Design and accelerate grantmaking and funder collaboration strategies that create transformative change

Education First partners with local, regional and national funders whose missions align with ours: to transform public education so that all young people and especially students who are farthest from opportunity graduate from high school and postsecondary education ready for their next steps. We believe the most powerful and sustainable philanthropy occurs when foundations combine the perspectives and voices of the people they seek to support with the rich evidence base for improving student learning and schools. We are informed facilitators, researchers and strategists, and many of us are former grantmakers and former systems leaders. We bring our deep understanding of the field to build grantee capacity, incubate new initiatives, programs and organizations, serve as grantmaking intermediary organizations, and advise executives and program officers on grantmaking goals, strategies and ongoing learning. We frequently convene grantee communities of practice to foster productive collaboration. We support numerous funder learning networks, collaboratives and pooled funds. Having advised and helped manage dozens of funder collaborations over nearly 15 years, we understand what causes some to flourish and others to flounder.

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Recent clients

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

As part of the Foundation’s strategy to improve math outcomes for students in grades 6-12, Education First is helping the foundation design new communities of practice and learning networks in California that will boost teacher skills, knowledge and confidence in math. Issues to resolve include determining what school district leaders and educators say they need, identifying the appropriate focus of and participants in networks, and bridging the gaps in capacity and resources in rural and urban areas.

College Futures Foundation (CFF)

We partnered with the College Futures Foundation to develop a new strategic approach to increasing the bachelor’s degree attainment for young men of color in California. We began with a national landscape scan, for which we interviewed research, higher education and philanthropy experts on the experiences of young men of color and promising programs in K12 and higher education that serve their unique needs. We also managed the Foundation’s grants to three organizations conducting focused research specifically on young men of color in California: The Education Trust-West, Educational Results Partnership and the Community College Equity Assessment Lab at San Diego State University. Drawing on both our national research and the grantees’ state-level research, we collaborated with College Futures leaders to develop a grantmaking approach focused on young men of color across the Foundation’s focus areas.

Emerging Bilingual Collaborative

With five California-based foundations, we co-designed and continue to advise the Emerging Bilingual Collaborative, which helps educators deliver high-quality instructional practices to multilingual learners in grades PreK-3. The Collaborative funded 11 districts and county offices to help systems use the Multilingual Learning Toolkit, a website with resources for teachers and administrators who support multilingual learners. We also facilitate a community of practice for the grantees to support them through peer learning and interest group meetings.

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Helmsley Charitable Trust and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

We partnered with three foundations and the Founding Board Chair to incubate and launch, whose reviews of instructional materials have been used by more than 1,400 districts educating more than 16 million students. We recruited the founding board and executive director, conducted a nationwide listening tour, developed the business plan, designed the review process, methodology and K8 mathematics rubric and recruited and trained expert educators to conduct the first reviews.

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