The Research Alliance for New York City Schools

Providing rigorous evidence to inform education policy and practice in New York City


Research Rigor

Our commitment to rigor means that the methods we use to address research questions meet the highest standards of education science. These methods maximize the validity and reliability of the inferences drawn from our findings. We provide a scientific context for assessing the precision of our measures and interpretation of findings. We adhere to the highest standards of reliability, selecting measurement and analytic tools that maximize the accuracy of research findings. We explicitly address potential limitations of our findings such as statistical bias and measurement imprecision. Further, we engage research colleagues to vet our work for rigor, relevance, and feasibility.

For example, when conducting studies of program or intervention effectiveness, we select research designs such as randomized controlled trials and regression discontinuity analyses when possible. These types of designs maximize our capacity to draw causal inferences about program impact on student and teacher outcomes. When examining the relationship between policy implementation and student outcomes, we use statistical techniques such as comparative interrupted time-series analysis that minimize bias attributable to selection effects or unmeasured inputs.

The commitment to rigor extends to our qualitative research. We acknowledge alternative explanations that may account for behavior patterns and perspectives we observe in qualitative data. When appropriate, we conduct mixed-methods studies, combining quantitative and qualitative methods to best address complex research topics. Regardless of the research method, we ensure that our findings, conclusions, and policy recommendations are directly supported by the evidence resulting from our analyses.

Relevance to Policy and Practice

The centerpiece of our mission is to serve as a source of independent, non-partisan evidence about the condition of New York City Schools and the effectiveness of its school improvement initiatives. Clearly articulated research questions directly related to the governance, operation, and content of public education in New York City drive our research. Further, we strive to communicate our findings in a timely fashion in order to maximize their utility to policymakers and educators.

To best serve students, families, and educators in the school system, we identify research questions that concern these groups. We also focus on topics that affect student and teacher performance and are well-suited to rigorous study. As a result, we work with the NYC Department of Education, community members, and other researchers to generate relevant research questions and to present our results in accessible and usable terms. Importantly, we are dedicated to the timely production of high quality evidence in order to maximize its application in challenging decisions about policy and practice.

Partnership and Collaboration

The Research Alliance was founded in 2008 as a research center housed at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. The Research Alliance collaborates with other researchers at NYU and at other universities and organizations from across the city and country. We form partnerships to carry out specific studies and activities guided by our research agenda. Collaborating with researchers outside the Research Alliance contributes to the rigor of our research because we can engage experts from many disciplines in our work.  Building diverse research teams enables us to conduct the highest quality studies with multi-disciplinary experts that reflect the complexity of challenges in education.
The NYC DOE, NYC public school educators, and other education stakeholders are also essential collaborators. The Research Alliance and the NYC DOE established a formal data sharing agreement, allowing Research Alliance staff and collaborators to conduct studies and analyses consistent with our four topic areas. We also work with the DOE and other education stakeholders throughout the city to identify important questions for research within the scope of our topic areas. The willingness of educators in NYC schools to participate in active research studies enables us to explore the connective processes between policies or programs and outcomes. Further, we look to our partners to help communicate research evidence in accessible ways so that our findings are more likely to inform policy and practice.

Outreach and Communication

We view the dissemination of our work as a continuous process that begins when we determine which research questions to address and culminates with how we share research findings. We include educators, policymakers, community members and other education stakeholders at each stage of the research process to facilitate our goals for broad outreach and accessible communication of research findings. We incorporate multiple perspectives when developing research questions and measurement tools such as teacher surveys. We build relationships with educators and organizations that support schools as part of active data collection in NYC public schools.

We are committed to regular briefings on the progress of our research with colleagues, advisory groups, and the NYC DOE. We want to ensure that these stakeholder groups have an opportunity to preview our findings before they become public, and have a “no surprises” policy with regard to the NYC DOE. At this same time, we carefully guard our independence and prerogative to publish the results of our work without restrictions from stakeholder groups, as long as our publications meet high technical standards and adhere to the requirement of data confidentiality. We produce reports, papers, policy briefs, and presentations that target a wide range of audiences.

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools, 285 Mercer Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY, 10003
Phone: 212 992 7697 | Fax: 212 995 4910 | |