Students Experiencing Homelessness in Allegheny County

Close to 3,000 students in Allegheny County public schools were identified as experiencing homelessness during the 2018-19 school year, or 2.0% of the total student population. Meanwhile, homelessness rates have been growing in recent years…

FAQ: Allegheny County Teachers of Color

Research Update : Increasing college access, affordability, and success among Dallas County Promise participants

In May 2020, Research for Action (RFA) partnered with Commit Partnership to conduct a 14-month study of the Dallas County Promise. This overview provides summary findings from RFA’s preliminary exploratory analysis of outcomes associated with…

Mixed-Methods Evaluation of the Dallas County Promise Program

Established in 2017, the Dallas County Promise is a coalition of school districts, postsecondary institutions, employers and communities working together to help more Dallas County students complete college and begin careers. Administered by The Commit…

School Police Presence in Allegheny County

In recent years, some school districts across Allegheny County have made noteworthy changes to school policing. While some districts have sought to reduce or eliminate reliance on police, a growing number of other districts in…

Allegheny County Students in Foster Care

Students in foster care require additional supports from schools in order to maintain educational stability. And, in the time of COVID-19 school shutdowns, experts warn that vulnerable students such as those in foster care may…

Allegheny County Education Research (ACER) Project

RFA’s Allegheny County Education Research (ACER) project is designed to inform education policy discussions in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County through rigorous, objective policy briefs and research-based commentaries. The goal is to provide accessible and actionable…

Research Brief: Measuring the Effects of Outcomes-Based Funding on Certificate Production: Challenges, Inconsistencies and Recommendations for Future Research

Outcomes-based funding (OBF) has become an increasingly common tool for states seeking to improve student outcomes, and the inclusion of certificates in OBF policies has been subject to considerable scrutiny. But studying the effects of OBF…

Making Children Larger and Cracks Smaller: The Role of a Participatory Evaluation in School Restructuring – Executive Summary

The executive summary to a report on a participatory evaluation project where a group of teachers and school counselors in a set of neighborhood schools worked to create reforms that would address student dropout. This…

Once & For All: Placing a Highly Qualified Teacher in Every Philadelphia Classroom – Executive Summary

Evaluating the Philadelphia Academies’ All-Academy High School Model

Research for Action partnered with Philadelphia Academies, Inc. (PAI) to evaluate the All-Academy model in two Philadelphia public high schools. PAI has served as a high school, postsecondary, and career readiness resource for nearly 50…

Going Small: Public/Private Collaboration in Restructuring High School Education in Philadelphia

RFA examined the planning and early implementation of the School District of Philadelphia small schools strategy for high school reform, focusing especially on the significant role of public/private sector collaboration in developing and carrying out…

Tracking the Implementation and Success of Academically-Oriented After-School Programs: 21st Century Grants

The 21st Century grant program of the U.S. Department of Education supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. RFA…

An Evaluation of Philadelphia’s Annenberg Challenge, Children Achieving: School District of Philadelphia and The Annenberg Foundation

RFA and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) conducted a five-year multi-method evaluation of Children Achieving, Philadelphia's systemic school reform effort from 1995-2000. The program, one of the urban reform initiatives funded through…

An Evaluation of the Regional Environmental Education Program Middle School and High School Curriculum: Schuylkill Valley Nature Center

An evaluation of the Regional Environmental Education Program (REEP) developed by the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education (SCEE) to promote awareness of environmental issues among schoolchildren. An analysis of data from the 1995-1996 school year…

An Evaluation of Parent and Community Roles in Local Schools: Alliance Organizing Project (AOP)

AOP was a Philadelphia-based group working to organize parents for new roles in their local schools for the purpose of supporting and sustaining school reform. RFA worked with AOP to assess how participation in organizing…

An Evaluation of Science All Around Us: Please Touch Museum

Philadelphia's Please Touch Museum developed and distributed science kits, prepackaged materials and activities for pre-schoolers and provided professional development for preschool teachers through a grant from the National Science Foundation. RFA helped the Please Touch…

A Tall Order for Philadelphia’s New Approach to School Governance: Heal the Political Rifts, Close the Budget Gap, AND Improve the Schools

Strong Neighborhoods, Strong Schools: Case Study: Alliance Organizing Project

The Alliance Organizing Project (AOP) is a Philadelphia-based, single-issue parent organizing group with the goal of making parents and families 'full partners' in public school reform. AOP was formed in 1995 as a component of…

