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Expanding the Focus of the Education Program

Apr 30, 2010


Dear Colleagues,

We are delighted to share with you some exciting news from the Hewlett Foundation's Education Program. Building upon our work in technology and policy, we are expanding our focus to help schools nationwide prepare students to thrive in an increasingly complex, fast-paced, and unpredictable world. The Hewlett Board of Directors approved the added scope at its March meeting.
 
We call this expanded focus deeper learning – a combination of the fundamental knowledge and practical basic skills students will need to succeed in a fiercely competitive global economy. Specifically, our definition of deeper learning brings together five key elements that work in concert: core academic content; critical thinking and complex problem solving; effective communication; working in collaboration; and learning how to learn.  We believe this approach could have a profound effect on how and what the next generation of students learns.

This new focus is the culmination of months of research and analysis, conducting more than 100 interviews with top thinkers in the fields of education, business, and public policy, including many of you. Over the course of our exploration, we have found widespread agreement that America's schools must shift focus dramatically in order for all of our students to succeed. In a world where the pace of change is measured in months rather than decades, we need to prepare our children to tackle the complex issues they will inherit in a fundamentally different way. 

A focus on deeper learning has already produced impressive results in a number of innovative schools around the country. We hope to dramatically expand the best practices of these high-performing schools by investing in organizations that:

  • Promote policies or strategies that create incentives for schools to focus on deeper learning, concentrating initially on improving the assessments used to measure students' academic growth; 
  • Build educational systems capacity and teaching practices both online and in the classroom to reach large numbers of students using deeper learning principles;
  • Support proof points including model K-12 schools and community colleges, and fund research that promotes  deeper learning as an attainable and necessary goal for all students; and
  • Develop new, innovative models to increase access for all students and to improve deeper learning.

We will place special emphasis on projects aimed at ensuring that underserved students in schools with persistent racial and ethnic achievement gaps benefit from this type of instruction. 

Deeper learning builds on our efforts over the years to improve schools and equalize educational opportunities in California and around the globe. Although it represents a significant new area of work for the Education Program, we want you to know that we remain committed to improving the conditions for education reform in California and supporting the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement.

Our efforts in California will concentrate on supporting a number of core organizations that strengthen California's education policy reform efforts and those that are working to address the state's underlying fiscal and governance issues. We also intend to invest in deeper learning efforts in California whenever possible. For OER, we plan to support the key infrastructure organizations that are essential for a well-functioning open education environment and that will help us tackle some of the key barriers to the growth and spread of deeper learning. The Hewlett website will have additional information on the specifics of our strategy and our plans for the future.

We are proud of the work we have accomplished together over the past many years and invite you to join us as we embark upon this new chapter in our shared goal to improve educational outcomes for all children. Our future depends upon it.

Thank you for your continued interest in our collective work.

The Hewlett Education Team
Barbara Chow
Kristi Kimball
Denis Udall
Victor Vuchic
Kathy Nicholson