Research Officer for Education Leadership

Wallace Foundation | New York, New York

Background

The Wallace Foundation — an independent, national, New York-based philanthropy with $1.75 billion in assets — traces its origins back more than half a century to DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace, founders of The Reader’s Digest Association. The Foundation’s mission is to foster equity and improvements in learning and enrichment for young people, and in the arts for everyone. Grounded by its core values (see Page 2), which guide how staff work together and with grantee and external partners, the Foundation aims to create a workplace where everyone can thrive and support the mission.

The Foundation is seeking a Research Officer to manage its portfolio of research grants and grantees associated with its investments in Education Leadership. The Officer serves as a key member of the education leadership strategy and implementation teams, where the Foundation’s education leadership directions, including research directions, are collaboratively developed and refined. Both teams are comprised of staff from the Foundation’s program, communications, and research units. The Research Officer for Education Leadership will contribute their research perspectives and expertise to support the Foundation’s overall strategy in education leadership, and in particular, to identify related research directions and opportunities to build the knowledge base in ways that advance the Foundation’s strategy.

Organizational Overview

History

DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace founded The Reader's Digest Association with the initial launch of the magazine in 1922. With the wealth amassed from the publication, the Wallaces contributed generously to a wide assortment of artistic, cultural, and educational causes during their lifetimes. They also ensured that after their deaths their fortune would go to philanthropy. The Wallaces' giving has touched many institutions and their legacy continues today through the work of The Wallace Foundation. With assets of about $1.75 billion in 2019, The Wallace Foundation stays true to Lila and DeWitt Wallace's passions for education, youth development and the arts. In particular, The Wallace Foundation has supported work in the areas of: school leadership, afterschool programming, summer learning, expanded learning, building audiences for the arts and arts education for young people.

Over the last ten years, the foundation has refined its approach to focus on identifying and filling knowledge gaps that, if closed, could help fields make significant progress. It has launched several major efforts: the Principal Supervisor Initiative, Building Arts Audiences for Sustainability, Partnerships for Social Emotional Learning Initiatives, and an initiative to develop stronger afterschool arts programming for underserved young people. It has also added significantly to its library of information and ideas; its online Knowledge Center has more than 1,000 reports, articles, videos, infographics, and other materials.

Core Values

Wallace seeks to develop long-term, inquiry-led approaches to creating a more equitable society by developing and sharing evidence-based strategies to make meaningful contributions in partnership with others locally and for the field. They value behavior that demonstrates a commitment to Mutual Respect and Support, Equity, Continuous Learning, Collaboration, Excellence, and Accountability.

Mission and Approach

The Wallace Foundation seeks to foster equity and improvements in learning and enrichment for young people, and in the arts for everyone. The foundation has an unusual approach: In each of its focus areas – Arts, Education Leadership, and Learning and Enrichment – it seeks to identify, and help answer, one or more significant questions whose answers are not known but which, if known, could help propel progress more broadly. As responsible stewards of its resources, Wallace seeks to ensure that the Foundation’s initiatives contribute to Wallace’s dual goals: (a) benefits for Wallace’s grantees and those they serve in the form of increased capacity, and (b) benefits for the broader field through credible, relevant knowledge.

The Foundation’s approach to strategy and investment begins with efforts to understand the context of the fields in which they work to identify an important unanswered question to address. They then simultaneously fund programmatic work in the field and invest in research that studies the process and results of the funded field efforts to answer the question in order to generate improvements and insights that can benefit both the people served by the grant recipients and the field as a whole. The public reports and other research products resulting from this work are the basis for the Foundation’s strategy of catalyzing broad impact by serving as a knowledge hub for credible, useful lessons to be disseminated to key audiences of practitioners, policymakers, and influencers.

Research at The Wallace Foundation

At the Foundation, research is fully integrated into all initiatives. Funded research projects include a wide range of approaches, including the synthesis of existing knowledge; landscape and big data studies; qualitative and ethnographic studies; implementation analysis; case studies; participatory research; outcomes studies; cost studies; market research; and policy analysis. In addition to the academic publications these studies may produce, they almost always generate research reports or products designed for use by practitioners and policymakers, in order to advance the Foundation’s goal of spreading useful, effective ideas and practices.

The majority of Wallace-funded studies in education leadership are related to:

  • Understanding conditions and developments in the field of education leadership.
  • Studying and understanding the work of program grantees (such as districts, schools, and communities) in multi-year initiatives.
  • Conducting exploratory studies that analyze conditions, generate knowledge, or build research tools that can advance future investments by the foundation.