Access to Certified, Experienced Teachers Is Not Equal For All

Once & For All: Placing a Highly Qualified Teacher in Every Philadelphia Classroom

This report examines the current status of teacher quality in the city and what the School District of Philadelphia is now doing to ensure that all classrooms have highly trained, motivated, and knowledgeable teachers ready…

Supports and Challenges in the Multiple Provider Model: Principals Offer Mixed Perspectives on First Year of Takeover

This article, based on interviews with principals from schools undergoing reform interventions under state takeover, offers these principals' perspectives on the first school year under the new 'multiple provider model.' RFA researchers interviewed twenty principals…

Small Learning Communities that Actually Learn: Lessons for School Leaders

Collaborative communities of teachers have great potential for bringing about improvements in teaching and learning. However, the authors found in their studies in Cincinnati and Philadelphia that simply creating a community structure is not enough…

The ‘Original 86:’ Tracking Changes to ”Original 86′ Philadelphia Public Schools Initially Targeted for Intervention Following the 2001 State Takeover

This document outlines some of the numerous changes that have occurred in these 'Original 86' schools, including changes in their providers, their grade configurations, leadership turnover, and the amount of additional per-pupil funding directed to…

Twists and Turns in the Journey: Youth Activists’ Use of Research in Their Campaigns for Small Schools

Kristine Lewis shares Research for Action's experience with training youth to use social science research methods in their campaigns to turn their local high schools into small schools.

Writing to be Heard: Building Respectful Communities, Kensington Students Examine Adult-Student Relationships in their New Small Schools

For the past two years, RFA researchers worked with student members of Youth United for Change (YUC) and Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) on developing their social science research skills as they conducted studies of their…

Going Small: Start Up and Early Implementation of Small High Schools in Philadelphia

The summary of findings from year one of Research for Action's study, 'Going Small: Public Private Collaboration in Restructuring High School Education in Philadelphia' provides a brief introduction and background to Philadelphia's small high schools.…

Faith-Based Partnerships from the Perspective of the Schools: An exploratory study of partnership benefits and challenges in Philadelphia District Schools – Executive Summary

In the spring of 2008, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) asked Research for Action to conduct an exploratory study of partnerships between faith-based organizations and schools. The goal of the study was to understand…

Informing High School Choices: The Progress & Challenges of Small High Schools in Philadelphia

In the School District of Philadelphia in 2007-08, almost one third of high school students attend one of the district's 32 small high schools. Of these, 26 have been newly created or significantly changed since…

Teacher Perceptions of Small High Schools

This research brief uses data from the School District of Philadelphia teacher survey to assess teacher perceptions of small and large neighborhood high schools.

Going Small: Progress and Challenges of Philadelphia’s Small High Schools

Between 2003 and 2007, and without significant outside funding, the School District of Philadelphia created 25 new small high schools. This study, begun by Research for Action in 2006, follows the start-up and early implementation…

Challenges to Freshman Year Interventions in Philadelphia

Philadelphia made early investments in reforms designed to address the challenges of large neighborhood high schools, including supports for the critical ninth grade transition year. Well over a decade later, our research shows that freshman…

First Steps: A Report on the K-12 Literacy/Small Learning Community Institute

Report on institute which addressed 3 strands of work in Phila: planning for development of SLCs in schools, Learning about District's new initiative and implement higher academic standards, focusing on teaching and learning with an…

Making Children Larger and Cracks Smaller: The Role of a Participatory Evaluation in School Restructuring

A report on a participatory evaluation project where a group of teachers and school counselors in a set of neighborhood schools worked to create reforms that would address student dropout. This paper was written as…

Growing Smaller: Three Tasks in Restructuring Urban High Schools

In this article from Urban Education, the authors offer a framework, derived from five years of research in Philadelphia high schools, to illuminate the vision and labor necessary to make urban high school reform both…

Networking Across Boundaries of Place, Culture, and Role: A Report for the Bread Loaf Rural Teacher Network Funded by the Dewitt-Wallace Reader’s Digest Foundation

A four-year evaluation of the Bread Loaf Rural Teacher Network established in 1992 at Middlebury College with grant funding from the DeWitt-Wallace Reader's Digest Foundation. BLRTN seeks to accomplish two goals: 1) invigorating teaching of…

A Report to the Alliance Organizing Project on its Work with Parents

This report documents the experience of parents as they form parent leadership teams at their local schools and build relationships with administrators and teachers.

