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Benchmarking Foundation Learning and Evaluation Practices 2023

October 5, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of philanthropy, foundations are continuously seeking ways to enhance their effectiveness and maximize their contributions to social impact. Foundations across the country are striving to change how they work to be more equitable, trust-based, and community-centered—including in their learning and evaluation practices.How can foundations position learning and evaluation so that it aligns with their core values?One invaluable resource aiding this endeavor is the Center for Evaluation Innovation's new 2023 release of its Benchmarking Research on Foundation Learning and Evaluation Practices report. This signature research has been tracking trends in how foundations structure, staff, resource, and prioritize the work of their learning and evaluation functions since 2009.* This year, we made key shifts in this research cycle to align with our own north star of racial equity and social justice. The 2023 report includes survey data from learning and evaluation leaders at independent and community foundations with an annual grantmaking budget of at least $10 million annually and/or who engage with the Evaluation Roundtable network. Leaders at 106 foundations completed it. Where possible and appropriate, we used time, foundation commitment to equity, and foundation annual giving as frames in analyzing the data.These findings offer a starting point for crucial reflections and conversations about learning and evaluation work in the philanthropic sector. They provide us with an opportunity to be in community together and give us a mechanism for holding ourselves accountable to what we think our sector should be doing. 

Setting the Stage: Practical Ideas for Implementing High-Quality Afterschool Arts Programs

August 16, 2023

Afterschool programs looking to add high-quality arts learning to their programming might do well to keep three practices in mind: Employ professional teaching artistsProvide current, high-quality equipmentCreate dedicated art spaces that welcome and inspireThese practices are essential to enriching arts experiences that engage young people. They may entail higher costs than what an organization currently spends on arts programs. But these costs may not be vastly different from the costs of sports, STEM, or other programs.And there are ways to keep the costs down.  These are the major findings from research about a Wallace Foundation effort that sought to increase access to high-quality arts education for students from historically marginalized backgrounds.

National Call to Action for Summer Learning: How Did States Respond?

July 1, 2023

High-quality, school district-run summer learning programs can increase student achievement and provide other benefits, research has shown. Findings in this report, the second of a planned three from the Westat research organization's National Summer Learning and Enrichment Study, can help build a better understanding of the role state education agencies can play in fostering strong summer learning programs. The report also offers insights into how state summer learning efforts that were launched as a response to the pandemic could have benefits beyond the health crisis.

The Connected Arts Learning Framework: An Expanded View of the Purposes and Possibilities for Arts Learning

March 22, 2023

The benefits of teaching art to young people have often fallen into two camps. Children study or practice "art for art's sake" to develop a particular skill. Or they approach "art for academics' sake" to enhance their other studies. But this report comes at arts learning from a different angle: What if learning about or practicing an art could help young people connect more directly to their communities and the world they live in? And how might that change the experience and outcomes for both students and communities? The report, led by Kylie Peppler, an expert in arts learning, and her team at the University of California, Irvine, begins with a connected learning framework. In connected learning, educators seek to create meaningful learning experiences based on young people's interests and then connect these experiences to real-world issues and communities. The authors put art within this context to discover how arts education can help young people build connections with their culture, identity, home lives, communities, professional artists, and future aspirations. 

Navigating SEL From the Inside Out: Looking Inside & Across 18 Leading SEL Programs: A Practical Resource for Schools and OST Providers—Middle & High School Focus

November 9, 2022

The field of social and emotional learning (SEL) is rapidly expanding, as evidence emerges that social and emotional skills have a positive impact on learning and life outcomes. This guide to evidence-based SEL programs provides detailed information on 18 middle and high school programs, encompassing curricular content and program highlights. School or out-of-school-time program practitioners interested in SEL can use the resource to look "inside and across" SEL programs to better understand their content and assess their fit with school district or community needs.The guide was written by Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Stephanie Jones, an expert in social and emotional learning, and a team of researchers. It is a practical resource that provides profiles of each program, including the specific skills targeted and instructional methods used. Some programs, for example, are designed to help students regulate their behavior and build positive relationships, while others are aimed at developing certain mindsets or character traits.Much of the guide focuses on detailed program information, while introductory chapters discuss a range of topics, including SEL in out-of-school-time (OST) programming, equitable SEL and a trauma-sensitive approach to SEL.In addition to helping schools and OST providers make decisions about choosing a social and emotional learning program, the guide is designed to be a useful resource for those who want to better understand social and emotional learning and the landscape of available programs or assess the effectiveness of one they are already using. A supplement includes worksheets to help users select a program and think through considerations on everything from program components to program duration and cost.Key components of the guide include: Background information on SEL and its benefits, including key features of effective programs and common implementation challenges, A summary of the evidence base for each of the 18 programs, Recommendations for adapting the programs to OST settings, Summary tables that allow users to compare unique features, program components, and instructional methods, as well as see which skills each program targets, and Detailed individual profiles for each of the programs.

