At the Walton Family Foundation, all grant making is considered an investment for the achievement of a desired goal. Whether it is increasing the number of school choices available to families in an urban school district or increasing water flow in a tributary of the Colorado River, every dollar invested in projects and organizations has the intent of achieving results.
Given our entrepreneurial mindset, we seek to work with organizations that:
- Have strategies based on sound theories of action;
- Set clear goals; and
- Include measurable benchmarks to assess performance.
Guides to Creating Performance Measures
All invited grant applicants should review the following guides in order to compose complete and useful performance measures.
- How To Construct Performance Measures - Education Reform
- How To Construct Performance Measures - Environment
- How To Construct Performance Measures - Home Region
Our Approach To Evaluation
To measure progress toward our goals, we have established an evaluation process that provides useful information to our staff and board members about which organizations are effective, what strategies are working, and whether our overall mission is being achieved.
Our evaluation efforts include monitoring and assessing the efforts of individual grantees as well as investigating progress toward broader strategic goals – and doing so in a rigorous, systematic and timely manner.
Evaluation can tell us whether programs are working. It can also provide insight to staff and grantees about how to adjust and improve their efforts. We believe that both types of assessment are valuable to our work and essential to helping us achieve our goals.
We know that external factors affect grantee performance and the impact of our strategies and that the systems in which we work are complex and influenced by many factors. We are sensitive to this. Still, we operate under the assumption that it is possible, with some limitations, to understand, know, and objectively measure performance at all levels of our work, from individual grants through our strategies, initiatives, and programs.
Specifically, we believe it is possible, and in fact our responsibility, to base evaluations on rigorous scientific approaches. This is challenging, but necessary to ensure our evaluations are valid, accurate, and as objective as possible, thus providing reliable information for our board, our program staff and our grantees. We are committed to being transparent about measuring results and then using those results to most efficiently and effectively achieve our mission.
In addition to monitoring and evaluating our grantees directly, we also stay current on relevant third-party research. Here is some of what we have been learning:
- Two studies of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program suggest that means-tested voucher and scholarship programs may be an effective way of improving educational outcomes for participating students and leading to improvements in traditional public schools as well.
- This investigation of 22 KIPP schools indicates that "for the vast majority of KIPP schools studied, impacts on students’ state assessment scores in mathematics and reading are positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial."
- The National Charter School Research Project’s meta-analysis on the effect of charter schools on student achievement marshals evidence that public charter schools tend to be successful at the elementary and middle school levels, but that quality improvements are needed in public charter high schools.
- This national evaluation of Teach For America corps members finds that TFA teachers are particularly effective at raising student achievement in math.
- This study of marine protected areas in the Eastern Tropical Pacific found that MPAs that prohibit all fishing (“no-take zones”) have higher densities of top-level predators and higher coral cover than MPAs that allow some fishing, and that effective enforcement is essential for maximizing these benefits.