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About Harvard Family Research Project

Since 1983, we have helped stakeholders develop and evaluate strategies to promote the well being of children, youth, families, and their communities.  We work primarily within three areas that support children’s learning and development—early childhood education, out-of-school time programming, and family and community support in education.  Underpinning all of our work is a commitment to evaluation for strategic decision making, learning, and accountability.

Building on our knowledge that schools cannot do it alone, we also focus national attention on complementary learning. Complementary learning is the idea that a systemic approach, which integrates school and nonschool supports, can better ensure that all children have the skills they need to succeed.

How We Can Help You
Our work has supported thousands of people who have used our publications, tools, and workshops to:

  • Make programs more effective
  • Demonstrate results
  • Learn to navigate tough evaluation challenges
  • Read the latest promising practices
  • Shape the direction of research projects

What We Do Best
By distilling information we learn through our own pioneering research and evaluation projects, and by synthesizing the work of others, we have one overarching goal: to provide practical information that will stimulate innovation and continuous improvement in policy, practice, and evaluation. To this end, we:

  • Create research publications on the most timely and relevant issues facing our audiences, including practical information they can use to strengthen policy and practice.
  • Conduct original research and analyses on key issues to promote best practices and inform policies that support learning and development.
  • Develop and support collaborations, networks, and convenings that contribute to national, state, and local efforts to improve program quality, evaluations, and programs.
  • Test and refine innovative evaluation approaches that build the capacity of non-profits to use data for continuous improvement and accountability.
  • Build evaluation and program capacity by developing easy-to-use tools and “how to” guides.

 

Fact Sheet

Who We Serve
Our work strengthens family, school, and community partnerships, early childhood care and education, promotes evaluation and accountability, and offers professional development to those who work directly with children, youth, and families. The audiences for HFRP's work include policymakers, practitioners, researchers, evaluators, philanthropists, teachers, school administrators, and concerned individuals.

Areas of Expertise
Our innovative team of researchers focuses on three components of complementary learning: early care and education, out-of-school time, and family and community involvement in education. We also believe that evaluation is essential to improve and maintain the quality of all programs. Therefore, a large part of our research includes piloting new approaches to evaluation and sharing field-wide innovative trends, strategies, and techniques through our quarterly journal, The Evaluation Exchange.

Flagship Products
In addition to publishing several high-quality research reports and tools for practice and evaluation each year, our audiences regularly look to us for the newest and best information found in each of our flagship products below.

  • The Evaluation Exchange
    The Evaluation Exchange is a quarterly periodical on new lessons and emerging strategies for evaluating programs and policies, particularly those focused on children, families, and communities. Since it was launched over 10 years ago, The Evaluation Exchange has become an internationally known and significant force in helping to shape evaluation knowledge and practice.
  • Family Involvement Network of Educators
    The Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE) is a bold effort to strengthen family and community engagement in education. FINE represents a national network of people interested in promoting strong partnerships between schools, families, and communities. Membership is free and includes access to the latest and best information about family involvement and regular updates of new resources that strengthen family, school, and community partnerships.
  • Out of School Time Research and Evaluation Database and Bibliography
    We built and maintain the only database in the United States that provides accessible and timely information about the evaluation of OST programs and initiatives. The database includes narrative profiles of OST evaluations and is searchable on several key criteria. The bibliography is a comprehensive list of evaluations we have identified to date. These resources help our audiences learn about and improve OST evaluation and can support policy and program development.
  • Storybook Corner
    The Storybook Corner, found on our website, offers resources to help educators, families, and those who work with families promote the awareness, discussion, and practice of family involvement in children's education in a wide range of settings. Launched in partnership with Reading Is Fundamental, Storybook Corner provides a list of storybooks with family involvement themes and tools for using the storybooks.

 

Complementary learning is at the heart of everything we do.
Educators, policymakers, and families increasingly agree: Schools cannot do it alone. Children need multiple opportunities to learn and grow—at home, in school, and in the community. Complementary learning is a comprehensive strategy for addressing all of these needs and ensuring success for all children and youth. Complementary learning is the idea that a systemic approach—which intentionally integrates both school and nonschool supports—can better ensure that all children have the skills they need to succeed.  Read more about  this concept in the complementary learning section of our website.

 

HFRP Brochures

  • About HFRP (749kb PDF)
    Download this brochure for more information about the work we do in each of our research areas, and to learn more about the Family Involvement Network of Educators and The Evaluation Exchange.
  • What is Complementary Learning? (206kb PDF)
    This short publication will give you a quick overview and some concrete examples of complementary learning.

 

Biography of Dr. Heather Weiss, Founder & Director

Heather B. Weiss
Dr. Heather B. Weiss

Dr. Heather Weiss is the Founder and Director of the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) and is a Senior Research Associate and Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. From its beginning in 1983, HFRP’s mission has been to support the creation of more effective practices, interventions and policies to promote children’s successful development from birth to adulthood.  A key emphasis of HFRP’s work is the promotion, documentation and assessment of complementary learning—strategies that support children’s learning and development in nonschool as well as school contexts.

Dr. Weiss and her colleagues are well known for their work building the demand for and use of evaluation as a cornerstone of social change, to which end HFRP also provides strategic planning and evaluation services for foundations and communities. Their current evaluation portfolio includes evaluations of national foundation efforts to scale up universal prekindergarten services and extended learning opportunities.

Dr. Weiss writes, speaks and advises on programs and policies for children and families and serves on the advisory boards of many public and private organizations. Her recent publications focus on reframing research and evaluation to support continuous improvement and democratic decision making, examining the case for complementary learning from a research and policy perspective, and assessing new ways of providing and evaluating professional development. She is a consultant and advisor to numerous foundations on strategic grantmaking and evaluation. She received her doctorate in Education and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Yale Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy.

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