Ruth Curran Neild, Ph.D.

Director | PERC

Dr. Ruth Curran Neild became Director of the Philadelphia Education Research Consortium (PERC) in January 2017. PERC is a research-practice partnership among the School District of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia charter school sector, Research for Action, Drexel University, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Prior to joining Research for Action, Ruth served in several senior leadership roles at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). First as Associate Commissioner and then as Commissioner of IES’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, she oversaw the Department’s national evaluations, the Regional Educational Laboratory program, the What Works Clearinghouse, and ERIC. From 2015-2016, she served as the Delegated Director of IES. In these roles, she championed rigorous and relevant research, research-practice partnerships, and clear communication of research findings through a variety of media.

Ruth has deep experience in connecting research and practice in Philadelphia. She was the lead author of Unfulfilled Promises (2006), a seminal report on high school graduation and dropout in Philadelphia. The report was commissioned by Project U-Turn, a collaborative effort by city agencies and nonprofits to re-engage out-of-school youth. She also authored two reports on Philadelphia’s teacher workforce published by Research for Action: Once and For All (2003) and Quest for Quality (2005).  Ruth’s other publications have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, books, and practitioner publications.

Ruth has been a Research Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools and a member of the standing faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She earned a PhD in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania and an AB in history and sociology from Bryn Mawr College.

Kathleen M. Shaw, Ph.D.

Founding Director | PERC
Executive Director | RFA

Kate Shaw is the Founding Director of PERC; she became Executive Director of Research for Action in December 2009. Since then, she has overseen a four-fold growth in the size of the organization, and has greatly increased the scope of its regional and national work while maintaining a commitment to Philadelphia.

Under her leadership, RFA has developed a robust quantitative shop to compliment the strong foundation of qualitative expertise for which RFA has been known, and has established significant capacity in p-16 educational policy research. Shaw also plays a leadership role on several research projects, including a multi-state study of postsecondary completion policy development for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She serves on multiple task forces and committees in the city and region as well. Prior to her arrival at RFA, Kate served for three years as Deputy Secretary of Postsecondary and Higher Education in the Pennsylvania Department of Education. As Deputy, Kate was primarily responsible for developing and implementing policy designed to increase the quality and accessibility of postsecondary education throughout the state. She has also overseen the creation and implementation of a statewide college transfer system; major reforms in teacher preparation and the preparation and professional development of educational leaders; the expansion of Pennsylvania’s longitudinal data system into the postsecondary arena; increasing the prominence and effectiveness of the state’s community colleges; and a major restructuring of the state’s college retention program to focus on concrete educational outcomes. Kate was also a faculty member at Temple University for ten years in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and served as Chair of that Department as well. Her scholarship has focused on issues of access and equity in higher education with a particular emphasis on policy issues, and has been supported by a number of foundations including Russell Sage, Spencer, Annie E. Casey, Ford, Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Lumina Foundation. Her book “Putting Poor People to Work: How the Work-First Idea Eroded College Access for the Poor” was published in 2006 by the Russell Sage Foundation Press, and was selected as a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award of the American Sociological Association. Her co-edited volume (with Donald Heller) entitled “State Postsecondary Education Research: New Methods to Inform Policy and Practice” was published in 2007. Kate has also held positions at the Harvard Family Research Project and the Pew Charitable Trusts, and has served as a Senior Research Associate for the Community College Research Center at Columbia University. She received her bachelor’s degree from Colby College, and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Brittan Hallar, Ph.D.

Associate Director | PERC
Senior Research Associate | RFA

Brittan Hallar is an experienced qualitative researcher and has worked in the field of STEM education for more than a decade. Currently at RFA, Brittan co-leads a large, mixed-methods evaluation of 12 out-of-school time programs in Philadelphia, with a particular focus on programs that have a STEM component. She also contributes to a number of other high-profile projects for a variety of national clients that span the P-20 spectrum where she contributes STEM expertise and knowledge of education policy. Prior to joining RFA, Brittan served as the Statewide Science Education Coordinator for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, where she was responsible for coordinating and advancing science education research and programs in West Virginia. Brittan earned her Ph.D. in Science Education from University of Georgia.