Parise plays a lead role in MDRC’s education-focused program-development efforts and conducts mixed-methods education research. Her program-development work focuses on incubating and launching new projects and draws on her expertise in and knowledge of education policy and the associated evidence base. She recently helped MDRC’s postsecondary team launch the Scaling Up Community College Efforts for Student Success initiative, which seeks to improve graduation rates for traditionally underserved students at community colleges by helping states and institutions align their resources with evidence-based practices. Since joining MDRC in 2011, Parise has been a lead researcher on several MDRC research projects, including large-scale randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, and descriptive studies. Parise is currently leading the implementation research on MDRC’s evaluation of the P-TECH 9-14 high school model, a career pathway model that begins in high schools and extends into postsecondary education and the workforce. She is also the deputy project director on a large-scale randomized controlled trial funded by the Institute of Education Sciences evaluating the impact of language interventions on upper elementary students’ academic achievement. Before joining MDRC, Parise received her PhD in human development and social policy from Northwestern University and a master’s in teaching from Pace University. Parise began her career as an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn and she is also the cofounder of Classroom Champions, a nonprofit organization that connects Olympic and Paralympic athlete mentors with students in underserved schools to foster students’ social and emotional skill development.
Learning from the Communities In Schools Reengagement Coordinator InitiativeJanuary, 2023
Schools have long struggled to reengage students who have poor attendance or who drop out—a situation that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. During 2021–2022, Communities In Schools introduced the Reengagement Coordinator Initiative, aimed at reengaging high school students who did not reenroll or were chronically absent.Toolkit
Lessons from Employers and Schools in NYC’s Original P-TECH Grades 9-14 SchoolsJuly, 2022
New York City P-TECH Grades 9-14 schools partner directly with employers to provide work-based learning experiences for students, including internships, mentoring, and job shadowing, that align with the career and technical education curricula the schools offer. This brief describes four important strategies for forming and maintaining productive partnerships.Report
Interim Implementation and Impact Findings from New York City’s P-TECH 9-14 SchoolsMay, 2020
This report evaluates a program focused on preparing students for college and career. Based on partnerships among high schools, community colleges, and employers, the program offers accelerated high school course work, early college, and work-based learning experiences. The findings suggest that students are meeting the benchmarks they need to succeed.Issue Focus
Interviews or Focus Groups?June, 2017
Hearing directly from those who administer and take part in social programs can greatly enrich an implementation study. The Implementation Research Incubator offers some important considerations for choosing a method and discusses the preparation involved.Issue Focus
A Case Study of Communities In SchoolsApril, 2017
Many students in high-poverty schools face serious challenges such as housing instability and hunger, and the stress in their daily lives can affect their school attendance and performance. CIS aims to address these challenges. This brief describes how the organization has used evaluation findings to enhance and modify its services.Report
Final Findings from the Communities In Schools Random Assignment EvaluationApril, 2017
Communities In Schools (CIS) works to integrate a variety of support services for students to keep them on a path to graduation. This randomized controlled trial assessed the effects of one component of the CIS model — case management for high-risk students.Brief
Are School Districts Ready to Meet New Federal Goals?March, 2017
This brief, which draws on data from a large survey of secondary school teachers and principals, discusses how existing evaluation and support systems could be better used to realize the vision of teacher improvement now included in federal law under the Every Student Succeeds Act.BriefApril, 2016
This brief describes how Broward County Public Schools adopted a community of practice approach to help schools implement additional support for students in the ninth grade, a critical juncture for many of them and a long-standing focus of high school reforms and dropout-prevention initiatives.Brief
Teachers’ Voices on Professional DevelopmentJune, 2015
Through the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) Challenge, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is helping school districts and networks redesign their professional development systems. This brief — the first in a series — introduces the case study component of MDRC’s evaluation and presents some early findings from interviews with teachers.Report
Implementation and Interim Impact Findings from the Communities In Schools EvaluationApril, 2015
Services to help students stay in school are often fragmented. In this program, school-based coordinators identify students at risk, work with them to assess their needs, connect them with school and community supports, and monitor their progress. Case-managed students received more services than others, but early impact findings are inconclusive.ReportJune, 2013
Many students lose their way academically in ninth grade, never recover, and never graduate high school. Ninth Grade Academies aim to ease the transition into high school by creating smaller learning communities for ninth-graders. This report evaluates one urban school district’s effort to implement this complex reform districtwide.