Prioritizing Racial Equity Within Social and Emotional Learning in Tacoma: One of Six Case Studies of Schools and Out-of-School-Time Program Partners

September 15, 2022

This case study is one of a series detailing how schools and out-of-school-time (OST) programs in six communities have collaborated to build students' social and emotional skills. The communities are participants in Wallace's Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, which has brought together school districts and their OST partners to develop and implement mutually reinforcing social and emotional learning (SEL) activities and instruction across learning settings.The piece features Lister Elementary School in Tacoma and its efforts to build a schoolwide commitment to SEL. It describes how, over time, Lister school leaders and staff members integrated a focus on racial equity and restorative practices into its SEL approach. The school used four key strategies as its work evolved, including gaining and maintaining staff buy-in to the effort, building racial equity and restorative practices into its SEL resources, designing and delivering a range of professional supports to build staff members' SEL and equity capacity, and reframing SEL and equity work as complementary to (rather than competing with) academic priorities.

Expanding Social and Emotional Learning Beyond the School Walls in Boston: One of Six Case Studies of Schools and Out-of-School-Time Program Partners

September 15, 2022

This case study is one of a series detailing how schools and out-of-school-time (OST) programs in six communities have collaborated to build students' social and emotional skills. The communities are participants in Wallace's Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, which has brought together school districts and their OST partners to develop and implement mutually reinforcing social and emotional learning (SEL) activities and instruction across learning settings.This case study features the Russell Elementary School in Boston and its OST partner, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester. The two collaborated to expand Russell students' access to enrichment by using the Clubs' ample facilities and linking the enrichment activities to the school-day curriculum through a shared focus on SEL. The goal was to provide students with important enrichment activities that they otherwise would not get in their normal school day as well as the opportunity to learn social-emotional skills in new settings and contexts.The case study details how the partnership overcame challenges, including early financial obstacles and disruptions to the learning schedule in both settings. For example, consistent communication between the principal and the OST program director helped to solve problems as they arose and to develop the partnership at the leadership level. Providing formal and informal opportunities for program staff members and Russell teachers to collaborate and see each other's work built trust and strengthened relationships, increasing staff and teacher buy-in to the effort.

Engaging Teachers, Staff, and Parents in Social and Emotional Learning in Palm Beach County: One of Six Case Studies of Schools and Out-of-School-Time Program Partners

September 15, 2022

This case study is one of a series detailing how schools and out-of-school-time (OST) programs in six communities have collaborated to build students' social and emotional skills. The communities are participants in Wallace's Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, which has brought together school districts and their OST partners to develop and implement mutually reinforcing social and emotional learning (SEL) activities and instruction across learning settings.The piece features Diamond View Elementary School in Palm Beach County, Fla., and its OST partner, Diamond View Afterschool. The two collaborated to promote consistent and positive student experiences with adults across the day. After strengthening the use of similar SEL practices in the school and OST setting, the effort engaged noninstructional staff members as well as families in SEL—an important step intended to enable students to experience positive interactions outside the classroom: in the cafeteria, on the bus, and at home.The case study describes how the school and afterschool program overcame challenges such as finding time for coordination across school and OST staff members. It also explains how the two actively involved students in guiding SEL activities—seeking out students' input and providing opportunities for student choice in SEL activities and rituals.

Learning to Focus on Adult Social and Emotional Learning First in Tulsa: One of Six Case Studies of Schools and Out-of-School-Time Program Partners

September 15, 2022

This case study is one of a series detailing how schools and out-of-school-time (OST) programs in six communities have collaborated to build students' social and emotional skills. The communities are participants in Wallace's Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, which has brought together school districts and their OST partners to develop and implement mutually reinforcing social and emotional learning (SEL) activities and instruction across learning settings.This case study features Whitman Elementary in Tulsa and its OST partner, Youth at Heart. The two collaborated to aid adults in building their own social-emotional skills so they could support social and emotional learning for their students. The idea was to help adults prioritize their own mental health to reduce burnout, effectively model SEL competencies for students, and build strong and healthy relationships with students.This case study finds that by focusing on adult SEL: The effort saw corresponding declines in teacher burnout and turnover. Students experienced consistent SEL resources and best practices.The school and OST staff members noted improvements in students' social and emotional skills as well as the overall school climate.

