Education First Library

In addition to our client work, the team at Education First regularly publishes reports, analyses and summaries of our findings and recommendations in college and career readiness, college completion, STEM strategies and teacher and leader effectiveness. Our most recent publications are posted on our homepage and our past publications are posted here. For more information on anything you see here, please contact us.

9/25/15: CCSS and Assessments Status Maps

State legislative and executive actions over the past year resulted in changes to the Common Core and assessments landscape. An overwhelming majority of states are continuing Common Core implementation despite dozens of bills aimed at delaying or repealing the standards. A number of states’ assessment plans, on the other hand, are likely to change heading into the new school year. Education First released updated maps that detail these changes—looking back to last year and forward to next—to better understand which states are reviewing their standards, which are moving to new assessment vendors and which had Common Core repeal legislation that failed during 2015 sessions.

We've also updated our Assessment Primer: What Does High-Quality Look Like? to reflect the current landscape and provide clear information about the role of tests; why we need new and better tests of student learning; and the characteristics of locally, privately and state consortia-developed assessments that many states are considering using.

7/7/15: New Briefs on K12-Higher Education Alignment

Throughout the country, states are focusing greater attention on helping more students get ready for college, and ultimately complete a postsecondary credential or degree. Getting it right requires K-12 and higher education to work together – to jointly share a definition of college readiness, share assessments, collaborate on readiness strategies, and more. Some states have been working on alignment for many years. But more is needed. Based on Education First’s experience as the national director for the Core to College project and the experience of the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) with the College and Career Readiness Partnership, we’ve written a set of six briefs that highlight key areas of alignment. Each brief describes the challenge, provides practical advice for action and includes descriptions of exemplary state activity. The briefs cover the following topics:

  • Brief 2: Defining College and Career Readiness. This brief provides an overview of college readiness definitions, processes for their development and ideas for how they can be used. Such definitions often form the basis of a broader K-12/higher education college readiness improvement agenda.
  • Brief 5: Aligning Gateway College Courses. This brief provides information about how to initiate an effort to build on college readiness standards to align first year college courses to high school graduation requirements.
  • To view all briefs, click here.

6/25/2015: Education First, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is pleased to release Giving Teachers the Feedback and Support They Deserve: Five Essential Practices. This report describes what five districts are doing to ensure teacher receive high-quality feedback and support from their evaluation systems. It is part of a series focused on teacher effectiveness entitled Evaluation and Support: Strategies for Success. Six policy briefs in the series have already been released and can also be accessed in Education First's Educator Support, Development and Evaluation page.

6/11/2015: For decades, Ohio policymakers have piled regulations onto public schools. Up to a point, this top-down, input-driven approach made sense, back in an era when too many students weren’t receiving even a rudimentary education, and when we weren’t nearly as fussy about academic results. But times have changed. We now realize that students need strong minds—not just strong backs—to compete for jobs in a competitive and knowledge-based economy. Rigorous academic expectations are the “coin of the realm” in contemporary education policy—but there is also now near-universal consensus that children deserve schooling experiences tailored to their individual needs, gifts and interests. These powerful forces demand a radically different approach to public education—and especially to the old regulatory regime that ruled it. The compliance-based approach to public education must give way to more flexible arrangements. Our brief, Getting Out of the Way: Education Flexibility to Boost Innovation and Improvement in Ohio, fleshes out in greater detail the policy mechanisms by which Ohio policymakers can empower local leaders—and nurture the productive use of newfound autonomies. The paper recommends several avenues, including rolling back archaic legislation (we flag areas ripe for repeal), providing for a simple waiver process that districts can use and creating a culture where deregulatory activity becomes normal and expected, not the exception.

5/8/2015: Education First, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is pleased to release the final briefs in a series focused on implementing high-quality teacher evaluation and support systems entitled Evaluation & Support: Strategies for Success. These briefs provide district and state leaders with practice advice and strategies on these critical topics: Professional Learning and Support; Communications and Engagement; and Using Data from Multiple Measures. The first three briefs in this series were released in November 2014 and can also be found in Education First’s online library.

11/20/14: Education First, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is pleased to release the first three briefs in a series focused on teacher effectiveness titled Evaluation & Support: Strategies for Success. The first three briefs provide district and state leaders with practical advice for implementing high-quality Classroom Observations, Student Surveys and Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). You can also access an Introduction to the Series. We will release the final three briefs of the series—on Professional Learning and Support, Communications and Engagement and Using Data from Multiple Measures—in coming months.

10/29/14: What support do educators need to succeed with new Common Core standards? Education First has prepared a timely series of three briefs to help policymakers and educators understand what’s uniquely needed today, learn from examples of successful districts and take action. An executive summary concisely reviews our findings.

5/15/14: As part of the High Quality Assessment Project (HQAP) Education First has created two tools to help state leaders navigate some of the choices for moving forward with high-quality assessments: What Does a High-Quality Assessment Look Like? is a shorter companion document to CCSSO’s recently released Criteria for Procuring and Evaluating High-Quality Assessments and provides a clear summary of what state leaders, school leaders and advocates should expect from vendors and the tough questions they should be asking as the consider different assessment options. Assessments “mythbusters” FAQ—with one version tailored for states engaged in PARCC and one for states engaged in Smarter Balanced—collects some of the best arguments we’ve heard for countering the claims, conspiracy theories and worries about the use of tests in general and new assessments aligned to Common Core standards specifically.

2/26/14: In partnership with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Education First released Common Core in the Districts: An Early Look at Early Implementers. The report features a close look at how four pioneering districts are striving to put the Common Core into practice in their central offices, schools and classrooms in the areas of Common Core-aligned curricular materials, professional development, leadership, communications, accountability and assessments. Check out the early media coverage (Ed Week, The Hechinger Report) and examine our other Common Core resources, including A Primer on Common Core-Aligned Assessments and a school-level transition guide.

