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Service Area Coordinators & Quality Assurance Review
Independent Evaluation Team
Louis Danielson, Ph.D., Managing Director at the American Institutes for Research, is serving as Center Co-Director to the National Center on Intensive Intervention. Dr. Danielson is a national leader in the field of special education who has been involved in programs that improve results for students with disabilities for over three decades, and he brings an unparalleled and unique depth of knowledge in both special education policy and research. Dr. Danielson was awarded a doctorate of philosophy in education from Pennsylvania State University. His career spans several roles in education including secondary school science and mathematics teacher, school psychologist, and teaching at the university level. Until recently, Dr. Danielson held leadership roles in the U.S. Office for Special Education Programs and was responsible for the discretionary grants program, including technical assistance and dissemination, personnel preparation, technology, parent training priorities and state improvement grants. He has served in numerous research and policy roles and has been involved in major school reform activities. Since joining AIR he has served as a senior advisor to the National Center on Response to Intervention and has led a National High School Center initiative on Response to Intervention. A frequent contributor to professional journals, Dr. Danielson has published extensively in the literature and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, international conferences and events focusing on special education. His particular areas of interest include policy implementation and evaluation and scaling up of evidence-based practices.
Rebecca Zumeta Edmonds, Ph.D., is a principal researcher at the AIR, where she serves as the Co-Director of NCII, and as Project Director for an Investing in Innovation and Improvement (i3) Development Grant. She previously coordinated services for the Response to Intervention Center at AIR and led the Knowledge Utilizatioalign="left" />n service area of the National Center on Systemic Improvement (NCSI). Prior to AIR, Dr. Zumeta Edmonds worked for the Washington State Department of Special Education providing technical assistance to support RTI and alternate assessment implementation. She also worked on randomized controlled trials of elementary mathematics interventions at Vanderbilt University, and has extensive experience presenting to researcher, policymaker, and practitioner audiences. She has co-authored several papers, chapters, and essays on RTI, mathematics intervention, special education policy, implementation, and progress monitoring assessment. In addition, she taught special education in public and private lab schools in the Seattle area. She earned a Ph.D. in Special Education with a concentration in quantitative research methods from Vanderbilt University, an M.Ed. in Special Education from the University of Washington, and a B.A. in Psychology and Politics from Whitman College.
Allison Gruner Gandhi, Ed.D., is Managing Researcher and Director of the Special Education Practice Area at AIR. She currently serves as the Interim Center Co-Director and Technical Advisor for the Knowledge Development Service Area, with specific emphasis on offering guidance to the team that manages the submission of assessments and interventions from vendors, expert review of assessments and interventions, and communication of review results to consumers. For the past ten years, Dr. Gandhi has led this task for the National Center on Intensive Intervention and the National Center on Response to Intervention. Dr. Gandhi has led research and evaluation projects for a variety of clients, including OSEP, the Institute for Education Sciences, and the National Center for Education Statistics. Her primary area of expertise is K-12 special education policy, with an emphasis on inclusion. Dr. Gandhi has a Masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a doctorate in Education from Harvard University.
Abigail Foley, M.Ed., Researcher at AIR, is serving as the Coordinator of NCII. In this role, Mrs. Foley oversees the budget and coordinates meetings as well as communication between project staff. In addition to her work with NCII, Mrs. Foley provides technical assistance and content expertise to states, universities, and school districts in the areas of RTI, MTSS, and teacher preparation and reform. She works with the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center to coordinate intensive technical assistance activities that promote aligned professional learning systems across the teacher and leader career continuum in various states. She also designs and delivers professional development for the Arkansas RTI Personnel Development Project. Prior to AIR, Mrs. Foley worked as an elementary special education teacher in the District of Columbia. She earned her M.Ed. in Special Education from George Mason University in 2012 and her B.A. in History from Bates College in 2010.
