Enhancing the Use of Evidence in the School District of Philadelphia

Stoneleigh Fellow: Abigail Gray, 2017-2020

The Challenge

The past five years have marked a period of transformation in the School District of Philadelphia’s approach to addressing school climate. In 2012, Stoneleigh Fellow Jody Greenblatt spearheaded efforts to revise the Student Code of Conduct to reduce out-of-school suspensions and ushered in practice reforms, including trauma-informed approaches and positive behavior management tools. To better understand how schools approached student discipline in the wake of these changes, the School District partnered with Abigail Gray and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education to conduct a study on how K-8 District schools were carrying out climate interventions. Schools that have fully implemented these policies have begun to see promising results; however, many are still struggling to solve specific climate and discipline problems within their schools.

The Project

During her Stoneleigh Fellowship, Abigail Gray will build upon her existing research-practice partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to enhance the implementation of its school climate initiatives. She will work with School District leaders and researchers to institute a process for piloting and evaluating promising interventions through rapid-cycle research studies. The project will enable the District to quickly evaluate the impact of low-cost, evidence-based programs and practices on school climate outcomes, such as disciplinary referrals, suspensions, attendance, and academic achievement.

This Stoneleigh Fellowship will enable Abigail to:

  • Partner with the School District of Philadelphia to execute three to five rapid-cycle research projects. This includes collaborating with District leaders to identify targeted areas for improvement, selecting evidence-based interventions to pilot, and designing tailored studies to evaluate the interventions and their impact on student outcomes.
  • Increase the District’s capacity to use rapid-cycle research to directly inform practice within schools. Institutionalizing this process will help the District implement promising low-cost interventions, evaluate their impact quickly, and scale up programs that prove effective while ending those that do not.