About First Things First

strengthen instruction use data effectively create personalized learning communities advocate students and families build system capacity

What is First Things First?

First Things First brings together five core strategies for transforming the school experience for secondary students in ways that dramatically improve their academic performance and commitment. The strategies are:

First Things First

  • Strengthening instruction.
  • Effective use of data.
  • Personalized learning communities.
  • Advocating for students and families.
  • Building system capacity to strengthen and sustain reform.

IRRE has forged and refined these strategies over the past 14 years through intensive partnerships with districts and schools in urban and rural communities, and through careful research on the partnerships’ effectiveness. For many of our partners, the results have been substantial improvements in their students’ graduation rates and performance. In our most longstanding partner district, college attendance and persistence are up as well. Currently, 34 high schools and eight middle schools in seven states, serving almost 60,000 students, are implementing the framework’s strategies.

Districts and schools can sequence and combine the core strategies in different ways, based on assessments of their needs. IRRE provides embedded training and ongoing support to school and district staff to initiate the core strategies and then to strengthen and sustain the reform as our role lessens.


To talk about First Things First, contact:

An IRRE Expert

Dr. James P. Connell, Ph.D.
President and CoFounder

An IRRE Partner Practitioner

Dr. Pascal (Pat) D. Forgione
Executive Director
ETS Center on K-12 Assessment and Performance Management


Isidoro Nieto
Weslaco High School


Connie Guerra
PSJA High School