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Funder Spotlight: Robin Hood Foundation

Richard R. Buery Jr.
CEO of Robin Hood Foundation

Richard R. Buery Jr., the CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, briefly talks about our decade long partnership.


Q: Over the years, you have been a part of a few excellent organizations, each collaborating with ExpandED in unique ways. How did your involvement with ExpandED first start?

A: I’ve worked closely with ExpandED in different ways over the course of my career, beginning when it was the After-School Corporation in the early 2000s. At the time, I was founding an organization called Groundwork, which provided support to families and children in public housing in Eastern Brooklyn, including after-school programs. ExpandED was an important financial supporter and offered technical assistance as well. But ExpandED was so much more than just a funder – the ExpandED team, and particularly founder and former executive director Lucy Friedman, offered a source of community and stability for a young person attempting the scary feat of launching an organization. My experience speaks to the value of ExpandED as an institution in New York City that was instrumental in building after school and Out of School Time as a field and discipline onto itself with professional standards. I’ve had the pleasure of working with ExpandED throughout my early career, as a Deputy Mayor in the de Blasio Administration helping to roll out a massive expansion of after-school for middle school students and now here at Robin Hood.

Q: Can you tell us about the funder collaborative between Robin Hood and the other High-Impact Tutoring partners and why ExpandED was chosen to lead this effort?

A: The last few years have been devastating for New York City school kids. After many years of consistent academic gains in reading and math performance, we saw real declines amidst the pandemic. It’s no surprise that as students’ school was disrupted, schooling was disrupted too. One of the most tragic effects of this is the deep and pernicious gap in achievement between White and Asian students on one hand, and Black and Latino students on the other. Last year, only 36% of NYC’s Black and Latino students were at grade level on the 2022 state English assessments, and 22% in Math. There’s a substantial body of research suggesting that high quality, high dosage tutoring can not only help make tremendous academic gains for young people but also create opportunity for personal connection and mentorship is so critical to young people’s emotional and social wellbeing.

For New York City, the question became: How do we build the infrastructure across the school system to provide high quality tutoring at scale – how do we connect the tutors, content developers, and other resources that make tutoring possible to students across the city? How do we support school principals to incorporate tutoring in an already complicated schedule where time is always limited? And how do we monitor our progress, both at a school-level and across a system? ExpandED has the track record and expertise to answer these questions to make tutoring possible in classrooms across the city. Robin Hood is proud to have joined other funders and invested $2 million over 5 years in a public-private partnership to support ExpandED as they help NYCPS scale HIT to more than 55,000 students over the next five years.

When it comes to connecting resources to schools, one of the first organizations I think of is ExpandED. You have so much experience providing support to school-age kids in school buildings.

Q: What aspects of the High-Impact Tutoring Initiative are you particularly excited about?

A: Kids in New York City need what kids everywhere need. They need strong and supportive personal networks. They need to feel loved and cared for. They need high quality schools, which embrace them, and challenge them, supported by well-trained teachers, who have effective teaching materials. Our young people face challenges, but they have so much brilliance – so much potential – and simply need the resources and supports to spark their genius. We can’t rely on a single sector alone to create the system kids need to thrive. This is about creating an ecosystem – schools working in partnership with community organizations, local cultural institutions, and more. ExpandED has an important track record of being a bridge between schools and the community.

What’s so exciting is that the tutoring intervention will be even more impactful because of the rollout of a new, science-backed approach to literacy education this school year called NYC Reads which seeks to transform the way our schools approach teaching reading. When you have a stronger system, layering High Impact Tutoring as a supplemental intervention will yield stronger results for those grade school students who are struggling with their reading and English studies.

Q: What developments and changes do you believe will significantly shape the future of afterschool programs in the coming years?

A: We’ve been talking a lot about how the pandemic affected schools and learning. But the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the City’s economy as well – and we know how important it is to provide support for working parents. As a parent, if you don’t have a place to send your child that’s safe, you can’t go to work. You can’t participate in the economy. That’s no good for the family because it means you can’t earn money for your kids. But it’s also devastating for the city because it means that our businesses don’t have the talent and the labor they need to grow. What’s so wonderful about after school programs is that they’re an incredible one-two punch that provides an opportunity for kids to discover their interests, get tutoring and do their homework and they are also a critical platform for workforce development. I believe that the after-school model ExpandED helped pioneer and grow is the right one. We are in a moment where our society will greatly benefit from investments that bring these programs to all communities – and particularly for Black and brown families, who continue to suffer adverse economic effects of the pandemic.