Learning Differences


The Challenge


Approximately 20 per cent of children (10 million students) in United States public schools have learning profiles that are not aligned with the expectations and teaching methodologies prevalent in mainstream school systems. Referred to as learning differences, this includes, but is not limited to: dyslexia; attention issues; and learning disabilities.

As a result, these students are often perceived as not being capable of performing well in school, unmotivated or just not trying hard enough. These students often disengage with school, perform poorly and may not graduate from high school. Those who do graduate often choose not to pursue post-secondary educational opportunities. As adults, many are under-employed or can even end up in prison.
However, this is a loss of a critical resource in our society. Paradoxically, these learners bring the strengths of persistence, alternative problem-solving approaches and creativity along with their capable minds -- to school, and later to the workplace and society.


What we're doing


In the Learning Differences Programme, we focus on addressing the challenges for people with learning differences in public school systems.

We support research and activities that contribute to both knowledge about and strategies available to students (from primary school to university) who struggle in school as a result of learning differences. These differences represent a profile of learning strengths and weaknesses which, when understood by the student, parent and teacher, can be addressed and leveraged to promote success at school.


Please read the What we fund page for more information on our programme priorities and current grant information.




In addition to the overall principles of Oak Foundation, in the Learning Difference Programme, we fund initiatives that incorporate the following elements:

  • demonstrate the possibility of being replicated in state-funded schools;
  • use research, evidence-based programmes and strategies;
  • support parent/guardian advocacy;
  • provide services to all students regardless of ability to pay;
  • support the successful transition to college and other post-secondary opportunities;
  • extend the knowledge and research base on the use of technology and online
  • learning to support students;
  • provide information, such as materials and websites in formats that are accessible to
  • users with learning differences;
  • extend research to address learning needs not met by current programmes and approaches; and
  • provide strong methods for measuring outcomes or impact.