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Research and Program Evaluation

The Office of Research and Program Evaluation provides information and analyses to support continuous improvement in the academic and operational services at Harford County Public Schools (HCPS).

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Other duties and responsibilities of the office include but not limited to:
  • Planning and implementing educational evaluation and research studies
  • Conducting research, program evaluation, and analysis of issues including preparation of reports, white papers, and journal publication recommendations
  • Working with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive strategic evaluation plan and the outcomes and indicators to be used to monitor progress toward North Star's goals
  • Performing quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, using data analytics to determine and share insight that can be used to enhance learning and student achievement, and operational processes
  • Developing and preparing internal reports of status, progress, and outcomes of evaluation activities
  • Providing clear and useful reports for decision makers, staff, and other stakeholders as needed to implement and improve North Star
  • Supporting grant/budget development teams to ensure program accomplishments and impact are represented within each proposal
  • Managing internal data record-keeping and refinement
How to Create your own Survey!
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Survey Reports

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In the spring of 2021, Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) sought to understand the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral engagement of students in the virtual and/or hybrid learning environments necessitated by COVID-19. To this end, HCPS administered a survey to students in Grades 3-12, all teachers, as well as school and central office staff to identify engaging practices and to analyze responses to the survey’s closed- and open-ended questions.

This analysis will support HCPS in identifying best practices to engage future virtual learners and develop guidance for virtual and/or hybrid programs that may be developed at the county and/or state level.

This report answers the following research questions:

  1. What feedback do students have about their engagement during virtual or hybrid instruction?
  2. What strategies did educators use in virtual or hybrid instruction that had a positive impact on students’ cognitive, emotional, and behavioral engagement?
  3. What did educators find challenging about engaging students (cognitively, emotionally, behaviorally) during virtual or hybrid instruction?
  4. What digital tools/resources did respondents include in their open-ended responses? (For manually coded responses, only)
Appendix B: Student Engagement Survey: Closed-Ended Responses Appendix B: Educator Survey on Student Engagement: Closed Ended Responses

Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) is committed to providing superior customer service as measured by its TRACK-ing Excellence program, where TRACK represents Transparent, Responsive, Accessible, and Kind communication. To gauge satisfaction with the district’s customer service, HCPS offers a stakeholder survey on its website (Appendix B).

In this document, the HCPS Office of Research and Program Evaluation presents findings from an analysis of open-ended responses to HCPS’ Customer Satisfaction Survey. This analysis is for the responses received during the survey administration window of January 15, 2021, through June 30, 2021. During this period, HCPS received a total of 327 responses (Appendix A: Closed-Ended Results) including 164 open-ended responses (out of a total of 167) after data cleaning. Of the 164 open-ended responses, 10 included comments unrelated to customer service experiences within the district. To keep the findings as salient as possible for HCPS’ future decision-making, HCPS excluded these comments from this analysis, focusing on the content contained in the remaining 154 open-ended responses.

Through an analysis of open-ended responses, HCPS addresses the following research question:
  • What suggestions or comments do stakeholders have to improve HCPS’ customer service?
Based on the findings presented in this report, HCPS should consider implementing the following recommendations:
1. Continue to identify opportunities to celebrate individuals who provide TRACK communication. A vast majority of respondents (93 percent) expressed satisfaction with their experience and often highlighted the work of an individual employee, and three-quarters (75 percent) specifically thank or highlight an individual employee.
2. Offer employees trainings on how to de-escalate certain situations and/or how to best work with stakeholders who have high-level concerns about district decision-making and communication. While very few responses expressed dissatisfaction with their experience (7 percent), those that did often identified district operations as an area for improvement.
3. Identify ways to significantly increase the number of survey respondents to have more survey data. To increase awareness and to encourage participation to receive thousands of survey data per year, HCPS leadership should enhance its outreach campaign to reach more parents, staff, and students. HCPS only received a total of 327 responses in six (6) months. Encourage staff members to include the survey link as part of their Outlook Email signature.
Most respondents reported positive experiences and high satisfaction with customer service at HCPS. Respondents highlighted numerous aspects of customer service strengths, such as clear and timely communication (40 percent), professional knowledge (34 percent), consistent service (30 percent), and friendly employees (25 percent). Three-quarters (75 percent) of responses mentioned specific employee names to publicly show their appreciation.
While most responses highlighted strengths of HCPS’ customer service, the few responses that identified areas for improvement (7 percent) note a desire for increased transparency in decision-making and improved communication.
This document presents findings from an analysis of closed-ended and open-ended responses of the Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) Budget Survey (2021-2022). Coming Soon - View Report
In 2018, Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) introduced the North Star initiative to ensure every student graduates with college experience or career licensure. The activities of NorthStar fall into two major categories, which include (1) the collaboration with Harford Community College (HCC) to provide students with access to college courses and career licensure while in high school, and (2) redesign of the Pre-kindergarten through Grade 12 preparation and experiences that occur prior to students' pursuit of college or career experience. Digital Teaching and Learning is a strategy to advance our North Star initiative. View Report
In May 2020, Superintendent of Schools Sean Bulson, Ed. D. wanted to learn more about the current student perceptions of racism, implicit bias, and other forms of discrimination within Harford County Public Schools (HCPS). Former Student Member of the Board of Education of Harford County, Christian Walker, and Phoebe Bailey, then a rising senior at Joppatowne High School and current student member of the Board of Education of Harford County for the 2020-2021 school year, worked with Yakoubou Ousmanou, manager of Research and Program Evaluation, and Dr. Paula Stanton, supervisor of Equity and Cultural Proficiency, to develop and administer the HCPS Survey on Racism, Implicit Bias, and Other Forms of Discrimination. Dr. Bulson and his senior leadership team encouraged the administration of this survey and provided all the resources and support needed to successfully launch the survey; and pledged to use the findings of the survey to help address the issues of systemic racism, implicit bias, and other forms of discrimination in HCPS. View Report

