What We Do
Because Bellwether works with the most diverse cross-section of organizations of any education firm, we’re able to build connections that others might not see. We can spot national trends and emerging issues, understand how federal policy lands in different jurisdictions, and build a more seamless sector so well-meaning adults work in concert instead of at cross purposes. We understand deeply how to make change happen by bringing unlikely allies together in service of those most marginalized.
We understand deeply how to make change happen by bringing unlikely allies together in service of those most marginalized.
We know that policymakers must be informed by researchers and communities, researchers need to be informed by teachers and families, foundations should be informed by their grantees, and all layers of the American education system must be in conversation with one another. In our work, we synthesize content knowledge and expertise with our deep networks to make sure the right people are set up to act on our findings and advice.
You can view a selection of our field-facing work and analysis from 2020 below:
In education there are no simple and magically effective solutions that, if implemented everywhere, will immediately erase gaps between low-income students and their wealthy peers, or solve every classroom challenge facing teachers. When we provide support to school leaders, district staff, or funders, we tailor our work to respond to those affected by program and policy decisions. When we conduct research and present findings, we create deliverables that meet the needs of the end user, whether that’s a printable workbook, one-page tip sheet, or short video. We approach our work with questions, not answers, and remain flexible and adaptable throughout every client project.
When we conduct research and present findings, we create deliverables that meet the needs of the end user, whether that’s a printable workbook, one-page tip sheet, or short video.
For instance, when Basta asked our Policy & Evaluation team to improve a survey distributed to all their incoming fellows, we knew that even the best mathematical formulas and algorithms couldn’t capture how first-generation students envisioned their future careers. Through a collaborative process, we built a diagnostic tool and simple visual dashboard that helps Basta offer customized coaching to their NYC-based students of color and ultimately close the employment gap.
You can read more about our other practical resources from 2020 below:
Customization matters. What’s successful and durable in one place might not stick or, worse, might reinforce inequitable or racist systems elsewhere. Bellwether team members are spread out across urban, suburban, and rural communities and understand this reality deeply. In our lives outside of work, we serve as volunteers, fill appointed political roles, and teach in the places we’ve built our lives. We focus our recommendations on improving education and life outcomes for young people furthest from opportunity while reflecting specific local needs.
We focus our recommendations on improving education and life outcomes for young people furthest from opportunity while reflecting specific local needs.
In 2020, members of our team virtually embedded with six different school districts across Texas to assist their ongoing COVID-19 response. We built close relationships in each district and adapted when circumstances shifted. In the end, we helped amazing principals get better at coaching their teaching staff virtually, generated senior leader plans that kicked off right away, and co-built teacher supports for a virtual academy bringing together all elementary schools in one district. Bellwether advised local leaders during an incredibly hard year without sacrificing nuance, practicality, or impact — and offered lessons that will serve Texans long beyond the crisis we’re living through.
You can read more about our localized work and resources from 2020 below:
Who We Work With
For 10 years, clients have looked to Bellwether to provide thoughtful, non-ideological analysis and strategies that prioritize serving disadvantaged children — and Bellwether continued to deliver on this promise, even in a tumultuous year that changed the state of education overnight. Whether working with individual schools, charter networks, school districts, or community organizations, we helped our clients keep the focus on doing the greatest good for kids.
The Bellwether team was so knowledgeable and supportive, and had a real gift for taking big ideas and thoughts in our heads and making them into real, actionable items on paper. They were flexible and extended so much grace to our team as we’ve navigated going back to school during COVID-19, which was greatly appreciated.
We have consistent quality from Bellwether. They’re excellent listeners and have taken the time to learn about our community and what makes us unique, including our challenges. Their team is also sensitive to our board members and have built trusting relationships with them, making our discussions more productive.
When we asked Bellwether to build the Career Readiness Diagnostic, we knew we’d be working with a partner known for their excellent partnership and quality of work. What we hadn’t anticipated was how much the team would roll up their sleeves alongside us to tackle the unexpected challenges and questions that came along the way. Bellwether didn’t just deliver an excellent product, they helped create an even better one through their collaborative approach and commitment to helping us build a first-of-its-kind tool.
Bellwether is known in the field for producing data-informed insights and analyses rather than pushing organizational positions. This allows us to recruit an ideologically diverse team; serve as a trusted and reliable source for local, state, and national media; and influence conversations across our sector. Here are some pieces from 2020 that quoted our staff and work:
While Bellwarians share many traits — deeply passionate and caring, talented at work and beyond, tenacious in the fight for educational equity and excellence — we don’t collectively believe in one single way to improve education. Our team’s varied skills, backgrounds, and perspectives help us find the best possible answers for our partners and the field, and shine through in our diverse (and often divergent) commentary on education’s most urgent issues. Here are some of our op-eds from 2020:
pro bono hours during the pandemic
different organizations served
projects that were repeat clients
most downloaded resource in Bellwether’s history: the COVID-19 toolkit
most read post on Eduwonk: Bellwether’s statement on solidarity
views of Bellwether blog content
times that Bellwether was cited in the media daily on average
followers across platforms
webinars/panels Bellwether participated in or hosted
published reports and resources
total team members
states where Bellwarians live
of Bellwarians identify as women
of Bellwarians agree that Bellwether is making progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion
new team pets added to the Bellwether family
New hobbies that our team exploredice skating|watch repairing|snowshoeing|gardening|perfecting the art of bread, pizza, and cocktail making|TV marathon-ing
With Bellwether staff already embedded in communities across the country, our organization understands the terrain of remote work. However, the pandemic presented new challenges, limitations, and responsibilities for everyone and pushed our team to lean into one of our most treasured core values: flexibility. As we took on and adapted to new ways of work — with clients and one another — Bellwarians left 2020 with a renewed sense of commitment, curiosity, and excitement about the future of how we best serve students.
Photos courtesy of Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action and Pexels.com.