This search is being conducted with support from the national search firm NPAG. Application instructions can be found at the end of this document.

Job Summary

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE RESEARCH OFFICER

The Research Officer for Education Leadership will bring deep research knowledge, expertise, and experience at the intersection of education leadership, equity, and research methods to the strategic discussions that shape Wallace’s initiatives. The Research Officer will work with the Research Director to identify gaps in the knowledge base, develop RFPs, manage the grantee selection and award process, and then manage funded studies.

The Research Officer for Education Leadership will play a crucial role in the following areas:

Strategy and Initiative Design

As a member of the educational leadership interdisciplinary team, s/he/they will:

  • Identify and synthesize existing evidence related to Wallace initiatives; develop and shape useful analyses of implementation and effects of Wallace initiative approaches; identify and analyze challenges and opportunities for an initiative to inform policy discussions; and ensure that evidence-based approaches are fully integrated into the strategy.
  • Work with the Director of Research to identify key knowledge gaps and research approaches that could most benefit practitioners and policymakers, and advance knowledge in the field.
  • Draft requests for proposals for research studies. Lead or co-lead the identification, review, and selection of researchers with appropriate scholarship and methodological expertise for the questions the awarded studies are intended to answer. Develop ways to keep the strategy team informed, synthesizing emerging results from funded research teams, and organizing research updates for the team, as useful.

Collaboration within Education Leadership Team

As an active contributor to the education leadership strategy team, the Research Officer will:

  • Demonstrate deep understanding of equity with respect to education leadership—issues, challenges, trends, leading researchers, and practices.
  • Stay current with the relevant research literature in order to provide substantive, research-based, input into the team conversations, write RFP language that references the literature to frame the problem and research questions, and know who the relevant scholars are to invite to respond to RFPs or to commission directly.
  • Fully understand and support emerging directions in the strategy and implementation teams in order to represent the research unit and the interdisciplinary team to external and internal parties.
  • Contribute to discussions about potential education leadership program and communication grantees and technical assistance providers.
  • Have a full command of current and past Wallace-funded research in education leadership to be able to explain it to others, and know its strengths and weaknesses, including where more research is needed.
  • Be proactive and responsive to current and emerging needs and interests surfacing in the education leadership strategy and implementation teams, and in the respective program and communication units; this includes alerting staff to existing research findings or efforts, and identifying proactive scans and evidence reviews that could be conducted to inform anticipated needs or discussions.

Grants Management

The Research Officer for Education Leadership fosters positive working relationships with research grantees and district or other grantees in order to: (1) support the research grantees in their work, as needed, (2) ensure and understand how the funded studies are aligned with the Foundation’s strategy and knowledge agenda, and (3) ensure timely updates and connections in ways that can advance both the research grantee work and the Foundation’s strategy team processes. The Research Officer manages all aspects of Education Leadership research grants, including contracts management; review and analysis of analytic memos, reports, and other research deliverables; and budget or timeline changes. Specifically, s/he/they will:

  • Coordinate commissioned researchers' data collection with relevant program officers when it involves complicated interactions with site grantees, including the collection of complicated and sensitive data in public school systems and youth-serving organizations.
  • Develop relationships centered on clear communication, including open exchanges about problems and successes, in order to ensure mutual understanding about the scope of work and deliverables.
  • Monitor grant progress throughout the year through periodic calls, meetings, contributions to PLCs and review of reports, and share feedback with grantees.
  • Build researchers' understanding of the initiative strategy and learning agenda, how the site grantees’ work connects to the knowledge agenda and local context.
  • Lead research briefings to share findings and lessons with ed leadership strategy team and the foundation staff more broadly.

Support Effective Dissemination of Lessons Learned

  • Identify the kinds of knowledge emerging from research grants that can support learning among grantees, researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and field leaders, as well as the formats that would best support their intended use (e.g., policy briefs, infographics, design principles, data charts, etc.).
  • Conduct careful editorial reviews of draft research reports and knowledge products to ensure that they are accurate, credible, clear, and meet the Foundation’s quality standards.
  • Represent the Foundation-funded education leadership research and overall strategy at conferences, briefings, workshops and on webinars.

