Program Design & Implementation

Education First works side-by-side with leaders to identify needs, design pragmatic plans and develop capacity for action. We also design, facilitate and manage educator engagement processes so that educators are involved in real problem-solving and decision-making and join other stakeholders in taking ownership of new policies and reforms. 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, Program Analysis & Program Strategy

Nearly every engagement we conduct includes research and analysis as a starting point for deeper exploration and decisionmaking. We apply our expertise with a host of issues — ranging from college readiness, access and completion, to assessment and accountability, to teaching effectiveness, to charter school policy — to conduct in-depth and relevant research, analysis, strategy and implementation support for our clients. We also utilize our relationships and connections with practitioners, district and state leaders, advocates and thought leaders to gain insights into the pressing challenges our clients face.



Some of our research & program analysis services include:

  • Designing and implementing multiple method research, including document analysis, classroom observations, expert interviews, focus groups, stakeholder surveys and literature reviews
  • Conducting formative evaluations, by gaining clarity on the theory of action, collecting and analyzing the right data to understand the situation and inform decision-making and facilitating a process to determine course corrections
  • Conducting analyses of capacity, technical issues, readiness and implementation status and working hand-in-glove with leaders and their teams to reflect on their progress and take action
  • Providing support for grantmaking portfolio monitoring by assessing grantee progress and barriers, designing dashboards that reveal progress to ultimate outcomes and advising foundation leaders and staff on program adjustments
  • Crafting compelling web content, videos, infographics, briefs, case studies and other publications that tell the story revealed through the research & program analysis

Planning & Problem Solving for Successful Implementation

We ground our analysis and recommendations in our extensive knowledge of the issues in the preschool through postsecondary education landscape. We help identify and articulate the main problems each client needs to solve, or the problems that the field needs more focused attention to solve. Gaining clarity on the problems to be solved, and who is or isn’t addressing them, is the essential first step. From there, we identify custom research questions and methods to examine the problems. We adapt our strategic planning methodology as needed to consider and select options. We facilitate informed choice-making and we identify opportunities, risks and mitigation strategies that fit each client’s context and needs. Once a course is set, we design detailed action plans to help the program implementers execute the big ideas with fidelity, and we provide consultation and support to monitor and adjust the plans in real-time.


Educator & Stakeholder Engagement

Education First wants educators to lend their expertise, dig into tough problems with district and state leaders and identify innovative and practical solutions that increase student success. The case for engaging educators is simple and compelling. If students are to meet the expectations of college- and career-ready standards and we are to close achievement gaps, it will be because committed educators—teachers, principals, district and state leaders—empower themselves to work together to this end. Sometimes, due to the quick-pace and stress of reform, state and district policymakers can use underdeveloped engagement strategies that leave educators feeling disempowered or lacking understanding of the rationale for change. Educators may perceive that they are being asked for their involvement to lend credibility rather than expertise. This lack of authentic engagement makes it more difficult to implement and sustain new reforms. Education First works to achieve sustained, collaborative engagement in multiple contexts: within and through educator unions, with independent teacher voice organizations, with district and state leaders and with funders.