What We’re Doing

Early Learning

Education doesn’t start in kindergarten. Parents, caregivers, and educators encourage children to learn long before they start school. We help all adults prepare children for a life of learning.

Our Early Learning strategy aims to ensure that all infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are ready for kindergarten by age five.

To do this, the Packard Foundation supports organizations working to improve training and professional development for early childhood educators and caregivers, and provide parents, extended family members, and informal caregivers with the information, coaching, and support they seek to create environments where children can learn, grow, and thrive.

We also partner with California communities to test new approaches to strengthen and unify local early learning systems, and explore ways to scale what works statewide.

And, we support smart policies, services, and programs that help create the best learning environment for California’s young children.

We are working to:

  • Support local, state, and federal policies that ensure kids are able to show up to preschool and kindergarten ready to learn, and educators in every environment are able to connect with and help students learn and develop.
  • Promote educator preparation programs that help teachers talk with parents, improve learning and classroom environments, and help young children grow.
  • Build and improve professional development programs that help child care providers and educators plan for and support children’s learning and development as they grow.
  • Support local, state, and federal policies that guarantee parents can send their children to a first-rate preschool.
  • Connect parents and caregivers with information on how to create quality early learning experiences.
  • Support research and evaluation on practices that best support children’s growth and share the results.

Partner Highlight


Educare California at Silicon Valley serves up to 168 children ages 0 to 5 and their families in a model early learning school. It houses high-quality early learning classrooms, a family resource center, a satellite children’s museum, and a career academy for high school students. It also hosts the state’s leading professional development institute, training early childhood education professionals in scientifically proven best practices in an effort to improve the quality of care and instruction in sites beyond the walls of the school, including K-12.

The Early Learning Lab

The Early Learning Lab supports the early childhood education field by identifying, developing and catalyzing the use of innovative tools, program design, and technologies to foster great caregiving and teaching of children from birth to age five. The Lab works with school districts and other stakeholders to co-design and support implementation of testing and learning initiatives to identify effective strategies that improve teacher, parent and caregiver practice. The Lab supports shared learning in and across the three Starting Smart and Strong communities and partners with them to design for scale.

Starting Smart and Strong Communities

Starting Smart and Strong is our shared long-term commitment that every child in Fresno, San Jose, and Oakland grows up healthy and ready for kindergarten. The communities are developing and testing solutions that support parents, caregivers, and educators as they prepare children to be healthy and ready for school with self-confidence and a love of learning. The initiative is bringing together public and private supporters to create a local comprehensive early learning network in select California communities, and ultimately scale what works.

New Teacher Center

The New Teacher Center (NTC) improves student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers and school leaders. By strengthening school communities from within and building teacher leadership capacity, its research-based programs improve teacher retention and help close the achievement gap in the nation’s schools. NTC developed a comprehensive Early Learning Professional Development model to cultivate highly effective transitional kindergarten (TK) and pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) teachers who create learning environments that ensure student growth.

Our People

Meera Mani


Jeff Sunshine

Program Officer and Manager

Bernadette Sangalang

Program Officer

Deborah Kong

Program Officer

Katie Harkin

Program Associate

Diana Garcia

Program Research Analyst

How to Get Support

The Children, Families, and Communities Program is not accepting unsolicited proposals, but welcomes your ideas for funding requests. Before you send a request, please review this page. If your work is aligned with the program strategy and geographic focus, please send your request using the form here.