Office of Research and Strategic Improvement

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About Us

The Office of Research and Strategic Improvement's work spans a wide range of activities from objective accountability reporting on FCPS instructional programs and services to screening all requests to conduct research and collect data within FCPS.

How We Do Our Work

The products and services provided by the Office of Research and Strategic Improvement reflect professional standards established by the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (JCSEE), a coalition of major professional associations in the U.S. and Canada committed to promoting high quality research and evaluation. The JCSEE's standards cover five areas:

  • Utility: The utility standards are intended to increase the extent to which program stakeholders find evaluation processes and products valuable in meeting their needs.
  • Feasibility: The feasibility standards are intended to increase evaluation effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Propriety: The propriety standards support what is proper, fair, legal, right, and just in evaluations.
  • Accuracy: The accuracy standards are intended to increase the dependability and truthfulness of evaluation representations, propositions, and findings, especially those that support interpretations and judgments about quality.
  • Evaluation Accountability: The evaluation accountability standards encourage adequate documentation of evaluations and a perspective focused on improvement and accountability for evaluation processes and products.

A more detailed explanation of these standards is available here.

What We Offer

The Office of Research and Strategic Improvement serves FCPS staff members, the School Board, and the community through research-based processes, tools, and evidence. Our reports include program evaluations, monitoring projects, and research studies that present evidence of division, school, and program impact and effectiveness. The selection of Office of Research and Strategic Improvement's projects is guided by their capacity to inform the Superintendent, Leadership Team, and School Board about FCPS’ goals and strategic initiatives. We also oversee FCPS’ Research Approval Process.

Evidence of FCPS’ Impact and Effectiveness

Office of Research and Strategic Improvement's projects and associated reports for the last three years are listed below in chronological order beginning with the most recently completed projects. Additional associated reports for these projects as well as reports for older projects can be requested directly from the Office of Research and Strategic Improvement by calling 571-423-1430 or by emailing

Study of the Impact of Pre-Kindergarten Experiences

The Impact of Pre-Kindergarten Experiences study identifies whether differences exist in academic and behavioral outcomes among students with various types of preschool experiences as those students continue through the elementary grades and beyond in FCPS. The Final Report on the Study of the Impact of Pre-Kindergarten Experiences on FCPS Students, released in May 2016, identifies differences that exist in academic and behavioral outcomes for students with and without a formal pre-kindergarten experience, and investigates the costs, funding streams, and potential return on investment of FCPS’ primary preschool offering (FECEP-Head Start).

Changes in Discipline Regulation and Practices Study

The Changes in Discipline Regulation and Practices investigation determines how the various changes FCPS had made to its discipline process over the last 12 years were associated with intended benefits to schools and students, and determined whether additional improvements might be implemented. In particular, the study examined connections among major discipline changes and related indicators of student behavior and academic achievement. The Final Study Report of Changes in Discipline Regulation and Practices, released in April 2016, documents the changes to FCPS’ discipline practices, related impacts, and areas for continued improvement.

Annual Analyses of Former FECEP Students

Since the 2009-10 school year, Office of Research and Strategic Improvement has provided annual longitudinal monitoring of student achievement of former FECEP students as they progress through FCPS. The most recent Annual Analyses of Former FECEP Students, released in April 2016, covers patterns of academic achievement for 13 cohorts of former FECEP students during the 2014-15 school year. These students received early childhood services between the 2001-02 and 2013-14 school years in FCPS’ Family and Early Childhood Education Program (FECEP-Head Start).

English Learner (EL) Study

The English Learner study provides evidence-based judgments about the services provided by FCPS to its EL students at all grade levels, as well as the ESOL High School Pilot program begun in the 2015-16 school year (a program designed to serve the growing number of EL high school students with limited English skills). The study (a) identifies and classifies organizational structures and educational approaches supported by research for educating ELs in kindergarten through grade 12; (b) determines the extent to which FCPS' current structures and approaches reflect those found in the literature; (c) examines the performance of FCPS' ELs (English-language proficiency and academic performance in core content areas); (d) understands the relations among organizational structures, instructional approaches, and the performance of FCPS’ EL students; and (e) understands how FCPS uses funds for educating ELs. The Year One Report, released in January 2016, is an examination of the quality of services for FCPS’ EL students in terms of the design of EL services and the outcomes (historical performance). A final report, scheduled for release in December 2016, will look at implementation, additional outcomes for current students, and costs.

Honors Courses: Monitoring Impact of Changes Report

The Honors Courses: Monitoring Impact of Changes project examines changes, if any, in course completion and student performance as a result of reinstituting honors classes in five English and social studies course sequences in high school, beginning during the 2012-13 school year. The Final Honors Monitoring Report, released in November 2015, describes baseline data from the year prior to the course reinstitution (2011-12) to patterns three years after the reinstitution (2014-15).

Reading in the Elementary School Study

The Reading in the Elementary School project summarizes the findings of two related audits to support students’ attainment of effective reading skills for the School Board. The study’s final report, Strengthening the Elementary Reading Program for All FCPS Students, was presented in October 2015 and contains the findings and recommendations across both the literacy and dyslexia audits on curriculum and instruction, assessment, and professional development. The presentation also includes implications for the School Board and responses to audit recommendations and related costs by the Instructional Services and Special Services departments.