Spillane, James. P., Leigh M. Parise, and Jennifer Z. Sherer. 2011. “Organizational Routines as Coupling Mechanisms: Policy, School Administration, and the Technical Core.” American Educational Research Journal 48, 3: 586-619.
Parise, Leigh M., and James P. Spillane. 2010. “Teacher Learning and Instructional Change: How Formal and On-the-Job Learning Opportunities Predict Change in Elementary School Teachers’ Practice.” The Elementary School Journal 110, 3: 323-346.
Spillane, James P., Kaleen Healey, and Leigh M. Parise. 2009. “School Leaders’ Formal and Informal Opportunities-to-Learn: A Descriptive Analysis.” Educational Review 61, 4: 407-432.
Mesler, Leigh. 2009. “The Power of Peer Tutoring: Success for a Retained Student.” Teachers College Record 111, 8: 1,894-1,915.
Spillane, James P., Louis Gomez, and Leigh Mesler. 2009. “Notes on Reframing the Role of Organizations in Policy Implementation: Resources for Practice, In Practice.” In Gary Sykes, Barbara Schneider, and David N. Plank (eds.), Handbook of Education Policy. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
ProjectsMichelle Ware, Alexander Mayer, Colleen Sommo, Leigh Parise, Elena Serna-Wallender, Jálynn Castleman-Smith, Shawna Anderson, Rae Walker, Melissa Wavelet, Katie Beal, Melissa Boynton, Diane Wren, Sumner Perera
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected colleges’ operations and students’ educational experiences, severely strained budgets, and created unprecedented financial and emotional stress for students, faculty, and staff. As colleges adapt to an evolving landscape, they need immediate solutions to support and retain students, as well as to...Tiffany Morton, Melissa Wavelet, Dan Cullinan, Leigh Parise, Camielle Headlam
MDRC’s Applying the Evidence project is a partnership with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (Minnesota State) to expand the implementation of evidence-based student success strategies across the Minnesota State system, which currently includes 30 community colleges and seven universities.
In partnership with system-...Colleen Sommo, Alexander Mayer, Alyssa Ratledge, Michelle Ware, Osvaldo Avila, Katie Beal, Melissa Wavelet, Leigh Parise, Colin Hill, Rae Walker, Austin Slaughter, Hannah Dalporto, Elena Serna-Wallender, Stanley Dai
MDRC’s Scaling Up College Completion Efforts for Student Success (SUCCESS) seeks to improve graduation rates for traditionally underserved students at two- and four-year colleges, by helping states and institutions align their resources with evidence-driven practices. SUCCESS ...Rachel Rosen, D. Crystal Byndloss, Sonia Drohojowska, Leigh Parise, Rebecca Unterman, Emma Alterman, Jedediah J. Teres, Michelle Dixon
The idea for this high school model began in 2010 in New York City when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a public-private partnership of the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York, the New York City College of Technology, and IBM to develop a new approach to secondary and postsecondary education....
While English language learners and disadvantaged native English speakers may have sufficient skills to engage in everyday conversation, many struggle with academic language, the more formal language typically used in school. In recent years, educators have linked lack of proficiency in academic language to concerns about students’ literacy and have hypothesized that...
This project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provides research and evaluation support for the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) Challenge, which seeks to clarify the extent to which changes in school district professional development systems lead to different teacher experiences and measurable improvements in key...
Every day, 7,000 students drop out of school. Among Latinos and African-Americans, the dropout rate is nearly 50 percent. Communities In Schools (CIS) works with low-income K-12 students in the nation’s poorest-performing schools. It seeks to reduce dropout rates through preventive support services like short-term counseling or annual health...Kate Gualtieri, Dan Bloom, Melissa Boynton, William Corrin, Fred Doolittle, John Martinez, Louisa Treskon, Jean Grossman, Leigh Parise, Marie-Andrée Somers, Michelle S. Manno, Rebecca Unterman, Megan Millenky, Rashida Welbeck, Mary Bambino
The Social Innovation Fund (SIF), an initiative enacted under the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act, targets millions of dollars in public-private funds to expand effective solutions across three issue areas: economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development and school support.
The transition into high school is a volatile time for adolescents and a precarious point in the educational pipeline. Evidence shows ninth grade to be one of the leakiest junctures in this pipeline. MDRC’s research in urban districts suggests that as many as 40 percent of students fail to get promoted from ninth to tenth grade on time, and...