Georgia Policy Labs 2023 Impact Report Heading Toward our North Star

A Note from Maggie

Dear Partners and Friends,

I am beyond thrilled to share our first impact report with you, which represents our evolution over the last five years. When we started the Georgia Policy Labs (GPL), our hope was to bring together a “coalition of the willing” who believed we could use our collective strengths, the power of integrated data, rigorous research, and people’s curiosity and hope to transform systems to work better for each child, student, and family in Georgia. Our early conversations with our partners confirmed our belief. Now, through our partnerships with school districts, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations in Georgia and beyond, we have changed the trajectory of people’s lives through an unapologetic commitment to ensuring policies and programs are evidence-based and support every person’s capabilities.

We have developed this organization amid years where isolation, trauma, vitriol, and polarization have affected each one of us. While we’ve had to show our individual and collective mettle, we’ve also learned to listen more closely, seek the humanity in each other, and adjust our model to respond better to the needs of our partners. What became crystal clear was how we make our decisions. We always ask: How will this decision affect kids, students, and families in our communities?

There have been so many moments that have confirmed my belief in the need for an engaged research organization like ours. In the early days of COVID-19, the trust in our research-practice partnerships paired with the secure, research-ready data we hold allowed us to deliver the rigorous insights our partners needed to make more informed decisions week by week. In the pandemic’s wake, we have stood alongside our partners, helping them to evaluate and implement proven recovery strategies that have accelerated student learning. Throughout this report, you will read stories like these, where the evidence we produce is helping realize the capability and economic security of all Georgians.

GPL has gone through a marked evolution since its inception, yet our team and partnerships have kept our vision affixed to our North Star: improving policies and programs so that all people can thrive. It has been my honor and a privilege to do this work each day, with our team, our partners, and you.

In partnership,

Maggie Reeves, Founding Senior Director

Our Organization


We believe public and nonprofit agencies can enact evidence-based policies, programs, and services that realize the safety, capability, and economic security of every of every child, young adult, family, and student in Georgia.


We advance knowledge, decision-making, and policies that promote equitable outcomes for Georgia’s children, students, and families over their life course by collaboratively developing rigorous, data-driven insights with school district, government, and nonprofit partners.

Impact Model

Our Growth & Impact


  • Dr. Tim Sass and Dr. Daniel Kreisman receive funding to build and lead K–12 and CTE research partnerships, the Metro Atlanta Policy Lab for Education (MAPLE) and the Career & Technical Education Policy Exchange (CTEx), respectively, and hire graduate students to support the work.
  • MAPLE hires its first employee, a data scientist, in anticipation of receiving student-level data.
  • CTEx's state-based research practice partnerships of faculty and state-level CTE leaders start integrating CTE data into state longitudinal databases in metro Atlanta, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Tennessee.


  • MAPLE secures long-term partnership and data-sharing agreements with five metro-Atlanta school districts, encompassing nearly 30% of public-school students in Georgia.
  • MAPLE publishes research summaries on areas of partner interest and hires two more staff for grants management and partner relationships.
  • Maggie Reeves and the former dean of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Sally Wallace, envision a state-agency-based initiative and propose a larger organization, the Georgia Policy Labs. Leadership from the State of Georgia indicate early support for GPL.


  • The Georgia Policy Labs hire Maggie Reeves as founding senior director, and she builds a team to support all three components of GPL.
  • GPL receives one year of funding to build and seek sustainability for the state-agency-based Child & Family Policy Lab, and Georgia State University hires Dr. David C. Ribar to be its faculty director.
  • The Child & Family Policy Lab secures data sharing agreements with the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning and the University System of Georgia.
  • GPL team members author a white paper that wins NASPAA's Data Science Curriculum for Public Service competition focused on the elements of a secure and usable data infrastructure for research.
  • MAPLE and CTEx use their unique data to begin producing reports.


