Education First works side-by-side with leaders to identify needs, clarify goals, design pragmatic plans and develop capacity for action. Our consultants have designed and led new programs and initiatives, developed district policies and programs, staffed offices at the school, school system and state levels, and evaluated programs for impact and improvement.
Research and Evaluation
Education First emphasizes a collaborative, data-driven and actionable approach to research. We ground our analysis and recommendations in our extensive knowledge of the issues in the preschool through postsecondary education landscape, as well as our expertise in data analysis and improvement science. Using multiple-method research and various planning tools and techniques, we help organizations ask the right questions and focus on the most important issues to make thoughtful and informed decisions. We routinely develop landscape scans/analyses and conduct needs assessments. We produce case studies, policy briefs and reports. We conduct formative evaluations by facilitating decisionmakers to gain clarity on the theory of action, collect and analyze the right data, and continuously monitor progress and improve. Our goal: Help organizations understand the root causes of problems, synthesize expert and stakeholder perspectives, identify relevant policies and promising practices, benchmark against other organizations, gain honest feedback about past approaches, understand opportunities ahead, and gain clarity on what it will take to move from the current state to the ideal state.
In this era of competing commitments and constrained resources, practitioners and policymakers must maintain and communicate a clear vision; align policies, programs and funding to achieve more coherence; and implement initiatives with clarity and quality. The end goal of program design is to establish the service or combination of services that have the best possible chance of achieving the program objectives. Education First assists school districts, charter networks and state leaders to design, refine or redesign programs, initiatives, offices and plans. The process of program design is often as important as the resulting plan for action; the more collaborative the process is, the more successful the resulting plan will be. Throughout the project phases, we facilitate input-gathering and co-design with the people the program seeks to serve, as well as multiple staff and leaders across the organization’s offices and divisions. We work closely with the client to identify the main problems to solve, typically by reviewing literature and evidence-based solutions, collecting and analyzing data, assessing organizational capacity and assets, and consulting and collaborating with a wide variety of affected stakeholders. We facilitate informed choice-making to develop the theory of education, logic model and/or theory of action that spells out how change will occur, with what inputs and resources, against what goals, strategies, activities and outcomes. We identify opportunities, risks and mitigation strategies that fit the local context and needs. We also develop actual program documents, such as curriculum frameworks, trainings for staff and decision rules for implementers, so that the program can be implemented consistently and with quality.
Even a great strategic plan or program will not be successful without faithful and strategic follow-through. Education First supports implementation in at least four ways: conducting needs assessments; using the principles of both human-centered design and improvement science to plan and test ideas, refine and continuously improve implementation; co-designing detailed action plans to help the plan or program implementers execute the big ideas; and working hand-in-glove to implement the plans. In all of these approaches, we partner closely with the client to articulate the specific resource needs (considering people, time and money), develop a joint project plan with timeline that a few or many users can view and contribute to, and choose key performance indicators and milestones so that executives and implementers will know if the program is on track/off track. We also provide ongoing consultation and support to monitor progress, reflect and adjust implementation in real-time.