For more than 50 years, McREL has collected and analyzed data to uncover the best practices in instruction, leadership, and systemic change. Shown below are some of our most frequently requested research reports. If you don’t find the report you’re looking for, please contact us with your request and we’ll get a copy to you.

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Noteworthy Perspectives: High Reliability Organizations in Education

In this collection of articles by contributing authors, McREL outlines a case for helping school systems adopt the principles and procedures of high-reliability organizations (HROs) in other industries in order to create high-performing, high-reliability schools and districts. Individual articles include “Becoming the Best in the World at Educating Our Students” and “Best in the World: High Performance with High Reliability” by Jim Eck, “Toward Highly Reliable, High-Quality Public Schooling” by Sam Stringfield, David Reynolds, and Eugene Schaffer, and “High Reliability & Leadership for Educational Change” by Thomas Bellamy.


Classroom Instruction That Works, Second Edition: Research Report

This study updates and extends McREL’s original 1998 research synthesis of effective instructional strategies, providing further clarity on each of the nine strategies and their uses, and generating updated effect estimates using literature published after 1998. The report synthesizes only primary studies, rather than prior meta-analyses, in order to enhance control over the data and provide more accurate effect estimates.


Changing the Odds: What Matters Most for Student Achievement

For this report, McREL examined thousands of studies and reports to identify the school practices that demonstrate the largest effects on student achievement, distilling the most important influences and approaches into five “high-leverage, high payoff” areas for improving students’ chances for academic and life success. The report also asserts that to improve, educators don’t need more guidance, they may actually need less.


Sustaining Coherent Reform: An Evaluation Guide for Districts and Schools

This guide helps districts and schools evaluate their reform efforts—both to meet requirements for external accountability (such as School Improvement Grants) and to meet their own needs for useful evaluative information. The guide helps administrators plan and conduct a focused, practical evaluation of school reform implementation and impact; report key findings in formats useful to stakeholders; and use the findings for program improvement.


Learning System Reports for the Stupski Foundation

This series of eight reports prepared by McREL for the Stupski Foundation synthesize research and literature on best practices related to formative assessment, college readiness, curricular pathways, leadership practices, effective pedagogy, data-driven decision making, and strategies for supporting urban, underserved students’ social, emotional, and academic learning needs. Each report provides a list of recommendations and options for consideration by education systems seeking improvement in these areas.

College Readiness
Our Kids
Student Supports
Systems Diagnostics


School District Leadership That Works: The Effect of Superintendent Leadership on Student Achievement

This working paper analyzes the influence of district superintendents on student achievement and the characteristics of effective superintendents. Through a meta-analysis of research findings, the paper identifies five district-level leadership responsibilities that have statistically significant correlations with average student academic achievement. All five of these responsibilities relate to setting and keeping districts focused on teaching and learning goals.


Balanced Leadership: What 30 Years of Research Tells Us About the Effect of Leadership on Student Achievement

This McREL report presents the findings from a research meta-analysis that examined the effects of leadership practices on student achievement. McREL identified 21 leadership responsibilities that are significantly associated with student achievement and translated these results into a “balanced leadership framework” which describes the knowledge, skills, strategies, and tools leaders need to positively impact student achievement.