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Policy & Thought Leadership

By Elizabeth Cryan Photography with permission from Donnell-Kay Foundation at Rocky Mountain Prep school

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Policy and Thought Leadership

Our Policy and Thought Leadership practice conducts research in order to develop ideas, publish reports, and make recommendations that have an impact on education policy and the broader conversation about America’s schools. Through high-quality analysis, advising, and support services, we help organizations and leaders understand how policies affect their work so they can improve outcomes for underserved students.

Our team members have backgrounds that include work at the federal, state, and local levels and span a wide variety of policy and advocacy issues. Members of our team currently teach or have taught in elementary and secondary schools, at colleges and universities, and have worked with schools and districts as advisers, consultants, public officials, and more. Our staff have also served in roles at the White House, the Department of Education, and state education agencies. We offer unparalleled, independent analysis of education issues informed by our deep expertise and broad networks in the education sector. As a result, we are consistently sought out for advice about trends and opportunities in education and to offer guidance on positioning in the current reform debate.

Our primary activities include:

Publishing

Bellwether regularly publishes policy briefs and papers designed to inform the field or advance new ideas on education issues. Our publications leverage in-depth research and our staff’s deep understanding of the field to present new analyses, insights, and ideas in a format that is clear, accessible, and compelling to education and policy audiences. Our Policy and Thought Leadership team has an established track record of authoring and publishing high-impact publications that help shape the debate on education policy issues. We always maintain absolute editorial control over anything that carries our brand or byline.

Research and Policy Analysis

Bellwether undertakes research and analysis on a range of education policy topics. We engage in client-facing research and analysis projects designed to meet the needs of a particular client, as well as external-facing research and analysis designed to advance the knowledge and understanding of the broader field.

Examples of work in this area include:

  • Scanning and analyzing state and local policy conditions across multiple states or jurisdictions to identify trends or help organizations identify the most promising sites for growth or expansion
  • Conducting qualitative or quantitative analyses of the impact of state policy changes or conditions on education outcomes
  • Synthesizing research literature to identify policy implications or promising practices for federal, state, and local policy
  • Analyzing legislation and proposed policy changes
  • Developing policy proposals and recommendations to improve federal, state, or local policies

Advising

Education is a highly politicized, highly regulated, and publicly funded service, so policy and political conditions significantly impact the ability of education organizations to achieve their goals. Bellwether provides a range of hands-on advising services, customized to individual client needs, to help our clients understand and navigate these challenges. These services include:

  • Understanding the political and policy landscape: We help clients identify the policy and political factors impacting their work, monitor changes and developments, and refine organizational strategies in response to an evolving education landscape.
  • Communications and thought leadership advising: We do not represent clients but can help organizations develop and articulate the messages they want to communicate to policymakers and the broader public, define key strategic audiences for those messages, and develop strategies for communicating their work. Because we are not a public affairs or lobbying firm, we are also able to candidly advise clients about when they should retain such services.
  • Implementation support: We work with public sector agencies and their partners in the nonprofit, philanthropic, and advocacy sectors to effectively implement public policies designed to advance outcomes for low-income students. This work can include advising on strategies for stakeholder engagement, carrying out research and analysis, and developing tools and systems for policy implementation.
  • Philanthropic advising: We work with foundations to craft, implement, and modify investment strategies in the education space. Our work includes strategy development, staff and trustee education, research and analysis about particular investment areas, diligence, and impact evaluation of philanthropic investments. We have particular expertise in public policy and grants affecting early childhood education providers.

To read about our transparency and confidentiality policies and how we maintain our editorial independence, click here.