Mission & History


Research for Action (RFA) seeks to use research as the basis for the improvement of educational opportunities and outcomes for traditionally underserved students. Our work is designed to strengthen public schools and postsecondary institutions; provide research-based recommendations to policymakers, practitioners and the public at the local, state and national levels; and enrich the civic and community dialogue about public education.



RFA is a Philadelphia-based, nonprofit education research organization. It was founded in 1992 by Drs. Eva Gold and Jolley Bruce Christman with a commitment to conducting education research that explored the complexities of education reform initiatives in Philadelphia, and provided education stakeholders with common-sense research to inform their initiatives. During that time, RFA produced seminal research that shaped urban education initiatives locally and nationally. See our publications page for more.

RFA has continued to build on that strong tradition. In 2009, RFA came under the direction of its first executive director, Dr. Kathleen Shaw. During her tenure, RFA has achieved four-fold growth; hired and cultivated high-level quantitative research capacity to complement RFA’s existing qualitative expertise; competed successfully for large, multi-year projects with major national organizations and foundations; developed the Pennsylvania Clearinghouse for Education Research (PACER), an initiative designed to respond to emerging education debates and discussions with nonpartisan, rigorous research and analysis; and, in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, the city’s charter sector, and its three major research universities, launched the Philadelphia Education Research Consortium (PERC).

In 2020 after 11 years, Dr. Kathleen Shaw has stepped down leaving RFA in the able hands of a committed Board of Directors and a strong and experienced leadership team. Dr. Kate Callahan will serve as RFA’s Interim Executive Director while RFA conducts a national search for a permanent Executive Director. Dr. Callahan is an accomplished mixed-methods researcher whose work is informed by substantial direct experience in both the K-12 and postsecondary sectors; she has been at RFA for over a decade, including several years as RFA’s Chief Research Officer.

Dr. Callahan will be supported by CFO Meena Wolverton and COO/Director of Communications Alison Murawski who are both seasoned professionals with a strong track record of ensuring RFA’s fiscal and administrative health.

RFA is remarkably well-positioned to begin this next chapter.  By building on its strong record of success, the organization will continue to make substantial contributions to ensuring that our education systems are more equitable, effective, and accessible.

Learn more about RFA’s current staff and work.