Douglas Fuchs, Ph.D.is Professor and Nicholas Hobbs Chair in Special Education and Human Development at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University and a Professor of Pediatrics at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He is also a Senior Advisor to the National Center on Intensive Intervention. Before joining the faculty in 1985, Fuchs was a 1st-grade teacher in a private school for children with behavior problems and a 4th-grade classroom teacher and school psychologist in public schools. At Vanderbilt, he has been principal investigator of 50 federally-sponsored research grants with which he and colleagues developed approaches to service delivery (e.g., pre-referral intervention, RTI); assessments (e.g., formative measures of student evaluation, dynamic assessment); and instruction (e.g., peer-mediated learning strategies). He is currently developing and exploring the importance of embedding cognitive training in and skills-focused academic interventions for most difficult-to-teach children. Fuchs is the author or co-author of more than 350 articles in peer-review journals and 60 book chapters. He has won several best paper awards, including the Palmer O. Johnson Memorial Award (American Educational Research Association), the Division 16 Fellow’s Award (American Psychological Association), the Samuel A. Kirk Award (Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children), and Best Paper of the Year Award (National Association of School Psychologists). He was recently identified by Thomson Reuters as among the 250 most frequently cited researchers in the social sciences in the United States from 2000-2010, inclusive. In 2014, he was a recipient of the American Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award, the purpose of which “is to publicize, motivate, encourage, and suggest models for educational research at its best.” In 2009, he was described as one of 14 “revolutionary educators” by Forbes Magazine; in 2008, he was among “100 Distinguished Alumni” in the first 100 years of the College of Education and Human Development of the University of Minnesota; in 2005, he was awarded Vanderbilt University’s Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research; in 2003, he was given the Career Research Award by the Council for Exceptional Children. He is particularly proud of the accomplishments of his graduate students. In 2009, 2010, and 2011, Stephanie Al Otaiba, Kristen McMaster, and Paul Morgan each were winners of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Early Career Research Award. In 2013, Chris Lemons won the Council for Exceptional Children’s Early Career Publication Award (co-sponsored by the Council’s Division of Research).
Lynn Fuchs, Ph.D.,is the Dunn Family Professor of Psychoeducational Assessment, Special Education, and Human Development at Vanderbilt University and Senior Advisor to the National Center on Intensive Intervention. She has conducted programmatic research on assessment methods for enhancing instructional planning and on instructional methods for improving reading and math outcomes for students with learning disabilities. Dr. Fuchs has published more than 350 empirical studies in peer-review journals. She sits on the editorial boards of 10 journals including the Journal of Educational Psychology, Scientific Studies of Reading, Reading Research Quarterly, Elementary School Journal, Journal of Learning Disabilities, and Exceptional Children. She has been identified by Thomas Reuters as one of the most frequently cited researchers in the social sciences and has received a variety of awards to acknowledge her research accomplishments that have enhanced reading and math outcomes for children with and without disabilities. Her awards include the American Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Contributions to Research Award, the Council for Exceptional Children’s Career Research Award; and Vanderbilt University’s Earl Sutherland Award for Research Accomplishments.
Russell Gersten, Ph.D., Executive Director of Instructional Research Group and Professor Emeritus of Special Education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon, is serving as a Senior Advisor to the to the National Center on Intensive Intervention. He is a nationally renowned expert in research design, special education, methods for supporting struggling learners and students with disabilities, and instructional interventions in reading and mathematics. He has authored over 170 publications in, as well as served on several editorial boards of, many prestigious journals in the field, including American Educational Research Journal, Review of Educational Research, Exceptional Children, Learning Disability Quarterly, and Remedial and Special Education. He has consistently been interviewed for articles in Education Week over the past decade. His empirical scholarship is heavily used by scholars, policymakers, and practitioners, and his research has been recognized with several awards and honors, including the Distinguished Special Education Researcher Award from the American Educational Research Association's Special Education Research Division.
Steve Goodman, Ph.D.,is serving as a Senior Advisor to NCII. He is the director of Michigan’s Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative and a partner with the National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. He has over 35 years in the field of education. Currently, Steve serves on the Board of Directors for the Association for Positive Behavior Support. He was appointed by the Governor for Michigan’s PreK-12 Literacy Commission. Steve has co-authored articles, several book chapters, and most recently a book on blending academic and behavior multi-tiered supports. He has also managed federal grants with funds totaling over $22,000,000 to support educators in the implementation of multi-tiered supports.
