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Evaluation of the Relationships First Program at the School District of Philadelphia

Began in May 2023

Relationships First (RF) is a multi-tiered schoolwide restorative model that addresses disciplinary, academic, and social-emotional outcomes for K-12 students by fundamentally shifting relationships among and between adults and students in schools. Partnering with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), RFA has embarked on a five-year evaluation of the RF program within SDP schools. The evaluation seeks to understand the implementation of RF within these schools and its impact on student attitudes, behaviors, and academic outcomes.

Using mixed methods, RFA will assess the fidelity of RF program components, identifying key factors influencing implementation and sustainability. The goal is to provide SDP with actionable feedback for continuous improvement. This project aims to scale up and rigorously evaluate RF, offering insights into the scalability of tiered restorative programs. It assesses their potential to improve student engagement, academic performance, and school climate, while bolstering social-emotional skills and reducing reliance on punitive disciplinary measures.

Recognizing the disproportionate impact of punitive practices on marginalized student groups—such as Black and Latino students, English language learners, and students with disabilities—the project underscores the urgency of shifting toward restorative approaches to foster inclusive and supportive learning environments.