Investment Fund

Policy and systems: key elements of a healthy, child-centered early education ecosystem.

Strategies for Children

SFC logo

High-quality early learning is rooted in research, policies and systems focused on what works best for children.

Learn more about Strategies for Children

High-quality Pre-K in Boston: a capstone investment to support an effective mixed-delivery system in the City.

Charting a Course to Universal, High-Quality Pre-K

City of Boston

When it comes to early education, the City of Boston has come a long way. While there's still much to be done, there are clear signs of progress for Universal Pre-K.

Learn more about Charting a Course to Universal, High-Quality Pre-K

Barr's Approach to Strategy Transition

In 2016 and 2017, Barr awarded $3,815,000 total in transition grants to 15 organizations. With an average grant period of two years and a few extending to three years, some of these transition grants will be active through September 2020.

As we brought these investments to a close, it was an important priority for Barr to support our partners through this transition. After personally sharing the news with all affected organizations, we implemented a transition process grounded in three key principles:

  1. 1


    Respect for the partnerships that developed over time.

  2. 2


    Transition grants designed with flexibility to allow organizations to build capacity, if needed, in key areas (communications, fundraising, evaluation, etc.) to enable them to be as resilient as possible upon the sunset of funding.

  3. 3

    Knowledge sharing

    Shine a spotlight on good work and lessons learned to build understanding in the field.

Early Education Blog Posts