Lee Kern, Ph.D., Iacocca Professor of Special Education at Lehigh University, is serving as a Senior Advisor to the to the National Center on Intensive Intervention. She has worked with students with emotional and behavioral problems for more than 25 years as a classroom teacher, behavior specialist, consultant, and researcher. She is currently the Principal Investigator for the Center for Adolescent Research in Schools. Dr. Kern has received over $18 million dollars in grant support to conduct research in emotional and behavioral problems. She has written numerous articles, book chapters, and two books addressing student behavior problems.
Christopher J. Lemons, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Special Education, Vanderbilt University, is serving as a Senior Advisor to the National Center on Intensive Intervention. His research focuses on methods to enhance reading instruction for children with intellectual and learning disabilities, individual differences in response to intervention, and assessment. He is currently the Principal Investigator of Project ERIC, an IES funded project aimed at developing an effective reading intervention for children with Down syndrome. His research has been published in Exceptional Children, Reading Research Quarterly, and other peer-reviewed journals. Prior to his current position, Lemons was an IES-supported pre-doctoral fellow at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and a special education teacher.
T. Chris Riley-Tillman, Ph.D. At present, Dr. Riley-Tillman is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational School and Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri. He is one of the co-developers of Direct Behavior Ratings as well as a recognized authority in evidence-based practice in schools and the application of experimental design and analysis in applied educational settings. Related to these interests, Dr. Riley-Tillman has participated in leadership roles on seven federal grants. He is also the creator and lead developer of the Evidence Based Intervention Network, a nonprofit website which contains evidence-based intervention and assessment resources for educational professionals developed by researchers. In 2016 the EBI Network had over 400,000 page views by over 59,500 unique users. He has published over 80 journal articles and 6 books on social behavior assessment, school wide service delivery, and single case design. In addition, he is the Acting Editor of the Practical Interventions in Schools book series for Guilford Press. Finally, he is a Fellow of Division 16 of the American Psychological Association and a member of the Society for the Study of School Psychology.
Brandi Simonsen, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Special Education with tenure in the Department of Educational Psychology at the Neag School of Education and a Co-Director of the Center for Behavioral Education and Research (www.cber.org) at the University of Connecticut. She is a partner of the National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS; www.pbis.org). In addition, Dr. Simonsen serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Positive Behavioral Interventions. Currently, Dr. Simonsen conducts research, publishes, teaches, and provides training/technical assistance in the areas of (a) school- and class-wide PBIS, (b) positive and proactive professional development supports for teachers, and (c) applications of PBIS in alternative education settings.
Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D., is the Manuel J. Justiz Endowed Chair in Education and is the Executive Director of The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, an organized research unit at The University of Texas at Austin. As a Senior Advisor to the National Center on Intensive Intervention, Dr. Vaughn offers her expertise on designing accommodations for students with disabilities who require intensive interventions. Dr. Vaughn is a distinguished researcher with more than 250 publications on child development, education, and reading disabilities. Some of her most prominent work includes designing accommodations and adaptations for students with learning disabilities. Dr. Vaughn is recognized as an expert in intervention research for students with learning problems and disabilities. She currently leads projects such as the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities grant to investigate effective response to intervention practices for older students with reading difficulties/disabilities and several projects from the IES focused on enhancing the quality of expository text instruction and comprehension through content and case-situated work and a research project that examines Collaborative Strategic Reading with older readers.