Encouraging Young Scientists: Science All Around Us

A report to the Please Touch Museum on the Science All Around Us Project, funded by the National Science Foundation. This project combines specially designed kits with teacher training to accomplish this goal to encourage…

Memorandum to the Alliance Organizing Project: Evaluation, 1998-1999

This report describes Research for Action's follow up study from its initial 1997-1998 report. The initial report examined the ways in which the Alliance Organizing Project's community organizing projcess trasformed parents' ideas about their roles…

Preview of Findings from RFA’s Fall 1999 Data Collection and Analysis: Creating an Infrastructure for Sustaining Math and Science Reform in Philadelphia

This report is an analysis of the PHUSI and large-scale sustainable changes in math and science curricula in Philadelphia schools. The analysis is based primarily on key informant interviews conducted during Nov. and Dec. 1999…

State Responses to COVID-19 – Implications for Student Success Funding and Promise Programs

COVID-19, and related enrollment and budget fluctuations, have caused dramatic shifts across higher education. As states struggle to enroll and retain students in the face of COVID-19, decisions about whether and how to sustain, refine,…

Examining the Impact, Implementation, and Cost Effectiveness of Completion Coaching in a Statewide College Promise Program

RFA received funding from Arnold Ventures to conduct a four-year Randomized Control Trial of an intensive coaching program for Tennessee Promise students from low-income households. This study is being conducted in partnership with tnAchieves, the…

Assessing the Feasibility of a National Lead Teacher Certification for Early Childhood Educators

This mixed-methods study, conducted in partnership with the Council for Professional Recognition, will assess the feasibility of a national, competency-based lead teacher certification system for educators in all types of early childhood programs serving children…

Expanding the Knowledge Base on State Policies Impacting Undocumented Students in Higher Education

Immigrant-origin students account for 58% of U.S. postsecondary enrollment growth in the last twenty years. This population will continue to grow in the next ten years.  Yet the significant implications of that growth for state…

Evaluation of New Profit Capacity Building Model

New Profit is a non-profit organization that seeks to combine the principles of venture capital and social impact to create systems change by investing in innovative, high-impact organizations. New Profit’s unique model provides unrestricted funds…

Evaluation of an afterschool STEM mentoring program

EngWINS expands the Women In Natural Science (WINS) program to include exposure to engineering. This program connects young women with mentor scientists from Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences (ANS). EngWINS also includes…

Expanding the Knowledge Base on State Policies that Validate Learning that Occurs Outside of the Classroom

In support of Lumina Foundation's All Learning Counts initiative, RFA will identify exemplary and promising state policies designed to recognize and credential high quality postsecondary level learning that occurs outside of the classroom; create a…

Advancing Racial Equity in Higher Education Attainment

Lumina’s Talent, Innovation, and Equity (TIE) initiative awards multi-year grants and technical assistance for states to promote awareness of racial attainment gaps in postsecondary education and work towards the reduction and elimination of those gaps.…

Educational Opportunity Dashboard

RFA’s Educational Opportunity Dashboard provides a unique tool to compare how well policymakers in each state are providing high school students with basic access to schools with high quality educational opportunities. The analysis is based…

An Evaluation of the Picasso Schoolwide Model

RFA is partnering with Public Citizens for Children + Youth (PCCY) to evaluate the impact of the Picasso program’s School-Based Grant in three pilot schools. Picasso’s School-Based Grant provides schools with up to three years…

Evaluation to Measure Impact of Detroit Wolf Trap’s Early Learning through the Arts on Teacher Growth in Instructional Ability

Detroit Wolf Trap’s Early Learning Through the Arts provides arts-based teaching strategies and services to early childhood teachers. As a regional affiliate, Living Arts will provide approximately 70 eight-week arts integration residencies to Early Head…

RFA’s Evaluation of Outcomes in City Year Philadelphia Schools

RFA is partnering with City Year Philadelphia to analyze of the academic, attendance, and behavioral outcomes of students in their partner schools. City Year Philadelphia places 200+ corps members in schools to support school-wide and…

An Evaluation of the Lumina Foundation’s Focus Areas in Postsecondary Education

RFA is partnering with Frontline Solutions and Engage R+D to track how work is progressing within and across Lumina Foundation’s Focus Areas for improving postsecondary credential attainment rates.  The evaluation will document lessons learned as…

Afterschool Programs: A Review of Evidence Under the Every Student Succeeds Act

The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the major source of federal funding for afterschool programs in the United States, especially through its 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The law also encourages—and in…

