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What We Do

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What We Do

 

A more equitable democratic society – as well as our changing economy – demand dramatically better systems, practices, and outcomes from our education system. To achieve this goal we need stronger and more flexible organizations working to deliver an outstanding education to all children and eliminate educational inequities for Black, Hispanic, low-income, and other students who have historically been denied opportunity. Bellwether advances new ideas that shape the field of education and works closely with clients to address their most pressing strategic and operational issues. Our goal is to build organizations’ capacity to achieve ambitious and equitable student outcomes through our six interrelated service offerings:

Policy analysis and research

Bellwether develops and advances policy solutions to the major challenges and long-standing inequities facing policymakers and the education field. Our analysis and research are informed by the broad and diverse perspectives of our team, their professional experience from the schoolhouse to the statehouse and White House, our expertise in policy design and implementation, and our attention to how policy changes affect students who have been historically denied opportunity. The research and recommendations we’ve released have shaped local, state, and federal policies and the broader conversation about America’s schools. We are sought out for our independent analysis, deep expertise, and broad networks in the education sector. Our reports, videos, op-eds, blog posts, slide decks, memos, and more help organizations and leaders understand and communicate how policies affect their work so they can achieve better and more equitable outcomes for kids.

Strategy and growth planning

Regardless of their stage of growth, many organizations in the education sector seek advice to deepen and broaden their impact on underserved kids. Bellwether supports schools, organizations, foundations, leaders, and entrepreneurs addressing program improvement and/or strategic growth. Through an inclusive process of stakeholder engagement, we first help organizations clarify their theory of action and goals, including the vision for how their work will directly or indirectly support historically underserved students. We then develop a clear, objective assessment of current strengths and gaps. Our team identifies and assesses strategic options against the values and priorities of our clients, including equity, and builds plans that are detailed, actionable, and have buy-in from across the team.

Organizational effectiveness and efficiency

Bellwether works with organizations of all sizes to plan and build their capacity across a number of areas, including human capital, operations, finance, academics, programming, external relations, and governance. This can include conducting financial analysis to drive internal efficiency, equity, and sustainability; undertaking targeted research into national and local best practices; and defining and clarifying organizational roles and responsibilities. Bellwether always leaves clients with a set of tailored recommendations on the best path forward to drive internal change in service of doing deeply impactful work in diverse communities.

Implementation support

Launching complex projects requires attention to details, communications, and change management. We help organizations design and execute a breadth of initiatives, providing project management expertise and extra implementation capacity to position critical initiatives for long-term success. When new projects or initiatives require financial backing, we can also help clients develop competitive grant applications for federal and other funds.

Educational program evaluation

Organizations need good information about their programs to understand what works, for whom, and why. Bellwether’s team of evaluators helps clients integrate evaluation into planning and implementation efforts so they can get good information, reflect on the equity implications of their choices, and use data to drive what they do. We can conduct classic short- and long-term external evaluations, and we can also offer extensive experience in building the capacity of organizations and grantees to evaluate their own efforts for continuous improvement. We infuse the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion into all evaluations — read about how.

Academic and program strategy

Through tailored one-on-one collaborations and multi-school cohorts, our academic and program strategy team helps schools and networks start strong, diagnose emerging challenges and gaps, improve results, and grow with quality. Our advisers deepen and expand the impact of school programming by supporting new schools through early-stage planning, helping leaders scale impact, and building improvement plans for existing schools. This work includes assessing school quality, examining achievement gaps and other manifestations of inequity, establishing strong teacher and leader coaching systems, developing a comprehensive approach to school culture, facilitating professional development to support capacity building, and providing executive coaching of school and network leaders.

Read more about the two teams that carry out this work — Policy and Evaluation and Strategic Advising – or learn more about what sets us apart.