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Winter 2014

A Partner's Perspective

Illustration by Daniel VasconcellosIllustration by Daniel Vasconcellos

With early education universally identified as a critical lever in student success, the Bezos Family Foundation is well aware that children who start behind in school are too often the same children who stay behind in school.

It is one of the many issues the 13-year-old Seattle foundation aims to address through its funding of research and partnering with organizations around the country. Focused solely on improving educational outcomes for children from birth to grade 12, the foundation is now partnering with the Ed School, specifically the school's innovative Ed.L.D. Program, which trains tomorrow's educational leaders committed to transformative change.

"The Ed.L.D. Program gives us reason to be optimistic about the future of public education," says Jackie Bezos, president and cofounder of the foundation, along with her husband, Mike. "This infusion of talent into the field is leading to greater opportunity and outcomes for students. The program has created a draw among its fellows to early education — a critical part of helping all children achieve their full potential, starting from birth."

When considering potential partners, Megan Wyatt, managing director of strategy and programs for the foundation, says the Ed.L.D. Program stood out for several reasons, including its crossdisciplinary approach where students experience key issues from several perspectives, including education, public policy, and business, by taking classes at both the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Business School. "To see this as a collective challenge and a collective effort by these schools, is particularly powerful," says Wyatt. "When you have different sectors standing up and saying, 'This is important,' that is a potential game changer."

Now in its fourth year, the Ed.L.D. Program is a cohortbased, three-year program where students participate in two years of intensive, on-campus study, with the final year spent in a full-time, yearlong residency with one of HGSE's partner organizations. Wyatt says the foundation recognized the vast potential of Ed.L.D. graduates to change the landscape of educational leadership, which fits with their mission to promote rigorous learning environments, producing better educational and life outcomes for students. As Wyatt explains, the career path of Ed.L.D. graduates is well suited to help the Bezos Family Foundation fulfill its mission and goals to effect change in the nation's schools and school districts.

"All of these fellows go on to achieve remarkable things, and HGSE is in a unique position to elevate and advance what their graduates go on to do," says Wyatt. "When we look at what's working in education, leadership is at the core. It is leadership at the district level, the school level, and the classroom level, even at the student level. The emphasis of the Ed.L.D. Program is about the next generation of leadership, and leadership is the prism for which we think about this issue."