Content Areas Archive

State-Level Education Policy and Reform Projects and Publications

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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…

Investing So Schools Work

Recognizing the need for new estimates on how much school funding is adequate for Pennsylvania school districts, Research for Action commissioned an independent project based on the research of national school funding experts, Picus Odden…

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…

Providing Technical Assistance on ELL Policy to the Pennsylvania Department of Education: A Project of the Mid-Atlantic REL

RFA is conducting an analysis of English Language Learner policy and practice in Pennsylvania. Our work will consist of a statewide policy scan and multiple district-level case studies of best practice.

Examining Extended Learning Opportunities in New Hampshire: A Statewide Evaluation

RFA conducted a two-year, mixed-methods study of New Hampshire’s extended learning opportunities (ELO) initiative. Funded by the Nellie Mae Educational Foundation, the study focused on assessing the implementation and effectiveness of ELO on college and…

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…

The Pennsylvania Clearinghouse for Education Research: Translating Research and Analysis for Education Policymakers

The Pennsylvania Clearinghouse for Education Research–or PACER–is designed to inform state education policy discussions through rigorous, objective research; regular policy briefs; and research-based commentaries in leading media outlets statewide.

Teacher Turnover in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

The advent of the Pennsylvania Information Management System (PIMS) made statewide analysis of teacher turnover possible for the first time. Using this database, RFA examined teacher retention and turnover across the state and conducted comparative…

An Evaluation of the Pennsylvania High School Coaching Initiative, a Classroom-Based Coaching Model

RFA conducted a comprehensive, mixed methods evaluation study designed to inform, support, and assess the Pennsylvania High School Coaching Initiative, a partnership of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Penn Literacy Network, and Foundations, Inc.…

Equity-Focused Charter School Authorizing Toolkit

Providing high-quality and equitable learning opportunities should be a primary goal of all schools and school systems. Charter schools comprise the most steadily growing sector of Pennsylvania’s public education system, now home to over 160…

Updating Pennsylvania’s Special Education Funding Formula

The goal of state special education funding should be to equitably distribute funds that are adequate for all schools to meet their legal obligation to provide a free and appropriate public education to students with…

Investing So Schools Work

Recognizing the need for new estimates on how much school funding is adequate for Pennsylvania school districts, Research for Action commissioned an independent project based on the research of national school funding experts, Picus Odden…

Students Experiencing Homelessness in Pennsylvania: Under-Identification and Inequitable Enrollment

Housing instability and homelessness are highly detrimental to children and youth, and the effects often linger long after the experience itself. Students who have experienced homelessness are more likely to drop out of school and,…

New Data on Teacher Diversity in Pennsylvania

Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Education provided new data for 2016-17 that include the race and gender of the 155,854 teachers in Pennsylvania's public schools. RFA compiled and cleaned the raw data and is providing, for…

School Performance Profiles: Still Not the Sum of a School’s Parts

Since 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has annually published School Performance Profiles (SPPs), which assign a summative academic performance score for every traditional public and charter school in Pennsylvania by rating each school…

Patching the Leaky Pipeline: Recruiting and Retaining Teachers of Color in Pennsylvania

Research shows that exposure to teachers of color has a positive impact on students of all races, and particularly on students of color. Despite these positive effects, only 4% of Pennsylvania's teachers are people of…

The Fiscal Impact of Charter School Expansion: Calculations in Six Pennsylvania School Districts

As charter school enrollment in Pennsylvania rises, understanding the fiscal impact of charter school expansion is critical for school districts to accurately budget and to anticipate current and future costs. In order to calculate the…

Executive Summary: Child Care Funding and Finance in Pennsylvania: Budgeting for Survival or Paying for the Cost of True Quality?

Efforts underway to expand access to high-quality child care and pre-K programs in Pennsyl­vania are aimed at improving school readiness for low-income children and mitigating the wide achievement gaps plaguing them in the later grades.…

Full Report: Child Care Funding and Finance in Pennsylvania: Budgeting for Survival or Paying for the True Cost of Quality?

Efforts underway to expand access to high-quality child care and pre-K programs in Pennsyl­vania are aimed at improving school readiness for low-income children and mitigating the wide achievement gaps that plague them in the later…

Case Study: Montgomery Early Learning Centers

Efforts underway to expand access to high-quality child care and pre-K programs in Pennsyl­vania are aimed at improving school readiness for low-income children and mitigating the wide achievement gaps plaguing them in the later grades.…

Case Study: Bullfrogs and Butterflies

Efforts underway to expand access to high-quality child care and pre-K programs in Pennsyl­vania are aimed at improving school readiness for low-income children and mitigating the wide achievement gaps plaguing them in the later grades.…

Case Study: Children’s Village

Efforts underway to expand access to high-quality child care and pre-K programs in Pennsyl­vania are aimed at improving school readiness for low-income children and mitigating the wide achievement gaps plaguing them in the later grades.…

Case Study: Seton Center

Efforts underway to expand access to high-quality child care and pre-K programs in Pennsyl­vania are aimed at improving school readiness for low-income children and mitigating the wide achievement gaps plaguing them in the later grades.…

Technical Appendix: Child Care Funding and Finance in Pennsylvania

Charter School Special Education Funding in Pennsylvania

For many years there have been calls to reform how Pennsylvania funds special education both for school districts and charter schools. While some modest changes were recently legislated, they applied exclusively to new state special…

College Affordability in PA: How Did We Get Here, and What Can Be Done?