  • MAPLE hosts a Community Advisory Summit to introduce its research to the broader community and connect new stakeholders to its work.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic begins, and GPL modifies its approach to help partners address the fundamental challenges they face.
  • MAPLE launches its first rapid-response project to address emerging issues in policy windows.
  • The Child & Family Policy Lab produces its research and policy framework, a guiding document that outlines its initial research priorities that it co-created with its state agency partners, and starts using data to produce policy reports.
  • MAPLE delivers 20 years of research-ready, documented student data to its district partners to help facilitate district-led research.
  • The Georgia Policy Labs trains more than 250 people in creating and communicating research evidence as part of its free Summer Training workshops.
  • GPL meets with policy and advocacy organizations throughout Georgia to co-create its unique value-add in an active policy ecosystem.
  • GPL restructures its team so that all team members share responsibility for partner relationships, fundraising, and quality of research, which includes launching a Core Team to ensure power sharing, transparency, and equity throughout the organization.


  • The Technical College System of Georgia officially joins the Georgia Policy Labs as a partner in its Child & Family Policy Lab.
  • Child & Family helps the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services design a unique solution to overcome data challenges and administer the state's P-EBT plan, collecting and processing data for several state agencies and nonprofit partners to deliver $1.3 billion in food assistance to families experiencing pandemic-related food insecurity.
  • CTEx adds research-practice partnerships in Montana and Washington.
  • GPL continues producing reports about child care, education across the life course, and child welfare and transforms its publications to be more useful to policymakers based on partner feedback.



  • The Georgia Policy Labs integrates community voice directly into its research by hiring two Achieve Atlanta scholars, who are undergraduate students at Georgia State, as co-researchers on a critical participatory action research project.
  • MAPLE’s rapid-response COVID-19 learning achievement work for the last three years is recognized after GPL receives three years of federal funding to continue studying pandemic-related interventions and acceleration strategies in metro Atlanta.
  • Child & Family begins working with the National Institute for Student Success to amplify its post-secondary success portfolio.
  • GPL shares current projects on its webpage to ensure more transparency and opportunities for community input.
  • GPL adds affiliates to its research team from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Georgia, and the College of Education and Human Development at Georgia State.
  • GPL joins a national effort to train the next generation of engaged CTE researchers.
  • GPL hosts a summit to re-invite the community in our research process and publishes this first Impact Report. The team also moves to its permanent new home in the 55 Park Place building.
  • Maggie Reeves, GPL's founding senior director, transitions to the Urban Institute after building an impactful, stable organization, and Thomas Goldring leads the organization as its interim senior director.


  • Over 70,000 students received evidence-based interventions from our rapid-response research on the COVID-19 pandemic .
  • Our analysis of a school district partner’s literacy program informed its multi-million-dollar decision to discontinue the program after we found it to be ineffective.
  • Achieve Atlanta is making data-informed adjustments to their scholarship eligibility policy based on rapid response analysis of financial need across students in Atlanta Public Schools, the Technical College System of Georgia, and the University System of Georgia.
  • The State of Georgia added 625 subsidized child care slots to the budget for parents who are working or in job training after we analyzed the unmet need.
  • $1.3 billion in food assistance to families experiencing food insecurity when we integrated data from multiple agencies.
  • Our analysis of access to high school-based career and technical education at the local and national level, which showed disparities, drove changes in admission standards and also transformed a metro-Atlanta district’s approach to building new programs so that all students have access to living-wage CTE pathways.
  • 17 Ph.D. students trained in engaged research are working across the country
  • Four metro-Atlanta school districts added research analysts to their team after seeing the value of MAPLE-supported analysts .
"Our partnership with MAPLE allowed Fulton County Schools to quickly dive into the research and evidence base for strategies that would combat the learning impacts from COVID-19. The early data analysis from MAPLE, coupled with their support in conducting nationwide searches of best practices, helped support the foundations of the Fulton County Schools' FOCUS and Bridge to Success plans. These plans included implementation expectations for high-dosage small group tutoring, accelerated curriculum frameworks, more robust summer opportunities, parent engagement strategies, and other strategies to drive student learning and engagement. MAPLE not only provided the research to help us land on these strategies but also was a key data partner to support our implementation monitoring and measurement of student growth during the pandemic and post-pandemic. Fulton County Schools is elated with our current results that demonstrate a majority of students surpassing pre-COVID-19-levels of performance."

