Neil Naftzger is a principal researcher working on community school, afterschool, and youth development initiatives at AIR. An experienced evaluator and researcher, Dr. Naftzger has spent two decades designing and conducting evaluations and research studies in the community school, afterschool, and youth development arenas that involve the collection and analysis of data in various forms, particularly in relation to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program and more recently, community school initiatives. For example, Dr. Naftzger has led multiple evaluations of community school initiatives administered by Chicago Public Schools, including the Community Schools Initiative, the Sustainable Community Schools Initiative, and federal Full Service Community Schools grants received by the district. He has or currently serves as the principal investigator or senior advisor on projects to evaluate the Community Partnership Schools Initiative administered by the Center for Community Schools at the University of Central Florida, the Restart SMART Initiative managed by Higher Ground in Tucson, Arizona, and a Full Service Community Schools grant being administered by Lewis University.
Dr. Naftzger studies both the impact of youth-serving programs on various outcomes and the roles program quality and youth experiences play in this process. Dr. Naftzger completed a study funded by the National Science Foundation to study how youth interest and engagement develop in STEM–oriented summer learning programs. Part of this project included the creation of an online toolkit highlighting practices found in the study to support youth interest and engagement in STEM. Naftzger has been the principal investigator on research grants from the Charles Stewart Mott, William T. Grant, and Raikes Foundations, as well as on statewide evaluations of the 21st CCLC programs in seven states. He has authored or coauthored over 70 research and evaluation reports and papers in the last 20 years.