12/10/13: Education First is pleased to release A Primer on Common Core-Aligned Assessments. The primer includes the most up-to-date information about assessment content, use, purpose and quality, and can be a useful resource for state policymakers, advocates and educators alike as they transition to new Common Core-aligned assessment systems.

9/19/13: The Aspen Institute, together with Education First, Insight Education Group, Student Achievement Partners and Targeted Leadership Consulting, releases “Implementation of the CCSS: A Transition Guide for School-Level Leaders.” The guide is intended for use as an action-planning springboard for school leadership teams to help ensure the many interconnected components of high-quality CCSS implementation take hold in their schools.

2/5/13: In partnership with the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, Education First has released Moving Forward: A National Perspective on States’ Progress in Common Core State Standards Implementation Planning. A sequel to last year’s Preparing for Change report, this new report provides another 50-state snapshot of state plans to implement the Common Core, and suggests that states have made significant progress since 2011.

1/31/13: Education First collaborated with Achieve, the Aspen Institute and Insight Education Group to develop a new tool to support state legislators in playing a strong role in the implementation of the Common Core. The tool features a set of questions legislators can ask to know if their state is on track with both implementation and its transition to common assessments.

10/1/12:Education First has been pleased to work with the 10 Core to College states in the first year of their efforts to better align the work of the higher education and K12 sectors to implement the Common Core standards. This report highlights some of their early learnings, best practices around faculty engagement and some likely next steps in their efforts.

10/1/12:Education First collaborated with a group of award-winning Oregon teachers and The Chalkboard Project to identify steps—including new leadership pathways and compensation plans, better evaluations of teacher performance, rigorous, classroom-based student teaching experiences, and high-quality mentoring—to support and strengthen teaching in the state. The research behind these recommendations are spelled out in “Distinguished Educators Provide a Vision for the Teaching Profession in Oregon".

3/6/12: Education First was pleased to partner with Achieve on the development of a new “Common Core State Standards Implementation Rubric and Self-Assessment Tool.” This rubric sets a high quality standard for a strong state role in implementation of the new standards, provides some concrete details and examples to help state leaders get there and profiles some promising state approaches. We look forward to working with states and national organizations to use this tool to improve Common Core implementation across the country.

2/9/12: Education First congratulates the 10 states granted waivers from the mandates of No Child Left Behind in exchange for proposals to raise standards, improve accountability, and drive essential reforms to improve teacher effectiveness. We were pleased to support Massachusetts in the completion of their winning application for this important flexibility.

1/26/12: Education First congratulates Connecticut’s teachers and policymakers on reaching consensus on the key components of the state’s new educator evaluation system.

1/12/2012: Education First teamed up with Editorial Projects in Education to review state plans to align professional development, curriculum and teacher evaluation systems with the Common Core State Standards. Our findings are detailed in Preparing for Change, a National Perspective on Common Core State Standards Implementation Planning.

12/22/2011: Education First congratulates the seven winners of Race to the Top Round 3. We were honored to work with the Colorado team on their winning proposal.

11/16/2011: Education First was pleased to work with the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education to author a year one status report on Race to the Top implementation in Massachusetts.

11/7/2011: Education First worked with EdVestors to examine the role that external partners can play in turnaround efforts in low performing schools. Our extensive research was detailed in “Embracing Change: How Outside Support Can Set Low Performing Schools on the Path to Success.”

3/2/2011: Education First just released a report that looks at common areas of priority and focus in this year’s State of the State and Inaugural Addresses. It includes the relevant text, high level analysis of 38 state speeches and an appendix with state-by-state highlights.

2/18/2011: Education First helped plan and facilitate the W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation’s 2010 convening of its education grantees: "Building to Scale – Best Practices for Using Evaluation to Improve Programs and Increase Impact." Click here to read the summary report.

1/21/2011: With the start of 2011, many states are welcoming new gubernatorial administrations, and with them, new staff who will lead policy development over the next four years. Education First has written this white paper to help them be as successful as possible.

12/15/2010: Education First just published a report to the Chalkboard Project, Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, Oregon Business Association, and Stand for Children: "Promising Practices in Accountability." Click here to read the report.

12/1/2010: Federal stimulus spending for both economic recovery and education reform has not matched its ambitious intent, according to a paper co-authored by Education First Consulting and Bellwether Education Partners. The paper suggests recommendations for how future federal education policy decisions could move reform faster and farther.

9/30/2010: Education First founder, Jenn Vranek, is honored by the Puget Sound Business Journal as one of the 40 Under 40.

8/24/2010: Education First congratulates the 10 winners of Race to the Top Round 2. We are honored to have worked with the teams in HawaiiMaryland and Ohio, all of whom won. Along with these three and Tennessee in Round 1, Education First has directly helped these client states secure a total of more than $1.2 billion in federal funds which, more importantly, will benefit over 2.8 million students in these four states.

8/20/2010: Click here to see Education First's analysis of the 19 phase 2 Race to the Top finalists’ applications.

8/10/2010: Education First congratulates Metro Nashville Public Schools and the city of Nashville for launching ASSET – Achieving Student Success through Effective Teaching. ASSET is a strategic approach to preparing, developing, rewarding and retaining effective educators, and we are honored to have been a part of the work.

10/15/2009: In 2009 and 2010 Education First provided technical assistance to the California State Senate on complex education issues. A memorandum was shared on K12 accountability policy was presented on February 24, 2011. A landscape analysis related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning initiatives in California and beyond was presented on November 10, 2010. A PowerPoint exploring early warning systems to help students stay on-track to high school graduation was presented on April 29, 2010. A memorandum regarding effective teacher evaluation systems was presented on October 15, 2009.