June 24, 2013

Walton Family Foundation

By Bellwether

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About The Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation (WFF) is a national charitable foundation and the nation’s second-largest contributor to education reform activities. Although WFF is best known for its investments in charter schools and school choice initiatives, it also makes substantial investments in educational leadership at all levels.


In 2012, the Foundation asked Bellwether to conduct an analysis of the pipeline of school leaders for new schools to inform its investment strategy in this area.


Bellwether Education Partners used a variety of strategies to assess the national landscape of leadership pipeline programs. First, we conducted interviews with more than a dozen key practitioners and thought leaders in the field to understand the current opportunities and challenges facing leadership pipeline programs. We also identified and profiled more than 60 innovative leadership pipeline programs that actively recruit, select, train, place, and support individuals in leadership positions in the district, charter, and private school sectors.

In addition, we profiled the school leadership pipeline in five cities of particular interest to the Walton Family Foundation. We identified leadership pipeline programs in these cities and conducted interviews with practitioners and key stakeholders. Bellwether conducted a slots analysis to identify the number of high-performing leaders that each city would need over the next five years in order to fill naturally occurring vacancies due to attrition, and to replace or turn around low-performing schools with higher-performing options. We then compared each city’s estimated need for leaders over the next five years to the number of leaders being prepared by its pipeline programs, to identify gaps and cities with the greatest need for leadership pipeline investments.


Based on this analysis, we developed a set of recommendations to inform Walton’s future investments in leadership pipeline programs:

  • Invest in leadership preparation programs at all stages of the pipeline, from teacher leaders through principal managers
  • Support strategies that bring together charter operators to address common leadership needs in collaboration
  • Fund innovation and knowledge creation—particularly research that can inform advocacy efforts
  • Fund advocacy for sustainability and conditions that support effective leaders
  • Invest in districts and CMOs that strategically develop talent
  • Support efforts to make the school leader’s job more sustainable
  • We also developed a screening tool that Foundation staff can use to assess prospective school leadership grantees, as well as a set of reporting tools to track consistent and comparable data on the performance and impacts of grantees. 

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