The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, based in Menlo Park, California, is seeking a Program Officer to work in its Education Program.
The Hewlett Foundation seeks a collaborative, creative, data-driven, and outcomes-oriented person to serve as a program officer in its Education Program. As an integral member of the foundation’s Education team, the new program officer will work collaboratively with their colleagues to refresh and oversee grantmaking strategies within the Education Program’s portfolio; partner effectively and build strong relationships with grantees; constructively track the progress of grantees and grantmaking strategies in service of ongoing learning and adaption; and provide substantive feedback to the grantee community. The program officer will also be deeply engaged in national conversations regarding educational equity and improvement, and will prioritize the sharing of best practice with the field writ large related to impact, sustainability, and scalability.
Reporting to Education Program Director Kent McGuire, the program officer will work closely with a dedicated and dynamic team of colleagues to advance the portfolio’s overarching goal of improving K-12 public education in the United States by ensuring today’s students develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions they need to succeed in career and civic life. A driving force in the Education Program’s work with grantees to date is the belief that students should not only deeply master content knowledge, but also think critically, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, learn how to learn, maintain learning mindsets, and apply all of these competencies to solve novel, unstructured problems. If today’s students are to be successful in addressing the most pressing issues of tomorrow, they must understand the challenges and assess ideas and solutions in the context of their involvement in civil and political society.
Building on the strong track record of the Education Program’s work supporting established, high-performing organizations and seeding new organizations that bring a fresh approach to the field, the program officer will drive and shape the quality and impact of a significant portfolio of work that serves to accomplish the shared goals of the entire Education Program, and intersects with the portfolios of the other three program officers. Proceeding from the foundation’s learnings about what it takes to create the school and systemic conditions for deeper learning to occur, the program officer will have the unique opportunity to sharpen focus on teacher practice, deeper learning implementation strategies, and shifting complex systems to improve student success at scale.
The successful candidate will provide thought leadership, intellectual curiosity, an orientation toward learning, collaboration and support, and a strong desire to improve the impact of grantmaking through varied quantitative and qualitative means. The program officer will also bring a keen understanding of the complexity of education systems; of strategies available to foster improvement at scale within these systems; deep knowledge of effective teaching practices; exceptional skills in working and communicating effectively with others; and an enduring commitment to addressing issues of equity, inclusion, and diversity in education today.
The executive search firm Isaacson, Miller is assisting the Hewlett Foundation with this important search. All inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed in confidence to the search consultants as indicated at the end of this posting.
About the Education Program
Kent McGuire, a veteran of the national education movement for public education, was appointed the program director of the Education Program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in 2017. Previously, Kent was the president and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation, an organization committed to advancing public education in the American South, with a focus on equity and excellence. Prior to that, he served as the dean of the College of Education at Temple University and was a tenured professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.
From 2001 to 2003, Kent was a senior vice president at the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, where he split his time between research projects on school reform and directing its department on education, children, and youth. He has also been an education program officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts and directed the education program at the Lilly Endowment. Kent served as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education from 1998 to 2001.
The Current Moment
In March 2010, recognizing the critical need to upgrade the U.S. education system and the skills and knowledge of students, the Hewlett Foundation board of directors adopted a seven-year strategy to guide its Education Program. Hewlett’s core idea was that education should be about more than a narrowly defined, simplistic kind of learning, and the design of the initial Deeper Learning strategy was to improve the national standards and assessments to which teachers and schools are accountable. The program sought to subvert the “teach-to-the-test” problem by seeking to encourage state standardized tests to include more of the deeper learning competencies like critical thinking; if teachers began to teach aligned to a test that required higher order thinking, the logical outcome would be that students would benefit. The strategy also focused on promoting open educational resources (OER), which are high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials that are openly licensed and free for people everywhere to use and repurpose.
Under this strategic plan, the majority of the program’s resources were invested in organizations that demonstrated through research the value of deeper learning; helped set new learning goals for states; advanced summative assessments that included more deeper learning outcomes; and explored what factors enabled tools and practices to take hold across systems at scale. To date, there have been significant strides achieved, and in 2016-2017, 42 percent (far exceeding the initial goal of 15 percent) of students nationwide were assessed on some form of deeper learning metrics in mathematics and English Language Arts.
At the outset, Hewlett’s emphasis on a more holistic definition of student success was something of a fringe perspective within the education ecosystem. In keeping with both the foundation’s history of working on the purpose of education and its experience addressing issues of democracy more broadly, Hewlett has played a catalytic role in this space, such that both a greater focus on and a range of ideas about learning have emerged.
Under Kent McGuire’s leadership, the Education Program team endeavors to deepen its impact in alignment with ongoing developments in the educational landscape and new learning, which has taken place over the past eight years. To affect student learning and to change systems and reach scale, multiple levers must be pulled at once. To this end, there is much to build on within the existing Deeper Learning and Open Educational Resources strategies as the program moves to further amplify its focus on practice. The widespread use of OER toward deeper learning, for example, can dramatically lower the cost of instructional materials while empowering educators to customize instruction and enable students to make meaningful choices about their own education. Building synergistically upon the policy, research, curriculum, and assessment dimensions in the existing deeper learning and OER portfolios, the notion of practice, its relationship to policy, and its critical role in reaching scale will become increasingly evident in the Education team’s work ahead.
Hewlett brings a unique voice to the national discourse and the current Education Program portfolio is primarily national in reach—examples of grantees include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Learning Policy Institute, the Council for Chief State School Officers, High Tech High, American Institutes for Research, and RAND Corporation—with targeted deeper learning pilot programs in California and New Hampshire, among other states. In 2017, the Education Program awarded 114 grants totaling $42 million. Today, the Education Program team is thinking carefully about what it means to build authentic partnerships within communities and is studying opportunities to emphasize the connections among the places the foundation works.