A Detroit-Area Early Childhood Education Workforce Study to Support Head Start Agencies in Recruiting and Retaining High-Quality Teachers

This mixed-methods descriptive study was conducted in partnership with the Policy Equity Group in June-October 2018 to provide a description of the state and community context affecting the early childhood education workforce pipeline in Detroit;…

Evaluating Philadelphia’s Community Schools Initiative

RFA was selected as the external evaluator for Philadelphia's Community Schools initiative, a hallmark of Mayor Jim Kenney's education agenda. The initiative provides a comprehensive set of social services and supports for schoolchildren and communities.…

State and Local College Promise Programs: Examining Policy and Practice

Statewide College Promise programs are becoming increasingly common as college costs and student debt rise. Yet to date there has been little to no systematic research that closely examines how these programs are constructed or…

Examining Cross-Sector Collaboration in Pittsburgh: A Mixed-Delivery System for Pre-K Education

Research for Action worked with diverse stakeholders in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to explore successes and challenges related to the implementation of the city’s mixed-delivery system for early childhood education programs developed through partnership between Pittsburgh Public…

Early Literacy Instruction and Pre-K Curriculum in Philadelphia

This study is a three-year initiative to provide early childhood programs in Philadelphia with information about what is working in their classrooms to support children’s early literacy and language development.  The research explores the links…

An Evaluation of Children’s Literacy Initiative’s Blueprint for Early Literacy

Early language and literacy skill delays are largely due to family economic disadvantages that to fully address would require broad-based policies to reduce poverty. Still, access to high-quality pre-K is increasingly recognized as a potential…

Examining Child Care Funding and Finance in Pennsylvania

Due to a lack of reliable data it remains difficult to fully analyze how child care provider finance practices in Pennsylvania compare to industry best practices, and to determine which policy solutions could best address…

Examining Credit Transfer from Juvenile Justice Facilities to the School District of Philadelphia

As juveniles transition out of disciplinary facilities, it’s critically important to ensure that they receive credit for any school work they’ve completed.  RFA recently received support from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to examine the…

Evaluating the Reimagine Learning Initiative for New Profit, Inc.

RFA is conducting a formative evaluation of New Profit’s Reimagine Learning initiative, which was developed to support schools and communities in creating learning environments that serve the needs of all students by providing supports for…

Evaluating Women in Natural Sciences for the Academy of Natural Sciences

RFA is serving as the evaluator for the Academy of Natural Sciences (ANS) Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) project. Since its inception in 1982, WINS has introduced more than 770 Philadelphia girls to careers in…

Using Common Assignments to Strengthen Teaching and Learning

The Common Assignment Study (CAS) is a three-year effort being led by the Colorado Education Initiative and the Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The initiative…

After-School Science Programming in West Virginia: An Evaluation Funded by the National Science Foundation

Since 2011, The National Science Foundation-funded project, SCI TALKS: Supporting Community Initiatives for Teaching, Learning and Knowing Science, has provided 247 at-risk West Virginia youth with innovative, engaging and meaningful after-school science taught by elementary…

Providing Policy Guidance and Support to Increase Student Success in Higher Education

RFA is partnering with postsecondary institutions in five states to improve the state policy context and conditions necessary to improve student retention and graduation.  This two-year project includes state-level policy scans, as well as assessments…

The Education Justice Network

The Education Justice Network (EJN) is a consortium of nationally-recognized research, advocacy and policy scholars and organizations. EJN seeks to improve children’s access to high-quality education by advancing evidence-based reform models that provide alternatives to…

Integrative Arts Programs in Philadelphia: An Examination of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program in Four Public Schools

RFA served as the evaluator of an arts integration initiative launched by Philadelphia’s nationally-renowned Mural Arts Program. This two-year, mixed-methods study identified successes, challenges and lessons learned as this initiative is implemented in four Philadelphia…

Supporting Education Organizing for Education Equity: Communities for Public Education Reform

Southeastern Pennsylvania was selected as one of four sites for funding from Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER), a national philanthropic collaborative aimed at increasing student and parent power to affect school reform. CPER-funded groups…

School Choice in a City of Neighborhoods: Philadelphia’s Approach to High School Reform

RFA's study on high school choice builds on the "Learning from Philadelphia's School Reform" study and turns RFA's attention to the improvement of Philadelphia's high schools--a focus that was not part of the previous study…

