First Things First: Creating the Conditions & Capacity for Community-Wide Reform in an Urban School District

This report is the first publication about an ongoing, large-scale evaluation of a District-wide, comprehensive school reform initiative underway in Kansas City, Kansas called First Things First (FTF). The initiative is directed and implemented by a partnership of three organizations: the Kansas City, Kansas School District; the Institute for Research and Reform in Education – developer of the FTF framework and primary technical assistance provider to the District; and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation – FTF’s major private supporter. The FTF model is an example of the newer breed of comprehensive reform, called “theory of change” initiatives, which took shape in the 1990s as a promising approach to systems change. The theory of change approach entails specifying and sequencing each step required to achieve the desired systemic outcomes, which allows for early, intermediate and long-term progress and outcomes to be identified and monitored over the course of a reform.

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