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Education equity reform

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Child writing on paper

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has long funded efforts to identify and implement smart, student-focused changes to improve public education and raise student achievement across the country. Facing strong opposition in bellwether states, Gates retained Spitfire to provide strategic communication support to grantees working to protect local education systems and advance reforms to ensure student equity.

At the outset of this work, Spitfire knew that each state required a tailored strategy to address its specific political climate. Spitfire conducted research to understand the  lay of the land in each state and developed overarching messages and tailored activities to advance their efforts. Informed by our in-depth analysis and targeted communications tools, we readily responded to breaking news and rapid response opportunities.

Our analysis showed that teachers, business leaders, military families and parents’ peers all hold more credibility than others when communicating with policymakers, parents and other decision makers. Spitfire has trained more than 200 of these influential spokespeople to help them integrate messaging about the reforms into their work and use their own stories to keep the message authentic and fresh. Spitfire also trained participants to give a successful media interview by pivoting away from controversial issues and reinforcing the core messages we developed for each state.

Spitfire also helped grantees leverage new opportunities – including positive news, like support from an important constituency as well as negative news, like the introduction of a bill to repeal the standard – offering support crafting op-eds from opinion leaders to run in local papers, developing presentations to support in-person meetings with policymakers and crafting digital and print materials to support state-based outreach activities. Spitfire also helped grantees improve their communication efforts by providing feedback on outreach, social media and digital strategies. With our support and newfound skills, grantees are successfully protecting local education systems against threats and advance positive reform policies throughout the states

In addition to the state-based work, Spitfire assisted the Foundation with gathering and telling stories about the impact of the Foundation’s work in priority states. Spitfire works to identify stories from states where funding has made the biggest difference for students, and to share those stories with the Foundation’s priority audiences, including teachers, parents and administrators. Through our storytelling efforts, more people who matter know about the meaningful work the Foundation undertakes every day. 

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