Youth Civic Engagement in Urban School Reform

RFA is analyzing the campaigns of two Philadelphia youth organizing groups, the Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) and Youth United for Change (YUC), to transform their neighborhood high schools into small schools. RFA's study investigates how…

Examining Reforms in Postsecondary Student Placement Policies

For several years, RFA has been examining how postsecondary systems and institutions have reformed their approach to student placement in first-year classes. Until recently it was common practice to place students based on a cut…

Afterschool Arts Programming in the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of America: A Mixed-Methods Evaluation

RFA partnered with McClanahan and Associates, Inc. to conduct a five-year mixed-methods evaluation of after-school arts programming in Boys & Girls Clubs funded by the Wallace Foundation. Our work provided actionable, formative feedback to each…

Providing Technical Assistance to the New Jersey Department of Education

The Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center (MACC) is a federally-funded organization housed at WestEd that provides technical assistance to states as they work to improve and reform public schools. As a MACC partner, RFA worked with the…

Career and Technical Training in Juvenile Justice Facilities: Increasing the Capacity of a Statewide Network to Make Evidence-Based Decisions

RFA engaged in a partnership with the Pennsylvania Academic Career and Technical Training Alliance (PACTT) to support its efforts to develop a data collection system for PACTT facilities. PACTT is a voluntary network of juvenile…

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program: Effects on Traditional and Incarcerated Students

RFA conducted a preliminary evaluation of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange program at Temple University. For over a decade, Inside-Out had been training university faculty to teach courses within adult correctional facilities across the United States…

Expanding the Knowledge Base on State-Level Postsecondary Outcomes-Based Funding

RFA is conducting a comprehensive analysis of state-level postsecondary Outcomes-Based Funding policy in six states. This mixed-methods evaluation includes a policy analysis to develop a nuanced picture of the parameters of OBF in each state;…

Renaissance Schools in Philadelphia: Examining Early Implementation of a Turnaround School Model

This study, commissioned by the Accountability Review Council of the School District of Philadelphia, focused on the early months of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's Renaissance Schools Initiative, designed to turn around chronically low-performing schools. Thirteen schools…

Examining the Implementation, Scale Up, and Sustainability of Teacher-Developed Formative Assessment Tools Aligned to the CCSS: A National Study

For the past several years, RFA has conducted a national, multi-site examination of the implementation and effectiveness of teacher-developed formative assessment tools aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Funded by the Bill and…

An Evaluation of the Philadelphia Urban Systemic Initiative (USI): School District of Philadelphia

RFA conducted a five year evaluation of USI. Supported by the National Science Foundation, USI is a systemic change initiative charged by the School District of Philadelphia to reform math, science, and technology instruction that…

A Study of Middle School Girls: American Association of University Women (AAUW)

AAUW commissioned RFA to investigate how girls from a variety of racial and ethnic groups negotiate their school lives. RFA conducted qualitative research at six school sites across the country, and authored an AAUW report,…

Publications of General Interest

RFA occasionally publishes work on varied topics of general interest that do not fall under one project or area of focus.

A Study of High School Restructuring in Five Schools: Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF)

The Five School Study: Restructuring Philadelphia Comprehensive High Schools assessed the long-term, district-wide effort to restructure Philadelphia's comprehensive high schools. It examined two strategies central to the overall reform effort: the creation of small learning…

An Evaluation of the Bread Loaf Rural Teachers’ Network (BLRTN): Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College

BLRTN, funded by the DeWitt-Wallace Reader's Digest Fund, provides professional development to rural middle and high school English teachers. BLRTN emphasizes the use of telecomputing as a catalyst for learning and provides support to classroom…

An Evaluation of Family Literacy Initiatives

From 1997-2000, RFA conducted an evaluation of two projects sponsored by PNC Bank to create educational partnerships between four elementary schools in Philadelphia's Norris Square neighborhood and parents/community members. The PNC supported programs were the…

An Evaluation of the Philadelphia Urban Systemic Program (USP): School District of Philadelphia

Supported by the National Science Foundation, the Urban Systemic Project (USP) was a systemic change initiative charged by the School District of Philadelphia to reform math, science and technology instruction and produce high levels of…

A Formative Evaluation of Reform Initiatives in Trenton Public Schools: Trenton School District

RFA conducted a 4-year evaluation of the Trenton School District's Leadership for Education Achievement (LEAD) initiative. LEAD is a program supported by the DeWitt Wallace Foundation which builds school and district leadership capacity for the…

Consulting

RFA occasionally provides consultant services primarily to non-profit organizations