Develop the Research Unit's Capacity

The research unit currently consists of three Research Officers, each assigned to a different content area, an Administrative Assistant, and a Director. Together, the unit shares relevant findings of interest to one another, troubleshoots methodological and process issues related to the design and management of research grants, and seeks to develop a coherent approach to issues that cut across the distinct focus areas, such as equity, research use, and research methods. As a part of the research unit, the Research Officer for Education Leadership specifically will:

  • Work collaboratively with colleagues to stay abreast of emerging research methods and strategies, for example, new forms of data visualization, research tools or protocols, or theory development.
  • Work collaboratively with colleagues to identify new ways the unit can contribute to the strategy and implementation teams’ work in timely and useful ways, including new processes or protocols for evidence reviews or proposal reviews, or identifying external researchers whose work aligns with the foundation's directions.
  • Provide intellectual and management support to the director, by keeping him or her abreast of relevant research findings or developments in the field and possible implications for the work of the foundation.
  • Represent the broader research unit to others inside and outside of the foundation.

Responsibilities

The four primary dimensions of the Research Officer for Education Leadership position are:

  1. Effectively manage the design, review, award, and implementation of a range of research projects developed as a part of the Foundation’s knowledge agenda in education leadership;
  2. Intellectually contribute research perspectives to the Foundation’s collaborative process of designing, implementing, and refining its education leadership strategy;
  3. Conduct in-depth editorial reviews of commissioned research reports to support knowledge-sharing and dissemination of lessons learned with the broader fields of practice and policy; and
  4. Contribute to the Foundation’s research capacity and approach as a part of the Research Unit.

As the Foundation begins a new 6-year initiative focused on equity-centered leadership in Fall 2021, the Research Officer will manage a suite of grants employing a range of predominantly qualitative and mixed methods including ethnography, impact and effects study designs, and development of an equity assessment tool.

Reporting to The Wallace Foundation's Director of Research, the Research Officer will bring deep knowledge of research in education leadership and equity and a depth of experience with qualitative research in particular. Strong candidates will also demonstrate exceptional relational, translational, and active-listening skills which will be crucial for contributing to sound decision-making in the Foundation’s collaborative team structure. The Foundation values the flexibility to adapt to change, a desire to learn, and the ability to work productively both on one’s own and with colleagues inside and outside the organization.

Qualifications

QUALIFICATIONS OF THE IDEAL CANDIDATE

While no one candidate will embody all the qualifications enumerated below, the ideal candidate will possess many of the following professional and personal abilities, attributes, and experiences:

  • A Ph.D. in a relevant social science discipline;
  • Scholarly history of conducting research and publishing peer-reviewed papers in the context of education leadership and equity;
  • At least seven years' experience designing and conducting education research (serving as a PI, co-PI, or project director);
  • Deep understanding of the research literature in education leadership, particularly with respect to the equity dimensions and implications of practices, policies, and systems change efforts;
  • Grasp of the education leadership field at large, current issues it is engaged with, and how research could be conducted and presented to advance practice;
  • Excellent writing skills, spanning academic and more public/practitioner related audiences;
  • Extensive professional networks with the education leadership research community;
  • Capacity to work productively in a collaborative team structure;
  • Experience working with or in district and school contexts, and/or working as a practitioner in a K-12 district or school context is desirable;
  • Experience managing the collection of quantitative and qualitative data, including sensitive data from children, while meeting the requirements of relevant laws and norms;
  • Demonstrated commitment to accountability and transparency;
  • Ability to synthesize and add value by connecting site lessons, research, and the broader system;
  • Excellent conceptual, analytic, and forward-thinking skills;
  • Exceptional project management skills and ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment;
  • Outstanding ability to connect, convey and receive complex ideas, and drive consensus and mutual understanding in writing, speaking, active listening, and synthesis.

Compensation

COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS

The salary for this position is $160,000.

Benefits include:

  • Health, dental and vision for employee and covered dependents as of date of hire.
  • 403(b) Retirement Plan with employer contribution.
  • Generous Paid Time Off (PTO) and schedule of annual holidays.
  • Tuition reimbursement and professional development initiatives for growth.
  • Leaves of Absence providing employees time to manage personal or family responsibilities, recover from an illness or injury, or respond to civic duties.

How to Apply

More information about The Wallace Foundation may be found at: https://www.wallacefoundation.org/.

This search is being led by Allison Kupfer Poteet and Sarah Hecklau of NPAG. Due to the pace of this search, candidates are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Candidates may submit their cover letter, outlining their interest and qualifications, along with their resume via NPAG’s candidate portal.

The Wallace Foundation is an Equal Opportunity Employer, committed to maintaining a diverse workplace where differing perspectives are a source of strength.

Wallace Foundation