CORE provides a range of research and evaluation services related to education and human development. We specifically focus on evaluation and applied research aimed at understanding and improving programs, policies, and practices to improve the health and well-being of individuals, schools, organizations and communities.

  • Instrument Design

    CORE knows effective instrument design. Learn more.

  • Data Collection

    CORE can manage implementation of data collection. Learn more.

  • Data Processing & Management

    CORE can process data into clean databases for analysis. Learn more.

  • Data Analytics

    CORE provides quantitative and qualitative analysis. Learn more.

  • Consulting

    CORE can help plan current and future evaluation needs. Learn more.


CORE works closely with its partners and clients on all facets of design. These services include collaboratively developing the orienting questions that the study or evaluation will answer, helping to specify how the program or intervention is intended to work in order to produce the outcomes expected, and developing or selecting the proper instruments to measure implementation and outcomes. CORE also specializes in developing appropriate methodologies and "best-fit" designs to answer research and evaluation questions. This includes considering how innovative programs are and what level of evidence for program effectiveness is most appropriate.

CORE acknowledges the wide range of evaluation tools and strategies available to evaluators and researchers. We frequently seek to develop collaborative designs that focus on continuous improvement, aiming to understand what works, for whom, under what circumstances.

CORE is committed to equitable practices in all of our projects, deliverables, and services. We believe this starts with a foundational commitment to collaboration, acknowledging and valuing the perspectives and wisdom of our partners and program participants. Frequently, this commitment shows up in our co-design principles as we work to ask and answer questions that matter most to our partners. This commitment carries through our analyses and reporting, including frequent and deliberate questioning our assumptions.

CORE staff have expertise in analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data. CORE selects analysis procedures that best answer the research or evaluation questions and we work to carefully explain analytic descisions and findings in interpretable ways. CORE's expertise includes rigorous inferential analyses of the highest scientific merit using numerous commercially available and open-source software programs; conducting simple, meaningful descriptive analyses targeting implementation variables or the responses of participant groups and individuals; and careful sampling procedures and the selection of participant gropus for analysis. CORE strives to ensure that the levels of detail and complexity of its analyses and reports are aligned with the research or evaluation questions and the expectations of its partners and clients. Our deliverables almost always include a written technical report and are frequently accompanied by in-person presentations, PowerPoint slides, briefs, and in some cases, dashboards.

Instrument Design

Develop/Modify Instruments

CORE staff is knowledgeable and trained in effective instrument design and use. We regularly utilize surveys, observations, achievement or assessment measures, and interviews or focus groups. Typically, we start by seeking out existing tools suitable to the constructs we wish to study. As needed, we will modify existing tools or CORE staff will collaborate with our partners to create custom instruments and tailor them to meet the data collection needs for specific projects. CORE is particularly well-versed in public education and extant data available through data sharing agreements and public requests.

Electronic and Paper-based Data Collection

CORE develops Qualtrics-based data collection and collaborates with our research and evaluation partners to distribute links and to provide regular updates on incoming data.

At times, paper-based data collection is required. CORE will create TeleForm versions of instruments for large scale data collection. TeleForms are paper surveys that can be distributed and completed in the field. Once collected, they are processed using the TeleForm software package. Data are automatically captured, and databases are populated. Using Teleform software to enter data reduces the incidence of error that commonly occurs with hand data entry. Online surveys are a cost effective and time efficient method of collecting data, and they provide a way to automate the analysis of your data.

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Data Collection

Data Collection Logistics Management

High integrity data collection is critical to receiving accurate findings. CORE staff collaborate with our research and evaluation partners to manage or support high-integrity data collection. At times, CORE staff members manage all aspects of data collection, and other times, CORE provides technical assistance and quality control to support partners in collecting their own data.  In addition to designing data collection tools, CORE staff is expert in recruiting, training and coordinating data collectors as well as communicating with school, program or organization staff to facilitate strong data collection. We frequently share data collection activities with project partners: for example, partners provide CORE with process data about their programs or interventions and CORE collects the outcome data necessary to ask and answer empirical research and evaluation questions about effects or outcomes.

Conduct In-person Data Collection

Some project call for CORE to collect in-person data collection, including observations, walk-throughs, site visits, focus groups and individual or group interviews. CORE staff have experience in each of these forms of data collection. These activities may take place in person or electronically through platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

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Data Processing & Management

High Integrity Data Management

CORE staff will process incoming data and archive them in clean databases for analysis. This may include incoming paper or electronic data, as well as transcribed qualitative data. 

CORE staff are experts in database management, especially related to issues of IRB and FERPA compliance. Databases are stored on SMU secure servers, which are backed up nightly. CORE develops and shares codebooks or data dictionaries for use by CORE analysts or by our project partners. At times, CORE contracts to maintain longitudinal databases, adding new incoming data to existing files on an ongoing basis, so that programs or organizations can have access to linked longitudinal data suitable to answering questions about long-term impacts. As appropriate, CORE will develop and share data files with our project partners so that additional analyses can be run.

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Data Analysis and Reporting

Quantitative Analysis

CORE has a number of quantitative experts on staff, and we frequently collaborate with SMU colleagues when additional expertise is warranted. Examples include demographic or descriptive summaries, basic mean comparisons, as well as measures of relationships or associations. CORE analysts are also well-versed in advanced statistical analyses, including but not limited to: multiple regression, hierarchical linear modeling, cluster analysis, propensity score matching, and regression discontinuity designs.

Qualitative Analysis

 CORE also employs qualitative experts and similarly collaborates with SMU colleagues when specific qualitative expertise is needed. Our approach to qualitative analysis to broad and contingent on the level of evidence sought. We may, at times, highlight key themes or findings from interview or open-ended survey comments. At other times, we implement a full-scale and highly rigorous qualitative coding approach that includes open and axial coding, development and refinement of reliable operational definitions, establishing coder reliability and then linking the presence of themes or codes to other constructs of interest.

Reporting and dissemination of findings

CORE provides flexible reporting to our project partners, aiming to meet the needs of the project. Rapid, formative reporting in the form of brief power point slides or bulleted memos may be utilized for projects focused on monitoring and frequent iterative improvements. Traditional “white paper” evaluation technical reports with an executive summary may be utilized for outcome or summative projects, and manuscripts, collaboratively written with our project partners may be utilized in research projects.

CORE also acknowledges the need for wide scale dissemination of findings and works flexibly to develop project deliverables that best suit the needs of the project or the partner. At times, we provide deliverables such as briefs, slide decks, infographics, and blog posts for websites. CORE also co-presents with partners at local or national conferences, and in some instances, develops data dashboards to display incoming data and trends. 

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Logic Models and Theory of Change

CORE works closely with partners to develop concrete theories of change (or theories of action) and logic models. Typically, the theory of change provides a graphical depiction of the logical relationships between program activities, inputs, outputs and desired outcomes. A complementary logic model is based entirely on the theory of change and provides additional detail including specifying metrics and measures. The logic model becomes a critical “how to” document for conducing data collection and evaluation. 

Development of Research Designs

CORE will frequently collaborate with partners to determine whether an external evaluation or a true research study is best suited for their purposes. When a research study is warranted, CORE works with partners to obtain a wide range of permissions including Institutional Review Board approvals. Research designs also utilize theories of change and must specify measures and metrics for each desired variable to be included in the design. 

Grant/proposal writing assistance

CORE provides with assistance in writing proposals for grants or other funding opportunities. CORE will describe the evaluation or research study, and in some cases, provide estimates of data projections. CORE is willing to partner with other entities to pursue joint funding opportunities by co-applying for foundation or public funding.


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