Extended School Year (ESY) Program Evaluation

The Extended School Year (ESY) program evaluation provides information about the extent to which the program (a) is designed to produce its intended outcomes in ways that are cost efficient and satisfactory to parents; (b) is implemented consistently across locations as described by the program model; and (c) includes factors that facilitate or impede consistent implementation. The Final ESY Evaluation Executive Report, released in October 2015, focuses on program implementation, outcomes, and costs.

Discipline Monitoring

As part of the expanded discipline-related data collection and monitoring begun in August 2011, the Office of Research and Strategic Improvement issued a baseline report and three annual monitoring reports of discipline-related data (school safety, discipline violations, consequences, student outcomes, and parent feedback on the hearings process). The Final Discipline Monitoring Report, released in May 2015, compares the final year of data available for this report with data prior to the changes.

Community and Staff Feedback on the Development of the Strategic Plan

During March 2015, as FCPS was finalizing its Strategic Plan, Office of Research and Strategic Improvement undertook a project to gather information for the Superintendent and School Board regarding community and staff perspectives on the proposed strategic plan actions. The Report on Staff and Community-Parent Reactions to the Proposed Division Strategic Plan Actions, released in April 2015, provides findings from the series of focus groups conducted with parents and community members and employees to gather this feedback.

Master Schedule and Standard Calendar Survey

The FCPS 2014-15 school year calendar reflected a number of changes from prior school years, including changes to the schedule of instructional and work days at all school levels and an elementary school master schedule that included full-day Mondays rather than the early-release Monday schedule that had been in place. Mid-year through the school year, the Office of Research and Strategic Improvement administered a survey to gather feedback from a sample of elementary, middle, and high school principals and teachers on how the calendar changes were progressing. The survey focused on what was going well at that point in the transition to the new master schedule and standard calendar, as well as remaining challenges. The Master Schedule and Standard Calendar Survey Report, completed in January 2015, summarizes the survey data collected from 59 principals and 348 teachers.

Mathematics Curriculum Study

The Mathematics Curriculum study determines the extent to which the current mathematics sequence and other mathematics programs, as implemented, offer appropriate support, opportunity and challenge for all students to excel in mathematics. The FCPS Mathematics Curriculum Study Final Report, released in September 2014, presents an executive level summary of the series of four data analysis reports produced for this project. The four analytical reports encompass a literature review, analysis of student performance, expert and stakeholder views of the FCPS curriculum, and an analysis of how school practices relate to student performance. The final report summarizes key findings across all four reports, discusses implications for FCPS, and provides recommendations to the Superintendent.

Career and Transition Services (CTS) Program Evaluation

To judge the quality of the CTS program, the program evaluation focused on four areas: (a) determine the fidelity of implementation and contributing factors, (b) gauge the extent of CTS impact on students, (c) analyze costs associated with the program, and (d) assess the program’s capacity to meet the educational and transition needs of a much greater number of students over the next five years. Results in all four areas are reported in the Final CTS Evaluation Executive Report, released in August 2014, which provides evidence-based judgments about the effectiveness of the program based on two years of data.

PSI: Monitoring Student Performance

The PSI: Monitoring Student Performance project tracks the performance of 30 elementary and middle schools participating in PSI (formerly Priority Schools Initiative) during the initiative’s three years (2010-11 through 2012-13). The Final PSI Monitoring Report, released in July 2014, presents a picture of a set of schools’ performance at the end of the initiative’s third year (2012-13), focused around the three goals of the PSI project: (a) continuous improvement in student performance on the SOL tests, (b) attainment of annual measureable objectives, and (c) continued progress in closing achievement gaps. Prior reports from the first and second year of the initiative are available by contacting the Office of Research and Strategic Improvement

Focus Group Study of Elementary School Transition to Full-Day Mondays

During July 2014, Office of Research and Strategic Improvement was asked to gather feedback from FCPS teachers about the transition to full-day Mondays planned to begin in Fall 2014. Specifically, the chief of staff was interested in learning from teachers what challenges they thought schools might encounter in the development of the master schedule as well as possible solutions for mitigating those challenges so the transition could go as smoothly and successfully as possible. The Elementary School Transition to Full-Day Mondays Focus Group Summary Report, completed in July 2014, describes data that resulted from focus groups used to gather input from FCPS teachers regarding the challenges and potential solutions for the transition to a full-day Monday master schedule. The focus groups, which took place immediately before the adoption of the full-day Monday schedule, involved 158 teachers representing all five regions in the school division.

Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) Program

The Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) program evaluation provides the FCPS School Board and Leadership Team with evidence-based judgments about the effectiveness (impact) of the program’s model in the context of its design, implementation, outcomes, and costs. The Final FLES Executive Report, released in January 2014, was designed to provide the most comprehensive picture of world language and core content achievement of FLES students.


Socio-Economic Tipping Point Study of Elementary Schools

Recently, Joseph Murphy, a nationally recognized expert on educational improvement, suggested to Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) Leadership Team that one of the ways to close achievement gaps is for students living in poverty to attend schools with lower proportions of poverty. His suggestion stemmed from studies that found students living in poverty do better when attending low-poverty schools than schools with high concentrations of poverty. That is, the impact of a student’s individual poverty can be ameliorated to some extent by enrollment in schools with low concentrations of poverty.  This paper describes how one factor, school poverty, was investigated to determine an empirically-based approach for giving all FCPS schools a better chance of attaining overall school success and to give all FCPS students a better chance of achieving individual success. The report describes the development of a statistical model useful in guiding FCPS’ School Board and Leadership Team in decisions about how to help struggling schools. Read the paper.