Blog Entries

RFA’s OST Journal Article Published

RFA’s work to examine out-of-school time (OST) programming and its impact on student outcomes continues to generate attention. A journal article, authored by RFA researchers Tracey Hartmann, Brittan Hallar and Jian Gao, was published today in the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal. Click here to read the article.

Additionally, this morning, Tracey Hartmann participated on a panel on OST innovations in Philadelphia. The panel, sponsored by PSIJ and in conjunction with the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, Department of Human Services, and the Public Health Management Corporation, explored how Philadelphia’s OST sector can continue to innovate in order to meet the needs of students and adapt to local needs and culture.

Read More

RFA Hosts OST Learning Community Workshop

Last Tuesday, RFA hosted a Learning Community Workshop for out-of-school time (OST) providers who are recipients of the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grants. The discussion followed the release of the RFA’s 21st CCLC aggregate report which looks at program implementation and student outcomes across 11 provider agencies and 50 sites in Philadelphia. Tuesday’s discussion focused on STEM programming and school partnerships in 21st CCLC programs, topics identified by the providers as areas they would like to discuss. Ten provider agencies, who were 21st CCLC evaluation clients of RFA, were in attendance, as well as representatives from the School District of Philadelphia including central office staff, one principal and one classroom teacher who work with 21st CCLC programs in their schools.



Providers and teachers shared successes, challenges and tangible strategies for effectively implementing STEM OST programs and developing partnerships with schools. Many of the program provider representatives reported finding comfort in knowing they are not alone in their struggles and through this experience, some were able to find solutions to existing problems. Others left with ideas for new programs and methods. However, many questions and concerns about how best to go forward with OST STEM programs and school partnerships remain. This workshop was a meaningful step toward creating a Learning Community of OST providers in which providers can reflect on program practices in the context of research findings and benefit from the shared experience of peer organizations.

Read More

PASA-PASBO Report Documents Impact of Cuts to Education

The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) today released a report on the impact of education cuts on PA school district budgets. The report confirms what has already been widely reported: that declining investment in education has caused deep cuts to education programs and staff in every corner of the state.

Research for Action administered the survey of school administrators and business officials in all 500 school districts and served as a research partner on the report.

Click here to access the report and PASA/PASBO’s press release.


Read More

RFA Op-Ed in Public School Notebook

The Pennsylvania Governor’s race has been in the spotlight of late, especially with ambitious proposals and reforms to education included in the platforms of both Democrats and Republicans.

But two of RFA’s policy researchers make the case that the agency that will be charged with implementing these reforms–the Pennsylvania Department of Education–is woefully understaffed and under-resourced.

Read more in their commentary in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook.

Read More

RFA Presents at L.E.A.R.N Conference

Research for Action was honored to participate in the third annual L.E.A.R.N Conference on March 1, 2014. L.E.A.R.N is an interdisciplinary organization that seeks to create an education forum for the broader Philadelphia community hosted by graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Education, Law School, and Fels Institute of Government. The conference was well attended by members of the Philadelphia education community including School District of Philadelphia and charter school employees, professors, researchers, education advocates, parents, and students.

The 2014 conference theme, “Achievement Gap or the Education Debt? Combating Racial Inequalities in our Public Schools”, engaged conversations surrounding the disparity of educational outcomes between white and minority students. Furthermore, topics discussed the reasons behind varying educational outcomes for students of different races and possible solutions to the problem. Obviously, it is an important conversation.

The challenges and responses to persistent education challenges are complex. There’s a cliché among education researchers that the best response to any question posed is, “It’s complicated.”  With our hour, my colleagues Jessica Beaver and John Sludden wanted to convey, as best we could, just a few of the pressures facing large urban school systems, with a focus on Philadelphia. We built our slides around three trends factoring into the local decision-making in major urban areas, but have been particularly relevant in our city in recent years:

  •  Accountability policy,
  • Budget cuts, and
  • Market-based reforms, namely school choice.

Our slides exploring these issues, along with the accompanying presentation notes, are attached.

Additionally, while Philadelphia is home to a number of extraordinarily qualified education experts, we believe there is no one better able to engage and analyze the challenges facing urban school systems better than Dr. James H. Lytle. We were thrilled to have him join our panel discussion to provide perspective on Philadelphia’s situation. Dr. Lytle provided an insight into the broader policy dynamics amongst various stakeholders within the city as well as his predictions on recent financial requests to the state by the district.

The conversation we were fortunate to take part in has never been more important. We thank L.E.A.R.N. for including our voice in the conversation, and we hope you will feel free to add yours as well.


Read More