Oct 302018

October 2017 – The Policy & Research Group has been selected as the external evaluator for the Center for Supportive Schools’ Education Innovation and Research Program (EIR) funded by the U.S. Department of Education. PRG will assist the Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) by conducting a rigorous impact evaluation that will estimate the efficacy of the intervention on student outcomes. PRG will also help CSS with the early-stage development of their program through formative support.
The Department of Education EIR funding provides support to local educational agencies and nonprofit organizations to improve student outcomes in school through innovative practices. The EIR initiative supports field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students and rigorously evaluates such innovations. The funding is designed to generate and validate solutions to persistent educational challenges and to support the expansion of effective solutions to serve substantially larger numbers of students.
Peer Group Connection-Middle School (PGC-MS) is a school-based peer mentoring program for 6th grade students that is designed to give students the skills and support they need to remain in and progress in school. The program leverages existing resources, such as school staff, parents, and student leaders, to promote program sustainability. By offering additional support to 6th grade students, the program seeks to mitigate problems that are often associated with the transition into middle school, such as declines in academic performance, motivation, and attitudes toward school; declines in self-esteem; and the start of increased discipline problems.
PGC-MS is the adaptation of CSS’s flagship program Peer Group Connection (PGC) that is designed for high schoolers and PGC-MS seeks to build upon the results from a single randomized control trial that show improved educational outcomes for low-income students participating in PGC. This program will serve 6th graders in middle schools in low-income, rural communities in North Carolina, and urban communities in Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.
PRG is conducting an impact evaluation that will employ an individual-level randomized controlled trial (RCT) to draw causal inferences about the effects (impact) of PGC-MS on two student-level academic outcomes: staying in school (measured by student attendance) and progressing in school (measured as the number of classes passed). PRG is also conducting an implementation evaluation to understand how PGC-MS works in practice, interpret its efficacy, provide feedback for program improvement, and identify features and conditions necessary for sustainability and replication.
PRG is committed to the development of effective public policy through the production of rigorous research and evaluation. PRG works with federal, state, and local partners in the development and evaluation of programs that aim to improve social, behavioral, health, economic, and employment potential. Since 2004, PRG has developed expertise across an array of policy areas including education, public health, child welfare, work and income, housing, and adolescent risk reduction.

Inaugurated in 2016, the EIR Program was established as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and is the successor of the Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation grant program (i3). There are three types of grants under this program: “Early-phase” grants, “Mid-phase” grants, and “Expansion” grants. Early-phase grants are focused on launching, iterating and refining innovative new practices that have the potential for future scaling; and, Mid- and Expansion-phase grants require increasingly rigorous levels of evidence in order to justify further replication and scaling of the practice.