Ryan Moore, Ed.D., Executive Director of Strategy & Governance, Fulton County Schools

Performance Metrics

  • 86 publications across 60 topics, ranging from two-page policy briefs to academic publications in top field journals
  • 20,000+ downloads of our research
  • 14,000+ views of our professional development workshops and research online
  • Research featured regularly in the New York Times, PBS NewsHour, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, local news channels, and an NPR affiliate
  • Invited as keynote speakers and panelists for national conferences on research, integrated data solutions, research-practice partnerships, and data security.
  • $18.2 million in external funding to support research, capacity development, and dissemination

Our Funding Evolution

Our work has been possible because of our generous funders. Over time, we have built tremendous funding diversity, which includes funding of specific projects, infrastructure support, and support of our research-practice partnerships. We maintain a lean organization, benefiting from the ability to scale quickly with our team of affiliates and graduate students as policy windows ebb and flow. Nearly all our costs support our team and our data infrastructure, with very low administrative costs.

Below, you can see how we have diversified our sponsors over time.

*does not include in-kind support of endowed professorships or graduate research assistants

Our Model

When we hatched the idea for the Georgia Policy Labs several years ago, we had a vision of it becoming a premiere research organization in the region to bring together partners, the data they hold, and experts from across sectors to address challenges that were impossible to solve alone. We intentionally placed our partners at the heart of our work to ensure our efforts result in improved policies and programs that help children and families thrive. Without them—no matter how good the research—we cannot move from recommendation to action. And, we’ve developed organically to do this work more thoughtfully.


From the beginning, we have maintained and strengthened our commitments with our partners:

  • Co-learning Partnerships: We develop lasting partnerships that prioritize learning from a variety of experiences and expertise.
  • Research Integrity: We are an independent voice; we use honest and verifiable research methods and make results of all approved projects available on our website.
  • Solutions-oriented: We conduct research to solve problems and engage those affected by the problems.
  • Accessible Results: We share results in a variety of formats to reach different audiences and to support evidence-based decision-making.
  • No Surprises: We maintain active, open, and honest communication with our partners, so they are always aware of results and are best able to plan solutions.

Our non-traditional research model allowed us to co-create research agendas with our partners, focused on areas where we could envision impact and had the data and team to do the work. These research agendas have always remained flexible, allowing us to investigate pressing concerns.

Building Rapid-Response Capabilities

While we built our model to maximize impact and respond to partner needs, the COVID-19 pandemic put our design to the test. Our partners needed information quickly to respond to changing conditions, so we aligned our resources to move quickly on new questions while maintaining rigor and research integrity. While we had always focused on ensuring results were tangible for policymakers, during this period nearly all of our results were delivered first to district leadership in the form of slide decks and regular briefings. These often came only weeks after we received formative assessment data from our partners. Of course, we wrote public reports and papers, but those were never prioritized. What the pandemic ultimately proved was that our model—in whatever iteration our partners needed—was working and flexible.

Incorporating Community Voice

We have also grown our ability to incorporate community voice over the last five years. When we started as a quantitative research organization, we began a layered approach to incorporate community voice. We knew it was important to bring people who had different lived experiences and knowledge to the table. We also knew we couldn’t incorporate community voice responsibly and sustainable in one fell swoop.

We began by incorporating the knowledge and expertise of our partners as a source of community voice. These partners often have previous experience in the field and hear from their communities regularly. Next, we developed relationships with a network of nonprofits and advocacy organizations to get closer to community voice in a way that some of our institutional partners may not be able to. We then found specific projects where mixed methods research was crucial to understand contexts, experiences, and outcomes not included in the administrative data we hold. After all, data collected by schools and systems reflects many indicators of people’s lives but doesn’t always show the humanity behind the numbers. Finally, after much internal work on our own organization and investigation of power and voice, we were ready to actually incorporate community voice directly through a series of projects about post-secondary financial wellness. In 2023, we hired two undergraduate students as co-researchers. These students are former Atlanta Public Schools students, attend Georgia State University, and are Achieve Atlanta Scholars. They’ve created a critical participatory action research project, have begun collecting data from their peers, and have contributed invaluable knowledge to our other projects.