A postsecondary credential is quickly becoming the only reliable gateway to the middle class. A college certificate or degree is associated with higher household income and stability, better health, and a stronger, more competitive economy.…

Racial Disparities in Educational Opportunities in Pennsylvania: A First Look at New Civil Rights Data

We know that segregation and educational inequity are harmful to students and weaken school systems. Yet 62 years after Brown v. Board of Education rendered the doctrine of "separate but equal" unconstitutional, it has been…

Quality Ratings and Improvement Systems in Early Childhood Education: Promising Approaches for Pennsylvania

Policymakers are recognizing that Pennsylvania has fallen behind in providing equitable access to high quality early childhood education. Gov. Tom Wolf ran on a campaign promise of universal pre-k access and proposed an unprecedented budget…

Results from a Two-Year Study of the Effects of Extended Learning Opportunities on Student Outcomes in New Hampshire

In 2005, New Hampshire shifted from “seat-time” requirements for grade-level advancement and graduation to a competency-based education system. The state subsequently required all local school districts to adopt and implement a competency-based assessment process and…

Creating a Comprehensive Picture of School Performance

For more than two decades, states have been required to report publicly on the academic performance of schools and districts. These school rating systems have received increased public attention amid growing concerns about the prevalence and…

PA Keystone Exams: Analysis of 2013-14 Publicly-Available Data

Pennsylvania's two-decade experience with standards-based education reform has been marked by an increasing reliance on test-based accountability. This research brief provides education stakeholders with accurate, comprehensive analysis to inform the growing debate about Keystone Exams.

Pennsylvania’s School Performance Profile: Not the Sum of its Parts

Test-based accountability has been a primary feature of public school policy since 2001, when the No Child Left Behind Act required states to adopt annual assessment programs, identify sanctions for schools that did not meet…

Revisiting Cyber Charter School Performance

RFA's updated cyber charter school analysis shows that cybers continue to lag far behind both traditional public and charter schools on the state's performance measure, and average cyber performance trails behind the average performance of…

The Potential Effects of Opting Out of State Tests in Pennsylvania

Parents across the country have expressed frustration with standardized tests. This policy brief examines the degree to which student opt-outs might influence Pennsylvania's new school rating system, the School Performance Profile (SPP), which relies heavily…

Early Childhood Education in Pennsylvania

Early childhood education has emerged as a priority for state and national policymakers, even in the face of declining education budgets elsewhere. This PACER brief examines the research and policy base surrounding early childhood education.

From Policy to Practice: Tracing the Development and Implementation of Placement and Diagnostic Assessment across States, Systems, and Community Colleges — Phase I Report

Nationwide, postsecondary policymakers and administrators are responding to emerging research on whether placement exams are reliable gauges of students’ readiness for credit-bearing coursework. Specifically, the widespread use of placement tests may belie their effectiveness in…

Teacher Effectiveness: An Update on Pennsylvania’s Teacher Evaluation System

This policy brief provides a closer look at Pennsylvania's new teacher evaluation system and the efforts of the Pittsburgh Public Schools to implement reforms. This brief includes implications for state policymakers, district leaders, and education…

An Analysis of Pennsylvania’s Cyber Charter Schools

Pennsylvania's first charter school opened in 1998, enrolling 44 full-time students. The sector has since grown to 16 schools enrolling 35,000 students from all but one school district in the Commonwealth. This PACER Issue Brief…

From Start to Finish: An Analysis of State Speeches, Education Priorities, and Key Adoptions in 2013

Annual State of the State and budget addresses delivered by governors hold particular promise for such analysis. While state policy is, by its very nature, idiosyncratic (e.g., variable legislative sessions, differences in the make-up of…

From Policy to Practice: Tracing the Development and Implementation of Placement and Diagnostic Assessment across States, Systems, and Community Colleges — Phase 2 Report

National initiatives to raise K-12 standards and align them to postsecondary entrance requirements have prompted states and/or state postsecondary systems to enact policies to improve alignment among postsecondary readiness standards, postsecondary placement and diagnostic exams,…

From Policy to Practice: Tracing the Development and Implementation of Placement and Diagnostic Assessments across States, Systems, and Community Colleges — Phase 1 and Phase 2 Summary

Given the barrier that developmental education can present in students’ timely progress to degree completion and the variation in its effectiveness, Research for Action (RFA) examined assessment and placement reform efforts across five leading states—California,…

School Closings Policy

The nation's largest school districts have increasingly turned to building closures to address budget deficits, demographic shifts, and the movement of students to charter schools. This PACER Issue Brief examines school closings policy.

Issue Brief: Performance Pay for Teachers

This PACER Issue Brief--the third in a series--examines alternative teacher compensation models, specifically pay for performance. It builds on the series' first brief on teacher effectiveness to provide context, identify challenges, and answer questions about…

Teacher Effectiveness: The National Picture and Pennsylvania Context

This first-in-a-series issue brief poses questions and provides research-based answers on teacher evaluation systems - a top priority of legislators during the fall 2011 legislative session. It provides a summary of research and emerging practices…

Educational Vouchers – Facts, Figures, and a Summary of the Research

Educational vouchers have gained increasing currency in recent months as a potential school reform strategy in Pennsylvania. Both Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates have publicly endorsed vouchers in some form, and the Pennsylvania legislature has expressed interest…