Joseph Wehby, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Vanderbilt’s Department of Special Education, received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt after having taught children and youth with learning and behavior problems in a residential setting. He has been PI of many research grants where randomized controlled trials and single subject design studies have been used to investigate the efficacy of a variety of practices that integrate VP academic strategies, ET, and methods to address behavioral problems. His research is in the areas of aggressive behavior among students with high incidence disabilities and teacher instructional strategies. He publishes in the areas of behavioral assessment, teacher-student interactions in classrooms for students with EBD, implementation of academic-focused interventions for difficult-to-teach students. He was PI on the recently completed IES Vanderbilt Behavior Research Center. Previously, he was PI on federally funded grants on (a) aggressive behavior in classrooms, (b) cooperative learning strategies for students with EBD, and (c) educational programming for adolescents with EBD. Wehby also has strong experience leading OSEP personnel preparation grants. He has been PI on 3 leadership training grants in high-incidence disabilities and is Co-PI on a currently funded Master’s Training Grant in EBD. From 2005-2011 he was co-editor of Behavioral Disorders and has served on numerous editorial boards (e.g., Journal of Special Education, Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Preventing School Failure). Wehby received an Affirmative Action Award from the Development Center at Vanderbilt University for promoting disability awareness on campus and was named as an Outstanding Educator by the Peabody Roundtable.
Service Area Coordinators & Quality Assurance Review
Gail Chan, Ph.D., Senior Researcher at AIR, is the Technical Assistance Coordinator for NCII. In this role she oversees targeted and intensive technical assistance efforts and supports training and product development. For the past 4 years at AIR, Dr. Chan has led projects and conducted training for projects funded by IES, NIDA, state and university partners and international collaborators such as the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and Mentor UK. Dr. Chan holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and has over 20 years of experience working in psychology and special education settings. She has worked as a Behavioral Consultant, as an Assistant Director of Education for children with a diagnosis of Autism and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the doctorate level (BCBA-D).
Laura Berry Kuchle, Ph.D., Senior Researcher at the AIR, is currently working with NCII, the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR Center), and NCSI. For these Centers, she supports technical assistance and evaluation activities, serving as the Evaluation Coordinator for NCII. She also directs a state pilot program evaluation project. Dr. Kuchle holds B.A.s in Spanish and Psychology from the University of Kentucky, and earned her M.Ed. and Ph.D. in School Psychology from the University of Cincinnati. Her training emphasized applied behavior analysis, Response to Intervention, data-based team problem solving, and systems change and reform. For her dissertation and internship, she focused on culturally responsive practices and services for English language learners. Prior to joining AIR, she worked as a school psychologist in Ohio public schools.
Stephanie Jackson, Ph.D.,managing research analyst at AIR, directs policy, technical assistance, and evaluation projects for federal, state, and local policymakers. Dr. Jackson has more than 30 years of experience in a variety of educational environments, including general and special education settings, magnet schools, charter schools, and higher education. Dr. Jackson is co-project director of the Task Ordering Contract for the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). In this role she has assisted OSEP with communicating evidence-based research to practice to support students with disabilities in schools across the country. Dr. Jackson was the project director for the National Center on Response to Intervention from 2010 - 2012, which helped states build their capacity to support districts in implementing RTI and has been the quality assurance reviewer for NCII resources since its inception. Currently, Dr. Jackson serves as a principal investigator and senior advisor for the NCSI, a federally-funded technical assistance center, which supports states in building their capacity to transform state systems to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.
Jill Pentimonti, Ph.D.,Senior Researcher at AIR, currently serves as the Coordinator for Knowledge Development for the NCII. In this role, she manages and oversees activities related to developing and synthesizing knowledge on intensive interventions. This includes managing procedures related to the submission of interventions from vendors, expert review of interventions, and communication of review results to consumers. Dr. Pentimonti also serves as a Content Area Lead for the dissemination of evidence based practices under the NCSI and as a Principal Investigator on a measurement grant from Institutes for Education Sciences (IES). Prior to AIR, Dr. Pentimonti worked as a research scientist at The Ohio State University, where she was a Co-Investigator on a large scale randomized control trial examining the impacts associated with implementing an early literacy program in early childhood special education classrooms. She also has experience working as an early childhood teacher at a center for hearing impaired children. Dr. Pentimonti earned a doctorate in Reading and Literacy in Early and Middle Childhood from The Ohio State University.