The Work before the Work

Importantly, while our team has always been doing this work to positive impact kids’ and families’ lives, we have evolved the ways in which we respect each other’s dignity within our team, our partnerships, and the people in our communities. We’ve worked to identify and adapt typical power imbalances, sit with conflict, co-create solutions, value different forms of knowledge, and more. Over the several years, we have worked diligently to make our organization a more equitable place to work. This work has included creating a more empathetic and person-centered onboarding and orientation process for new team members, developing a research guide that helps us question our methods, writing, and dissemination to ensure dignity of all people, and creating a greater sense of community and camaraderie among all members of the GPL team. The work of our internal team to make GPL a more equitable place has bolstered the effectiveness of our approach and our readiness to do impactful work.

Our Partnerships

Career & Technical Education Policy Exchange

The Career & Technical Education Policy Exchange (CTEx) is a multi-state consortium of research-practice partnerships dedicated to improving the quality of high school career and technical education (CTE) and understanding the outcomes of CTE participation on college and career. Our network of engaged researchers works side-by-side with state and local CTE leaders to develop data driven recommendations. Our national consortium allows us to understand which findings are context dependent and which are generalizable across locales.

Child & Family Policy Lab

The Child & Family Policy Lab (Child & Family) works to increase the education and economic security of Georgia’s children, young adults, and families through rigorous research and long-term partnerships with state agencies and a nonprofit organization. We analyze problems and solutions across families, lifetimes, and generations and prioritize actionable research that can help improve people’s lives. The work thinks about cross-sector solutions and reducing unintended policy consequences.

Metro Atlanta Policy Lab for Education

The Metro Atlanta Policy Lab for Education (MAPLE) partners with five contiguous school districts in the metro-Atlanta area that collectively educate 30 percent of all Georgia’s public-school students. We evaluate the effectiveness of existing education programs and policies, design and test creative policy solutions, and boost our partners’ capacity to interpret the evidence.

Cross-Sector Impact


During the pandemic when many children were learning virtually, the federal government provided food assistance funds for families whose children who would normally receive free or reduced-priced meals at school. The complexity of the eligibility criteria meant no one state agency in Georgia possessed the information to distribute these funds. Partners at the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services turned to the Georgia Policy Labs to help bridge cross-agency conversations, data collection, and data analysis. We leveraged our trust within the policy community to understand the concerns and opportunities across several state agencies, national experts, and nonprofit advocates. We collected data about school modalities during the pandemic and—after receiving the requisite data sharing agreements—quickly created complex eligibility analyses to ensure families received $1.3 billion in food assistance. Without our secure data infrastructure, relationships, and knowledge of education, school meals, and social safety net data, this program would not have been possible.

Achieve Atlanta and College Financing

Achieve Atlanta provides scholarships and services to eligible Atlanta Public Schools’ students to increase college enrollment, persistence, and success. As an evaluation partner, we’ve shown the value of Achieve Atlanta’s scholarship and services on students’ post-secondary persistence and graduation. We’ve now created a series of projects with Achieve Atlanta, Atlanta Public Schools, the Technical College System of Georgia, and the University System of Georgia to examine post-secondary financial wellness of Scholars and their peers—a crucial element of the value of college. Amidst the longer-term projects, the federal government changed definitions related to Achieve Atlanta’s eligibility criteria. Because of the trusted partnerships and the existing cross-sector data, our team quickly conducted an analysis of financial need across all Atlanta Public Schools’ graduates—not just those who became Scholars—to help Achieve Atlanta make data-informed adjustments to their scholarship eligibility policy.

Our Research in Action

Our goal is to conduct state-of-the-art actionable policy research with our partners and to share evidence-based recommendations, whose impact is seen in improved policies and programs. Review each project snapshot to see how we made an impact.

Student Achievement Growth During the COVID-19 Pandemic

What did we study?

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted all aspects of families’ lives, including children’s formal schooling. We examined how the pandemic affected students’ academic outcomes throughout and following the pandemic.

Why did we study it?

As pandemic-related conditions in classrooms and schools changed almost daily, school district leaders and decision-makers needed real-time information to determine how the pandemic was affecting students’ achievement growth and the best ways to accelerate learning.

What did we find?

The COVID-19 pandemic led to substantial reductions in student achievement growth, with these impacts growing over time. The impacts of the pandemic on student achievement growth vary considerably by subject, grade level, and school district.

What happened?

