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The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: Evaluation of K-12 and Community College Portfolios

Case Overview

FSG was engaged by the Hewlett Foundation to review and evaluate its K-12 Education Policy Reform and California Community College portfolios.

The Challenge

The Hewlett Foundation asked FSG to evaluate two areas within its education portfolio: California K-12 Policy Reform and Strengthening California Community Colleges. In total, FSG reviewed 132 grants from 2002–2007, totaling $45M in grants. Both portfolios involved long timeframes and complex processes for change. FSG was asked not to evaluate the individual grants, but to identify opportunities for improved performance.

Approach & Solutions

In the Hewlett Foundation’s California K-12 Policy Reform portfolio, FSG evaluated $28 million in grants from 2002–2006. The grants included the inputs and activities of research, dissemination and communication, mobilizing the public, and technical assistance to policymakers. The expected interim policy outcomes were reforming school finance, improving teacher quality, adopting good data systems, and better serving the neediest students. The Hewlett Foundation’s ultimate outcomes expected were increases in student achievement, as measured by higher test scores and improved graduation rates.

In the Strengthening California Community Colleges portfolio, FSG evaluated $17 million in grants from 2002 – 2007. The inputs and activities included in the grants were demonstration, technical assistance for practitioners, evaluation, dissemination and communication, research, and public education. The expected interim policy outcomes were similar to those in the K-12 Policy Reform portfolio, but also included improved transition. The ultimate outcomes expected were increased student achievement as measured by increase in degree completion and an improved transfer rate.

Data was collected via over 100 interviews with legislators, funders, nonprofits, academics, and members of the media. Additionally FSG surveyed over 500 policymakers and policy stakeholders, held focus groups, and analyzed the passage of education-related bills and the momentum of the campaign for change.

FSG found that stakeholders believed that Hewlett’s work was critical, that the work must continue, and that Hewlett drove the state-level strategy and agenda. Specific areas for improved focus and investment were identified, as well as some areas to de-emphasize. The evaluation yielded recommendations on key constituent groups to engage, and suggestions on the content on which to focus those relationships. Overall, Hewlett’s investments helped to influence more than $9 billion in state funding, with a significant opportunity to further impact the $50 billion state education budget.

About The Hewlett Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation – with assets of $6.87 billion – has been making grants since 1967 to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world.

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