Research Reports


In the Spring of 2019, the superintendent of Harford County Public Schools (HCPS), Dr. Sean Bulson, introduced the North Star initiative in collaboration with the leadership of Harford Community College (HCC). The goal of the HCPS North Star initiative is to ensure all students have access to academic opportunities, social-emotional support, and real-world experiences tailored to meet the needs, abilities, and interests of the diverse learners. Every student will graduate ready for success in college, career, and life.

HCPS leadership believes students can best demonstrate their preparation for success after high school through achievement in one of two areas:

  • Prepared for college: High school students who earn college credit or meet the standard for earning college credit by succeeding in college-level work in high school will be more successful in college.
  • Prepared for a career: High school students who earn an industry-recognized credential will be more successful in a post high school career.

The school district measures whether students are prepared for either college or a career by monitoring the following three graduate outcomes. Students must achieve success in one of the following three areas to meet the North Star standard:

  1. Meets criteria for potential college credit via Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or Career and Technology Education (CTE) courses.
  2. Earns college credit through a dual enrollment course.
  3. Attains a licensure, certification, or meets the Technical Skills Assessment (TSA) requirements in a CTE program.

This report answers the following research questions:

Research Questions
  1. What percentage of HCPS graduates in the classes of 2018, 2019, and 2020 met one of the following North Star Graduate Outcomes?
    1. Met the criteria for potential college credit via AP, IB, or CTE (North Star Graduate Outcome 1)
    2. Earned college credit through a dual enrollment course (North Star Graduate Outcome 2)
    3. Earned a career licensure, certification, or met the TSA requirements in a CTE program (North Star Graduate Outcome 3)
  2. What is the relationship between achieving a North Star Graduate Outcome and future college success?
    1. Enrollment in college the fall after graduation
    2. Enrollment in college within the year following graduation
    3. Persistence from freshman to sophomore year of college (only classes of 2018 and 2019)

This study offers an economic analysis of the HCPS North Star initiative and explains the potential return on investment the initiative may yield.

The Business, Economic, and Community Outreach Network (BEACON), of the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University, conducted a comprehensive study to determine the potential outcomes of the North Star initiative of the Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) in Harford County, Maryland. This study included economic impacts, and a Return on Investment (ROI) analysis of the North Star Initiative.

Research Questions

The BEACON team that performed this study focused on the following study questions:

  • What is the expected value of North Star to a student?
  • What are the changes in college readiness attributable to North Star?
  • What are the changes in career outcomes attributable to North Star?
  • What are the added economic and employment outcomes of the North Star Initiative?
  • What is the Return on Investment (ROI) on each public dollar invested?
  • What are some non-quantifiable benefits of the North Start Initiative?

In January 2021, HCPS conducted virtual focus groups about COVID-19 and the 2020-21 school year with the goal of understanding what went well with district operations during the pandemic, lessons learned, and priorities for planning for the return to in-person learning. The Superintendent of Schools, Sean Bulson, and his leadership team used a focus group method to bring together virtually a demographically diverse group of stakeholders to participate in a guided discussion on the implementation of educational programs, services, or concepts. The HCPS facilitators or moderators led a 30-90-minute discussion within the groups to gather helpful information and feedback. The HCPS focus groups were administered separately to teachers, principals, central office staff, students, and parents. Members of these focus groups discussed topics related to virtual and hybrid instruction, special education, Learning Support Centers, and other key topics.

The HCPS Office of Research and Program Evaluation worked with focus group facilitators, HCPS staff and external researchers to review and synthesize the meeting minutes from the focus groups, summaries of survey results and follow-up surveys, and raw survey data for educators (teachers, principals), central office staff, students and parents. As part of this review and analysis, the researchers and the team identified key themes the District can use to evaluate and improve district operations, teaching and learning, and its Continuity of Learning Plan.

The following research questions guided the analysis of the focus group information and data:
  1. What did HCPS do well during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. What do stakeholders perceive as the lessons during COVID-19?
  3. What do HCPS stakeholders perceive as the needs related to return to in-person learning?

This report presents key findings and recommendations from the analyses of the data, and information received from the focus groups stakeholders

The findings included in this report support the following five (5) recommendations to help improve teaching and learning for all students, the effectiveness of district operations, and the HCPS Continuity of Learning Plan.
  1. Share the focus group feedback with the community to share what went well, lessons learned and to highlight how HCPS will address the areas of need identified by all the focus group members.
  2. Continue to identify evidence-based practices and/or successful instructional strategies used by peer school districts to inform the HCPS district’s reopening and Continuity of Learning Plan.
  3. Continue providing virtual options for students moving into next year and beyond.
  4. Consider permanent implementation of some of the best practices used during COVID-19 operations.
  5. HCPS leadership must continue to seek a balance between consistency and flexibility in certain circumstances.

Program Evaluation Reports

Coming soon.