Throughout the pandemic, we continued to recommend high-dosage, small group tutoring; more in-school instructional time; and academically-aligned programs during the summer for the students who experienced the greatest negative impact of the pandemic. One of our MAPLE partners designed its recovery program based on recommendations, which reached 70,000 students. The results of these programs have put most kids back on the trajectories they were on before the pandemic. We continue to study the mechanisms tied to this growth to inform our partners and districts nationwide.

Unmet Subsidized Child Care Demand in Georgia

What did we study?

Georgia’s Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program, operated by Geogia Department of Early Care and Learning, helps families experiencing low income and other vulnerabilities obtain high-quality child care, increase children’s school readiness, and help families become economically self-sufficient by subsidizing child care costs while caregivers work or prepare themselves for work through school or training.

Why did we study it?

The Metro Atlanta Chamber commissioned this project to determine the number of children aged zero to five-years old who might be reached under different program rule scenarios. This research compared the number of children who are served and not served and considers the costs of reaching unserved children.

What did we find?

We found that thousands more children in foster care or children with “work-active” parents could benefit from expanding the CAPS program. Extending CAPS eligibility to all students aged 0 to 5 years in foster care or in families with incomes below 85 percent of the state’s median income (SMI) could reach over 90,000 children.

What happened?

The Metro Atlanta Chamber, DECAL, and policy organizations used this evidence to advocate for an expansions of the CAPS program, leading the Georgia General Assembly to add 625 subsidized child care slots to the state budget.

Multi-State Study of Equity in CTE

What did we study?

Career and technical education (CTE) is woven into the fabric of secondary schooling in the United States. Through MAPLE and CTEx, we’ve conducted a variety of studies on students’ access to CTE programs. Although students across the country have access to CTE, we studied the types of programs students can take and the associated college and career outcomes.

Why did we study it?

It was unclear if students had equitable access to CTE regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, family income, or disability identification (factors related to other educational opportunity measures); we also didn’t know if students had access to the same types or programs.

What did we find?

Building on the insights we generated in a metro-Atlanta study, we found that students’ gender is a strong predictor of the CTE courses students take, which mirror the gendered labor market. CTE participation and intensity vary widely by location, but disparities in CTE course-taking across demographic groups (particularly race and ethnicity) are largely a function of which school students attend.

What happened?

These cross-lab studies motivated a large metro-Atlanta district to request an interactive dashboard showing students’ access to pathways that result in a living wage and other post-secondary outcomes. The district is using this information to ensure high quality pathways are available equally to all students in the district.

Impact Evaluation of the Lucy Calkins Units of Study Program

What did we study?

The Lucky Calkins Units of Study Program consists of materials and methods for teaching reading and writing in Grades K–8 and has been one of the most popular elementary-level reading/writing programs in the country. Yet, there is little evidence on its efficacy.

Why did we study it?

One of our MAPLE partners needed to know if this program was working a few weeks in advance of a multi-million-dollar decision to renew this contract.

What did we find?

We found that achievement gains overall for students in Grades 4 and 5 were no higher when exposed to the Lucy Calkins Program, rather than two other reading and writing programs. Similarly, in Grades 1–3, we found no evidence of a positive effect on reading achievement gains.

What happened?

Based on our findings, which the school district presented to the school board, the district chose not to renew the contract—saving them millions of dollars. They then moved to adopt a literacy program based on the Science of Reading.

Capacity Building

Building Skills Each Summer

At the Georgia Policy Labs, we believe government and school district staff are catalysts for creating evidence-based policies and programs that promote positive, equitable outcomes. Each summer, we draw on the expertise and experience of our faculty, staff, and community partners to offer free workshops to our partners and the larger community. Our goal is to teach in-demand skills that participants can implement quickly. Each year, we work closely with our partners to find out what professional development would be most beneficial to them. What started out as a program for our state agency partners has grown into a robust professional development program that not only upskills participants but also connects new people to GPL.

To date, we have trained more than 800 total people in ways to conduct and communicate research. Our free workshops have ranged from best practices in data visualization and using causal methods to learning R, Python, Tableau, and Power BI. We have welcomed analysts from school districts, nonprofits, universities, and state agencies from across the United States. Starting during the pandemic, we began offering our workshops virtually. This switch to a virtual option has allowed us to welcome more participants outside of Atlanta and create open-source workshops, which we upload to our website for asynchronous learning. Our uploaded workshops have received over 14,000 views, extending our reach.