Strengthening Students’ Social and Emotional Skills: Lessons from Six Case Studies of Schools and Their Out-of-School-Time Program Partners

September 15, 2022

This report presents cross-cutting lessons from a set of case studies detailing how schools and out-of-school-time (OST) programs in six communities have worked together to build students' social and emotional (SEL) skills. The communities are participants in a Wallace initiative that has supported elementary schools and their OST partners in incorporating SEL activities and instruction into both the school and OST parts of the day.For five of the case studies, researchers selected a partnership in each community that has done an exemplary job of addressing one of a series of challenges widely shared by participants in the initiative. In one of the cases, the partnership between the school and its OST programs was in an early stage of development, so the researchers focused on what took place during the school day.The case studies explore:developing a brand-new school-OST partnership focusing on SEL (Boston),developing an effective SEL committee that includes a school and OST partner (Dallas),finding and jointly prioritizing time for SEL in the school and afterschool schedules (Denver),engaging teachers, staff members and parents in SEL (Palm Beach County, Fla.),incorporating equity into SEL (Tacoma), andfocusing on adult SEL first (Tulsa). The report summarizes the case studies and discusses nine factors that facilitated progress in carrying out SEL programs and practices, each of which was common to at least two of the cases:Committed school/OST program leaders were the foundation on which SEL work was built.SEL committees guided and supported implementation.Prioritizing time for SEL in school and OST schedules was important to making implementation routine.Starting the efforts by building adults' social and emotional skills proved central.Short SEL rituals were often the first and most widely adopted strategy, setting the stage for more extended SEL instruction.Establishing trusting relationships enhanced the collaboration on SEL in school-OST program partnerships.Formal, written SEL resources facilitated a consistent approach within and across settings.Distributing "ownership" of SEL across staff members and students increased people's buy-in to the effort and its sustainability.Experience with SEL before the pandemic helped schools and OST programs adapt to COVID-19 disruptions.

Building an Effective Social and Emotional Learning Committee in Dallas: One of Six Case Studies of Schools and Out-of-School-Time Program Partners

September 15, 2022

This case study is one of a series detailing how schools and out-of-school-time (OST) programs in six communities have collaborated to build students' social and emotional skills. The communities are participants in Wallace's Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, which has brought together school districts and their OST partners to develop and implement mutually reinforcing social and emotional learning (SEL) activities and instruction across learning settings.This case study features Webster Elementary in Dallas and its OST partner, Thriving Minds Afterschool. The two worked together to make SEL sustainable, even in the face of staff turnover and other challenges, by forming an effective steering committee that became the driving force behind their SEL work. With an eye toward sustainability, the committee prioritized particular strategies to cultivate an SEL-focused climate across campus, provided training to school and OST program staff members, and monitored and documented implementation of these efforts.This case study finds that by focusing on sustainable social and emotional learning: The effort saw improvements in attendance, school climate, and student behavior. Staff members beyond the steering committee began sharing responsibility for SEL on campus. Short SEL rituals became embedded in the campus's daily schedule before the onset of the pandemic, which helped ease the transition of SEL to hybrid learning.

Jointly Prioritizing Time for Social and Emotional Learning in Denver: One of Six Case Studies of Schools and Out-of-School-Time Program Partners

September 15, 2022

This case study is one of a series detailing how schools and out-of-school-time (OST) programs in six communities have collaborated to build students' social and emotional skills. The communities are participants in Wallace's Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, which has brought together school districts and their OST partners to develop and implement mutually reinforcing social and emotional learning (SEL) activities and instruction across learning settings.The piece features the work of Cowell Elementary School in Denver and its afterschool partner, the Discovery Link program, which is located in the school. The school and program aimed to prioritize time for SEL by making social-emotional instruction and rituals part of the daily routine. The two accomplished this by investing in joint planning, collaboration, and professional development about SEL; dedicating time for SEL in each of their respective schedules, activities, and events; and sharing a social-emotional learning curriculum and rituals.This case study showed that by jointly prioritizing social and emotional learning: Explicit SEL instruction became more frequent. Staff members from both the school and OST program became part of the decision-making about SEL implementation. School and OST program staff members developed common goals and terminology about SEL.