Proving Ground

Project Status: Current
Focus Area: School Improvement and Redesign
Location: National
Timeline: Ongoing
Faculty Director: Thomas J. Kane
Project Director: Dave Hersh
Project Website:

Proving Ground works with school districts to help them identify and test solutions to specific challenges, such as chronic absenteeism, that are obstacles to student achievement.

Proving Ground supports partner districts in continuous improvement through data analysis, strategic advice, hands-on assistance, and peer networking opportunities. Through these diverse supports and strategic interactions, Proving Ground helps districts to:

  • identify potential solutions to relevant issues,
  • quickly and reliably assess the impact of their chosen solutions,
  • act on evidence to continuously improve implementation; and,
  • learn to use new and better evidence to make decisions about how to invest resources and improve student achievement.

Education Agencies

Canton City School District
District of Columbia Public Schools
East Cleveland City Schools
Maple Heights City Schools
Ohio Department of Education
School District of Palm Beach County
Syracuse City School District
Twin Rivers Unified School District 
Uplift Education

Learn more about the Proving Ground network


Kate Larned

Partnering in Education Research (PIER) Fellow
Doctoral Student
Harvard Graduate School of Education

PIER Summer Residency Placement: Providence Public Schools (RI)

... Read more about Kate Larned
Douglas Staiger

Douglas Staiger

Co-Principal Investigator; CEPR Advisory Board Member
John Sloane Dickey Third Century Professor of Economics
Department of Economics, Dartmouth College

Districts Pivot Their Strategies to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism During Distance Learning

July 29, 2020


On the other side of the country, another effort, housed at Harvard University, is also helping districts tackle chronic absenteeism. Started in 2015, the Proving Ground program helps school districts leverage data to design, plan, implement and test interventions to improve learning outcomes. The program has 59 school district partners, most of them in New York and Ohio.

One of its first successful intervention programs involved weekly postcards sent home...

Read more about Districts Pivot Their Strategies to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism During Distance Learning


Proving Ground’s process focuses on a continuous improvement cycle to help each district rapidly find solutions that work for its students and families:

1. Understand the Challenge
Proving Ground begins its work with each district by analyzing the district’s historical data and conducting interviews with district and school staff. Through this process, Proving Ground helps the district uncover key issues and trends that contribute to the challenge the network is addressing.

2. Identify Potential Solutions
Proving Ground then leads each district through a process of uncovering the root causes of its challenges. Proving Ground helps the district identify potential solutions and works with the district’s leadership team to prioritize these solutions. Then Proving Ground connects the district with others working on similar challenges, and these districts determine a common set of solutions to test.

3. Test the Solution(s)
Proving Ground helps each district design and implement the solution(s) in a measurable way. During the testing phase, Proving Ground provides reports on findings every six to eight weeks, depending on the solution being tested.

4. Examine Findings and Determine Next Steps
Proving Ground then works with each district to determine how to act on the findings. If the solution is producing the desired results, the district may decide to scale up. If the solution is underperforming, the district may decide to make adjustments and continue testing, or it may decide to stop implementation and try an entirely new solution.

Learn more about the Proving Ground Approach