The center for Strong Schools is the essence of UW Tacoma's urban-serving mission, linking arms with community partners to fix real world problems faced by schools and families.

What we do

At the Center for Strong Schools we equip districts, families and community partners to make lasting, positive and meaningful transformation. We innovate solutions to real world challenges faced by schools and those who serve children and families. We continuously improve real-world implementation of practices.

The problem: Schools and community partners are used to seeing initiatives come and go over time. They are also used to full plates—trying to implement too many initiatives at one time and feeling like none of them are being implemented very well

The solution: We work to sustain evidence-based practices (that work) to meet the needs of the whole child and the whole staff that carry out practices. We apply best evidence for changing schools so they implement and sustain practices that work over time. This is also called implementation science or organizational change. We call it sustainable change.

Research & Evaluation

  • We innovate solutions to real world challenges faced by schools and those who serve children and families.

  • We evaluate the effectiveness of practices using high-quality research and evaluation methods.

  • We continuously improve real-world implementation of practices. We study how to effectively implement and sustain use of evidence-based practices in schools.

  • We lead data-based decision making for school improvement and strategic planning.

  • We can help your school or community agency evaluate programs and use data more effectively for evidence-based change.

Professional Development

We are equipped to work with educators in professional development capacities to troubleshoot strategies, facilitate new growth, and build the confidence needed to raise academic achievement.

We can support you with the following:
  • Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS)
  • Multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS)
  • Response to Intervention (RtI)
  • Emotional and behavioral disorders
  • Classroom engagement and behavior management


Tacoma Whole Child Initiative

UW Tacoma's Center for Strong Schools has launched a path breaking partnership with Tacoma Public Schools, called the Tacoma Whole Child Initiative , intended to harness the momentum of school transformation at an unprecedented scale. With focus and determination over the next decade, the initiative brings together a whole child focus with best practices in behavioral intervention, data-based decision making, academic improvement and sustainability.

Literacy Study Group (LSG)

This project aims to close the reading gap often experienced by EBD students by creating a web based professional development tool to prepare special educators to deliver high quality reading instruction. This four year grant project is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and is in partnership with IRIS Educational Media, University of Oregon’s Center on Teaching and Learning, and the Tacoma School District. Research has shown that students with emotional behavior disorders (EBD) are significantly behind their peers in reading. Teachers consistently report that they lack pre-service knowledge and skills to meet the needs of these students.

Project Leads

  • Dr. Greg Benner, Executive Director Center for Strong Schools
  • Erin Carpenter, MS, LSG Project Manager

Program Evaluation

Our process for conducting program evaluation is grounded in a framework of sustainable, systematic change—targeting all aspects of the school environment. Our framework measures school-wide, classroom, and individual support systems across both academic and social/behavioral domains.

A Program Evaluation of Boys’ & Girls’ Clubs of South Puget Sound Summer Boost: A Whole Child Approach to Closing the Achievement

Boys & Girls Club of South Puget Sound - 21st Century Community Learning Center Evaluation

Past Projects

Read more about other projects at the Center for Strong Schools.

  • Strengthening Education In Juvenile Detention Centers
  • Validity Assessment of the Washington State Assessment of the Risk and Needs of Students (WARNS)