Hewlett Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: At one time, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation focused its education grantmaking in California, giving special attention to the Bay Area. Hewlett has since revamped its Education Program to include schools nationwide. However, when it comes to education reform and increasing educational achievement, its heart (and funding) is still in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nationally, Hewlett focuses on its concepts of "deeper learning" and "equalizing access to knowledge." For the foundation, the "deeper learning" concept includes everything from personalized learning to content mastery.

IP TAKE: Deeper learning has become a tenet of the Hewlett Foundation's national Education Program. In the Bay Area, Hewlett is an especially important funder, and local education fundraisers should be quick to build relationships with the program staffers.

PROFILE: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's simple purpose is "to promote the well-being of humanity," with a specific focus on addressing "the most serious problems facing society." Its major program areas are Education, the Environment, Global Development & Population, and the Performing Arts, though it also funds some special projects and has a heightened interest in serving the San Francisco Bay Area. In the K-12 realm, this translates to an Education program whose long-term goal is to ensure that all students have "access to rigorous, relevant, and innovative educational opportunities."

Within its Education program are several sub-areas on which Hewlett focuses. The first of these, Hewlett's Deeper Learning initiative, is directed at organizations that support students in "mastering core academic content, like reading, writing, math, and science, while learning how to think critically, collaborate, communicate effectively, direct their own learning, and believe in themselves."  To that end, Hewlett's strategy is focused on improved learning goals, "more effective assessments and in-class activities," giving teachers the necessary "training and tools," and disseminating best practices. More specifically, Hewlett's goals in this area are "Resetting learning goals and requirements to be results-oriented," improving testing and evaluation systems, shifting teachers' roles to serve as 'guides' rather than lecturers while orienting them toward deeper learning and incorporating Common Core, and identifying model schools as well as organizations that are most effectively assessing school performance.

In addition to Deeper Learning, Hewlett has also homed in on improving education outcomes in the state of California, from pre-K all the way through community college. with that goal in mind, the in 2011 the foundation helped establish the California Education Policy Fund, which is administered by the nonprofit Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and gives support to "innovative organizations working to reform state policy with an emphasis on closing the achievement gap for the neediest students."

Hewlett also tackles the concept of "equalizing access to knowledge" through its Open Educational Resources initiative. Here's how the foundation describes this concept: "Open Educational Resources (OER) are high-quality, openly licensed, online educational materials that offer an extraordinary opportunity for people everywhere to share, use, and reuse knowledge." In its broadest strokes, the OER program awards grants to academic organizations to provide teachers around the world with free, online educational resources such as research resources, course materials, textbooks, streaming videos, study materials, teaching techniques, software, and tests. Of course, all materials must exist in a public domain and/or have been released under any intellectual property license. Additionally, Hewlett focuses its OER grantmaking toward the promotion of policies that lead to increased access to learning materials and funding the necessary infrastructure to support OER efforts, with the ultimate goal of "establishing a self-sustaining and adaptive global OER ecosystem and demonstrating its potential to improve teaching and learning." 

Hewlett is no small player in its giving: the Education Program awards tens of millions of dollars in grants annually. Its average grant size across all programs in a recent year was close to $500,000, while the median grant amount was $180,000. For more information, fundraisers can explore the foundation's grants tool, which allows for deep digging into the specifics of its giving history, or its more traditional grants database.

Unfortunately, the foundation does not accept unsolicited letters of inquiry for its Education Program grants; applications to Hewlett and CEPF are by invitation only. 

PEOPLE: 

  • Barbara Chow, Program Director
  • T.J. Bliss, Program Officer, Open Educational Resources
  • Marc Chun, Program Officer, Deeper Learning initiative
  • Christopher Shearer, Program Officer, Education Reform

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