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For more than 50 years, McREL has collected and analyzed data for schools, districts, state departments of education, foundations, and government agencies around the world 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.

We also conduct unbiased educational research for ed-tech developers looking for evidence that their products improve learning outcomes. Our mission is to help educators flourish by researching what works and what matters most in improving teaching, learning, and leading. Reports from these ed-tech evaluation studies are also available for download.

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Efficacy Study: Literacy Footprints Guided Reading System

McREL investigated the effects of Pioneer Valley Book’s Literacy Footprints guided reading system on third-grade students’ English language arts performance on the Florida Statewide Assessment. Our study found a small but statistically significant positive effect on the average ELA test scores for students who used Literacy Footprints. Download the report for a full description of the study methodology and results.


Research Brief: McREL Helps Pioneer Valley Books Meet ESSA Tier 2

This research brief explains how McREL’s evaluations team quantified the efficacy of the Literacy Footprints Digital Reader, allowing its developer, Pioneer Valley Books, to market it as having a Tier 2 (“moderate”) level of evidence under the standards of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The product allows teachers to create individualized online bookshelves for students—a capability that Florida’s Manatee County School District put to use when instruction went remote for COVID-19. The brief details the methodology that McREL researchers used to document a small but positive effect among students who used the product.


Efficacy Study: Impact of Education Galaxy’s Online Assessment, Practice, and Instruction Programs on 4th-Grade Math and Reading

McREL conducted a rigorous external evaluation of the impact of the Education Galaxy Online Assessment, Practice, and Instruction programs on mathematics and reading achievement, using a study design that meets the Tier 2 Moderate Evidence standard under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The study found grade-level gain (from third to fourth grade) in mathematics and reading for students using the programs. The effect sizes of 0.58 for mathematics and 0.30 for reading are considered substantively important positive effects, according to What Works Clearinghouse Evidence Standards.


Toolkit of Resources for Engaging Families and the Community as Partners in Education—REL Pacific Report 

The toolkit is presented in four parts: building an understanding of family and community engagement; building a cultural bridge; building trusting relationships with families and the community through effective communication; and engaging all in data conversations. It includes information and activities that reflect research-based family involvement approaches associated with student learning. Each part of the toolkit focuses on an aspect of developing strong partnerships between schools and families and between schools and communities to support student learning.


Using High School Data to Understand College Readiness in the Northern Mariana Islands—REL Pacific Report

Improving the college readiness of public high school graduates is an important objective of education leaders and other stakeholders in the Northern Mariana Islands. This study examines the high school records of recent graduates of the public school system in the Northern Mariana Islands who entered Northern Marianas College from fall semester 2010 through spring semester 2014.


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.