Research for Action

Practical research and innovative recommendations you can use

Education First delivers research and analysis that help organizations ask the right questions, probe the root causes of problems, understand the perspectives of stakeholders and experts, benchmark against other organizations and identify the right solutions for their unique context. Our approach, informed by our experience as educators and school leaders and our extensive knowledge of the preschool-through-postsecondary landscape, is practical and action-oriented. Whether we’re designing a new program strategy or recommending change to an existing system, we help state education agencies, school districts, policymakers, funders and others get to the heart of the problem they want to address with quality research, honest feedback and meaningful recommendations for action. Education First:

  • Produces purpose-driven landscape scans, literature reviews, policy analyses and mixed-method (qualitative and quantitative) research
  • Designs advanced research studies and research-to-practice partnerships
  • Synthesizes and analyzes lessons and insights from the field to inform decisionmaking
  • Leads learning and evaluation projects to measure, monitor, evaluate and continuously improve
  • Conducts interviews, surveys and focus groups of stakeholders with methods including equity-driven empathy research and centering the perspectives of those closest to the problem

Research for Action Experts

Education First is a seasoned team of trusted advisors to the leaders responsible for delivering what many Americans want most: public education that effectively prepares all students for success in college, careers and a world of constant change.

Ila Deshmukh Towery
Ila Deshmukh Towery
professional headshot for Kelly James
Kelly James
Kelly Kovacic Duran
Kelly Kovacic Duran
Principal Consultant
Anand Vaishnav
Anand Vaishnav
Principal and Senior Director of Consulting Practice
Learn about our people

Recent clients

Heising-Simons Foundation

California has made an historic investment to expand high-quality, equitable universal prekindergarten. The Heising-Simons Foundation commissioned Education First to identify the highest-impact opportunities for philanthropy to support state implementation over the next 2-3 years and recommend next steps for funders.


We assisted Eskolta School Research and Design in determining how to expand its work with nontraditional and alternative schools to other cities on the East Coast. Using our research on those cities and a literature review of successful expansion strategies, Eskolta now operates in Boston and Washington, D.C. as well as New York.

Sobrato Family Foundation

We helped convene, facilitate and coordinate the Sobrato Family Foundation’s “Policy Partners” coalition, comprised of seven dual language learner (DLL) and English learner (EL) advocacy organizations advancing language acquisition policies and practices in California.

Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation asked Education First to research the current summative testing landscape and identify and propose promising innovations to inform next-generation assessment and accountability system designs.

Learn about our clients

What’s next? Action steps to help you benefit from our expertise:

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