Engaged Students

Students are at the heart of our education system—and our system must meet them where they are, build pathways for their success and ensure they transition to each stage in their journey, from early learning through postsecondary, ready for their next step. Education First combines our passion for helping all youth reach their potential with deep content expertise to support school systems, states, nonprofits and funders in to develop high-quality, scalable solutions for all students.

College- & Career- Ready Teaching & Learning Strategy

Today’s students must master rigorous, college- and career-ready academic standards and develop non-academic competencies to take the world by storm. We help district, charter management organization and state leaders make this vision a reality for all students. We are fluent in college- and career-ready standards and instruction, system strategies to support teaching and learning, extended learning opportunities and integrating academics with the non-academic competencies that are critical to success in college and the workplace. We believe that the pace, intensity and scale of change required to achieve higher student learning results are far greater than the field’s current capacity to deliver standards-aligned instruction. Many educators need to fundamentally change their instructional practices to align with the instructional shifts of new college- and career-ready standards. School systems and state leaders need smarter strategies to guide how they manage or deliver support to schools across many dimensions, including instructional resources; professional learning; assessment, data and technology infrastructure; time for collaboration, planning and extra instruction; educator recruitment, assignment, evaluation and related talent management strategies; and resource allocation. We combine our deep expertise in college and career readiness, teaching and learning and talent management to address these challenges together with system leaders.

Assessments for Learning & Next-Generation Assessments

Strong formative, performance and interim assessments are the backbone of strong instruction. Teachers use assessment data to plan instruction, diagnose student interventions and monitor progress to standard. Many districts and states have added assessments to hold schools and districts accountable, measure student growth in teacher evaluations and diagnose student learning differences. Simply adding more assessments without carefully analyzing what’s already in place is poor practice that will erode public and educator confidence. To help educators improve teaching and ensure that students get and stay on track to succeed at all levels, every school system needs a balanced assessment strategy that emphasizes fewer, better and essential assessments and teacher assessment literacy. Yet designing and implementing an assessment system is complex work; often the planning, resources and processes to implement a robust system of high-quality assessment fail to materialize for all subject areas, purposes and grade levels. We also understand the challenges in designing next-generation assessments, such as curriculum-embedded and competency-based measures that support personalized learning, common performance tasks and better measures to gauge student learning growth in subjects outside of English language arts and mathematics. Education First advises school system and state leaders to articulate and implement balanced and coherent systems of rigorous and meaningful assessments. We combine our technical expertise in standards-based assessment with our project management, facilitation and planning skills to build educators’ assessment literacy and help educators and system leaders review assessments for alignment with standards, identify redundant assessments that can be eliminated, improve existing measures, fill gaps and implement coherent systems.

Pathways for Student Success

Pre-K to 3rd grade, 8th grade through 9th grade completion, and high school to postsecondary education or career are critical gateways in a child’s journey to success in life. All too often these gateways act as roadblocks for students from low-income communities and students of color. To ensure educators have the right tools, supports and training to guide students through these transition points, and to make sure the needs of all students are being met at scale, Education First helps policymakers and educators tighten programming around these transition points, develop systems of data-driven supports, services and interventions, and increase personalized learning options for more students. For example, we help review data to strengthen early learning policies; identify evidence-based programs, wraparound supports and responsive school models (such as STEM schools, dropout recovery, project-based learning or early college high schools) that accelerate learning for struggling students; improve college access and success programming; increase rigor in career and technical education programs and pathways; and reduce remediation in postsecondary education by helping K12 and postsecondary work together and by working directly with campus leaders and faculty to change developmental education policies, instructional practices and delivery.

Helpful Resources

Featured Story: Core to College

Education First facilitated a network of state grantees improving alignment between K-12 and higher education on the Common Core and new assessments.

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Reform Support Network's Assessment Design Toolkit

Measuring what students know and can do is an essential part of teaching, and like many teaching practices, designing assessments is sophisticated work. In this...
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Series: Achieving the Benefits of K-12 and Higher Education Alignment

In this series of briefs we provide an introduction to important areas for effective K–12/higher education collaboration and alignment. Each brief tackles a different issue:...
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Featured Story: EdReports.org

Education First helped design and launch EdReports.org, a new national nonprofit organization that is the “Consumer Reports” for K-12 education, starting with instructional materials.

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