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School of Education's PRiME Center Secures Three Year Grant Renewal


Saint Louis University’s School of Education recently received a $1.3 million grant for three additional years of external funding from the Walton Family Foundation to support its PRiME (Policy Research in Missouri Education) Center through 2025. The additional funding will allow continued growth and outreach activities of the center.

The PRiME leadership team stands in front of a red brick wall and smiles. Left to right are Associate Director of Operations Ashley Donaldson Burle, in a black jacket and black and white striped shirt;  Post-doctoral Research Associate Misti Jeffers, Ph.D., in a red blouse with white flowers, and Director of Research and Evaluation Evan Rhinesmith, Ph.D., in a blue-checked button-down shirt.
PRiME leadership team: Left to right, Associate Director of Operations Ashley Donaldson Burle, Post-doctoral Research Associate Misti Jeffers, Ph.D., and Director of Research and Evaluation Evan Rhinesmith, Ph.D.

In April 2019, Saint Louis University announced the opening of the PRiME Center, an independent research center housed in the Saint Louis University School of Education, specializing in generating, collecting and disseminating education-policy research. The PRiME Center was initially funded for three years through external support from the Walton Family Foundation.

The grant renewal is a great affirmation of the efforts of the PRiME team since the spring of 2019. 




The individuals affiliated with the center are devoted to working with educators and education stakeholders across the state, and this renewal will help us to accomplish even more over the next three years.”

Evan Rhinesmith, Ph.D., PRiME Center director of research and evaluation

Members of the PRiME team conduct and share research on best practices in education, helping lawmakers, educators and families in the state of Missouri make decisions about education policy and practice. Their mission is to ensure that the people making decisions and building policies about education have the data they need to build the best and most equitable educational systems possible. The center provides publicly available data in an easy-to-navigate format, in-depth exploration into education topics, and strives to put results in context to show where Missouri stands and how Missouri’s schools and students are being affected.

The PRiME Team

Since its inception, Evan Rhinesmith, Ph.D., has led the PRiME Center as director of research and evaluation. This summer, Ashley Donaldson Burle joined the leadership team as associate director of operations. Misti Jeffers, Ph.D., continues with the center this fall as a postdoctoral research associate.

Through the years, the team has expanded and now also includes staff, postdoctoral research associates, graduate research associates and undergraduate research associates. The center also has affiliated researchers from several institutions and a 20-person advisory board composed of Missouri education stakeholders and leaders.

Increased Capacity and Refined Focus

As the team has grown, the center has been able to increase the number of and depth of publications to inform the conversation on education policy and practice in Missouri. Additionally, the increase in staff has allowed them to refine their focus and center in on the most relevant issues in Missouri’s education-policy landscape.  For example, in the last year they’ve produced two series of reports — student-growth reports and postsecondary reports — and subsequent briefs and blogs that dive deeper into describing where Missouri’s students stand. Further, they have taken publicly available data and packaged it in easy-to-use formats. These data sets are available on their website to allow education stakeholders to easily examine their data and add context to center findings.

Education and Research Partners

From partnering with the St. Louis Research Practice Collaborative (SRPC) to research the impacts of student mobility in the St. Louis region and creating the PRiME Summer Research Grant, which supported student and faculty researchers from Saint Louis University, Washington University in St. Louis, and University of Missouri-St. Louis, the center has continued to develop relationships with education and research partners. A data-fellow partnership with St. Louis Public Schools allows members of the center to work alongside the district in increasing data access and research capability. In addition, the center has worked with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and multiple charter schools in the St. Louis region. PRiME also conducts research through the SLU/YouGov Poll to understand voter and parent opinions on politics and education in Missouri.

The Future

Education has not been the top priority among voters in Missouri, but it has become an increasingly important topic in the legislature. The goal is to continue growing into a trusted and impartial voice for sharing research, data, and evidence to inform these conversations. The renewal of the grant will allow the team to continue to fulfill its vision of “better evidence, better policies, better schools.”

For more information about the PRiME Center, visit their website or contact Evan Rhinesmith, Ph.D., at