Our free professional development workshops are an integral component of our service to the community and a part of our institutional fabric. These workshops are also part of our commitment to enhancing our partners’ research capacity, which helps them better conduct research, communicate results, and be agents of building evidence-based cultures. Not only do our partners and friends look forward to these workshops, but they also give participants time to create connections with people from different agencies—underscoring our desire to be an organization that brings people together to drive principled policy and programmatic decisions.

Training the Next Generation of Researchers

In addition to our professional development workshops, we are building cohorts of Ph.D. students who are trained in using administrative data, answering policy questions, and communicating with policymakers. We are proud of our alumni who hold faculty and research positions across the nation.

Our Team


  • Daniel Kreisman, Faculty Director, Career & Technical Education Policy Exchange
  • Maggie Reeves, Founding Senior Director, Georgia Policy Labs
  • David C. Ribar, Faculty Director, Child & Family Policy Lab
  • Tim Sass, Faculty Director, Metro Atlanta Policy Lab for Education


  • Thomas Goldring, Director of Research
  • Robert McMillan, Director of Data Integrity
  • Annick Nembot Simo, Data Scientist
  • Tyler Rogers, Associate Director
  • Chris Thayer, Data Scientist
  • Bailey Watts, Financial Administrator


  • K. Jurée Capers, Associate Professor, Georgia State University
  • Jennifer Darling-Aduana, Assistant Professor, Georgia State University
  • Kevin Fortner, Associate Professor, Georgia State University
  • Sam Rauschenberg, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, Achieve Atlanta
  • Ross Rubenstein, Professor and Dan E. Sweat Distinguished Chair in Educational and Community Policy, Georgia State University
  • Jonathan Smith, Associate Professor, Georgia State University
  • Amy Stich, Associate Professor, University of Georgia


  • Deborah Aba Gaisie
  • Katelyn Caton
  • Yiwei Duan
  • Kyela Gadi
  • Daivon Jarrell
  • Bogyung Kim
  • Thomas Kouwe
  • Cade Lawson
  • Zheng Li
  • Za Eng Mawi
  • Salma Mohammad Ali
  • Patricia Mones
  • Md Twfiqur Rahman
  • Myla Williams
  • Henry Woodyard


  • Rodrigo Aranda, Assistant Professor, Western Michigan University
  • Celeste K. Carruthers, William F. Fox Distinguished Professor of Labor Economics, University of Tennessee
  • Paige Clayton, Assistant Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Susan Cohen, Assistant Professor, University of Georgia
  • Shaun M. Dougherty, Professor, Boston College
  • Iris Feinberg, Research Assistant Professor, Georgia State University
  • Daphne Greenberg, Distinguished University Professor, Georgia State University
  • Blake Heller, Assistant Professor, University of Houston
  • Camila Morales, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Roddy Theobald, Managing Researcher, American Institutes for Research
  • Elizabeth Tighe, Associate Professor, Georgia State University
  • Carly Urban, Professor, Montana State University


  • Aarthi Arcot, M.P.A.'22
  • Wes Austin, Ph.D.'20
  • Michael D. Bloem, Ph.D.'23
  • Carycruz Bueno, Ph.D.'19
  • Kelsey Duff, M.P.P.'21
  • Ishtiaque Fazlul, Ph.D.'20
  • Béla Figge, Ph.D.'22
  • Lauren Forbes, Ph.D.'22
  • Phillip Gustafson, Ph.D.'22
  • Todd R. Jones, Postdoctoral Research Associate
  • Sungmee Kim, Ph.D.'23
  • Sarah King, Ph.D.'23
  • Alfredo Martin, Ph.D.'21
  • Tareena Musaddiq, Ph.D.'20
  • Surura Oshe, M.P.A.'23
  • Weixiang Pan, Postdoctoral Research Associate
  • Alexa Prettyman, Ph.D.'21
  • Christian Saenz, Ph.D. (in progress)
  • Katherine Stewart, Ph.D.'20
  • Jesús M. Villero, Ph.D.'23