The Education Program team is committed to deepening its thinking on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in its grantmaking and related work, grappling more directly with how issues of DEI influence student acquisition of deeper learning skills, as well as engaging internally on its own DEI perspectives. The program plans to support, with greater intentionality, the most underserved performers and underrepresented students in the education pipeline, while maintaining its continued commitment to ensuring the success of all learners. The team has also made an effort to support its grantees on DEI. To date, through a DEI pilot, the Education Program has allocated approximately $500,000 across 10 organizations that are seeking to improve their internal DEI practices and capacities.
Role of the Program Officer
Reporting to the Education Program director, and working in partnership with three program officers, a team of program associates and a complement of communications, grants management, and legal staff, the new program officer will take on existing grantees, as well as design, implement, monitor, and evaluate a portfolio of grants that intersect with the portfolios of the other program officers. These combined portfolios address the shared, program-wide strategy and goals around issues related to educational improvement, equity in public education, and increasing students’ achievement of deeper learning outcomes. As the Education Program team intensifies its work around the theme of practice, the incoming program officer will bring critical perspective to issues of effective teaching; teacher coaching; leadership development; and diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency.
The successful candidate will bring content expertise related to teaching and learning, intellectual curiosity, cultural sensitivity, and both breadth and depth of knowledge in the program area in order to be an effective team member and to provide thought leadership in the field.
The program officer will participate fully in Hewlett Foundation life, including sharing best practices with colleagues and initiating and engaging in foundation-wide activities. Specifically, the program officer will work to address the following challenges and opportunities in the role:
The program officer will establish and maintain effective relationships with current and prospective grantees, and bring the gravitas and expertise needed to communicate and promote the value of Deeper Learning initiatives to a diversity of stakeholders. As a trusted partner, the program officer will manage active grants, assesses their progress, respond to financial and programmatic reports, and ensure that sound financial controls are in place for each grant and that funds are spent wisely and according to grant agreements. The program officer will also work to oversee and develop effective and responsive guidelines for measuring the success of programs and grants. Specifically and in consultation with the program director, the program officer will commission and manage relevant third-party evaluations of grantmaking strategy to test key assumptions about the strategy’s approach, to incorporate lessons into future decisionmaking, and to share key findings within the foundation, with grantee partners, and with the broader public.
As a key representative of the foundation, the program officer will organize and coordinate foundation-sponsored meetings of grantees and key field experts, and also represent the foundation externally at appropriate meetings, conferences, and site visits.
Planning and Strategy
In partnership with the Education Program team, the program officer will implement a strategy that is aspirational and continually tested against carefully articulated outcomes, defined goals, and clear programmatic objectives. The program officer will work closely with grantees to develop and modify strategies that effectively use available resources while fulfilling program goals. Additionally, the program officer will develop briefing papers and topical reports that broadly contribute to the foundation’s understanding of new approaches, best practices, and issues in education reform.
Qualifications and Characteristics
The program officer should be a nimble, outcomes-driven thinker, a leader with a collaborative spirit and the willingness to take smart risks in order to advance knowledge of effective educational practice that have the potential for scaled impact. The program officer will bring a deep personal commitment to and experience with education practice, policy, and research, and an appreciation for the challenges that practitioners face in the field. The successful candidate will be energized by helping educators improve, and could have a background in a variety of settings—philanthropy, school or system leadership, nonprofit support organizations, government—and may bring professional experience across different parts of the education sector. The ideal candidate may bring prior classroom or system-level leadership experience.
The Hewlett Foundation is distinguished by its highly collaborative approach to its work and culture. The program officer should bring a growth mindset, should be comfortable operating within a relatively flat organizational structure, and be able to work both autonomously and cooperatively with team members. The program officer must be based out of the Hewlett Foundation office in Menlo Park, Calif., and is eligible to serve a term of eight years.
For this role, the foundation seeks candidates with the following experiences, characteristics, and abilities. While no one candidate will embody every quality, the successful candidate will bring many of the following qualifications and attributes:
Deep experience working with education organizations and leaders, and an appreciation for the levers needed to facilitate systemic change in our country’s public education system
Intimate knowledge of various units of change (e.g. classroom, schools, systems) and an understanding of how to meaningfully and simultaneously influence multiple macro- and micro- levers affecting student learning
Breadth and depth of knowledge in leading-edge best practices and pedagogical trends; working knowledge of contemporary research in the area of teaching and learning; and an inquisitive disposition that seeks to build on this knowledge base
Experience leading and managing areas related to the program’s Deeper Learning and OER grantmaking and an ability to implement work with limited staff support
A nuanced understanding of issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in education; and experience working on these issues in practice
Demonstrated commitment to learning and collaboration, and to working in authentic partnership with colleagues, grantees, and other key partners; an unwavering commitment to Hewlett’s guiding principles
In addition to these qualifications, the ideal candidate will have the following attributes:
Proven ability to define program objectives, evaluate progress, and independently manage projects
Excellent written and oral communication skills
Interest in and willingness to travel (approximately 25 percent time nationally)
Independent initiative and a collegial spirit in sharing ideas and receiving feedback
Adaptable, flexible nature; warmth, humor, and energy; integrity and humility
Prior foundation grantmaking experience, in a relevant field, is a plus
A graduate-level academic degree in a related field is highly desirable
Applications, Inquiries, and Nominations
Screening of complete applications will begin immediately and continue until the completion of the search process. All inquiries, nominations, referrals, and applications should be sent in confidence via electronic mail to:
Ericka Miller, Partner
Andarla Hodge, Associate
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes a diverse pool of candidates in this search.