Enhancing the Philadelphia School District’s Use of Evidence

The Challenge

The past several 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 worked with the District to revise its Student Code of Conduct—an effort aimed at reducing out-of-school suspensions and phasing in practice reforms, including trauma-informed approaches and positive behavior management tools.

To 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 schools are still struggling to solve specific climate and discipline problems.

The Project

Through her Stoneleigh Fellowship, Abigail Gray worked to enhance the implementation of the School District of Philadelphia’s school climate initiatives. She partnered with the District’s leaders and its research office to institute a process for piloting and evaluating promising interventions through rapid-cycle research studies. The project enabled 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 enabled Abigail to:

  • Establish a research-practice partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to implement and evaluate projects to improve school climate. This included 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 helped the District implement promising low-cost interventions, evaluate their impact quickly, and scale up programs that prove effective while ending those that do not.
Photo Credit: It’s Our City
Abigail Gray's Headshot

Abigail Gray, PhD

Stoneleigh Fellow

2017 - 2019

Consortium for Policy Research in Education, University of Pennsylvania

Current Position

Vice President, Implementation Science


Project Updates