Amy Peterson, M.A., Researcher at AIR, is the Coordinator for Communication and Collaboration for NCII. In this role she oversees web activity, mass communications, and collaboration efforts with other technical assistance centers and organizations. Ms. Peterson also provides technical assistance and communication support for the NCSI and the Center on Response to Intervention at AIR. Prior to AIR, Ms. Peterson worked at the National Association for the Education of Young Children in the Office of Applied Research. Ms. Peterson graduated from St. Lawrence University with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Education Studies and received her M.A. in Education Policy from The George Washington University.
Sarah V. Arden, Ph.D., Researcher at AIR. At AIR, Sarah works with NCII as the Intensive Technical Assistance task lead, on the NCSI as a Content Expert and Technical Assistance Facilitator, and is the Implementation Coordinator for a US Department of Education Investing in Innovation and Improvement grant studying implementation of intensive intervention in mathematics in urban elementary schools. Previously, Sarah was a project coordinator at the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at the University of Texas at Austin. Arden taught elementary special education for 6 years, worked as a consultant for the California Department of Education, and served as adjunct faculty at California State University, Fresno. Her research interests are in building and sustaining organization systems to support academic outcomes for students in need of intensive intervention, leadership in special education, and the conditions in which multi-tiered systems of support can be successfully implemented within middle and secondary school settings. She earned her Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Texas at Austin.
Tessie Rose Bailey, Ph.D., Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR, serves as Task Leader for Product Development for NCII. In addition to her work with NCII, she provides technical assistance to state and local education agencies and institutions of higher education through the CEEDAR Center and the NCSI. Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Bailey was a university professor and classroom special education teacher. She publishes and presents on special education law and policy, assessment, response to intervention, secondary transition services, and scaling up evidence based practices. She completed her PhD at the University of Utah in special education curriculum and assessment and post-doctoral work in RTI and transition at Lehigh University’s Center for Promoting Research to Practice.
Robin Bzura, Research Associate at the American Institutes for Research, supports the technical review process and helps to generate and design content for the tools charts. She primarily assists with knowledge development, such as creating content for the intervention and progress monitoring tools charts, analyzing how the Center reports ratings and results, and supporting the continuous improvement of the NCII website. Ms. Bzura received her B.S. in Psychology from Northeastern University and is currently pursuing an M. Ed degree.
Julia Casasanto-Ferro, M. Ed., Researcher at AIR, is the Task Lead for the Tools Chart component of the Knowledge Development on the Center. She oversees the Technical Review Committees’ review processes, which includes the identification, vetting, and dissemination of commercially available academic and behavioral interventions programs, progress monitoring tools, and screening tools, and result in the Intervention, Progress Monitoring, and Screening Tools Charts. Ms. Casasanto-Ferro has been involved in this work for the last nine years through the NCII, the National Center on Response to Intervention (2007-2012) and the Student Progress Monitoring Center (2007). Her research interests include academic and non-academic multi-tiered systems of support, universal design for learning, qualitative analysis methodology, and information presentation. Ms. Casasanto-Ferro earned her M.Ed. in Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation at Boston College.
Nick Croninger is a Research Assistant at the American Institutes for Research, where he provides support for the National Center on Intensive Interventions and the National Center for Systemic Improvement. For NCII, Mr. Croninger supports the development and dissemination of webinars and Ask the Expert videos, and also assists the evaluation and technical assistance teams. He earned his B.A. in Political Science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a focus in political theory and a minor in Philosophy.
Hannah Jenuwine, Research Assistant at the American Institutes for Research, provides support for the National Center on Intensive Interventions. She supports knowledge development activities, primarily the Tools Chart. Ms. Jenuwine received her B.A. in Social Relations and Policy from Michigan State University.
Crystala Lewis, Administrative Specialist, provides fiscal support and other supportive services for NCII. In addition to the support to the NCII, Mrs. Lewis also provides fiscal and other supportive services for the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Mrs. Lewis has previously provided fiscal and other supportive services for the National Center on Response to Intervention. She also served as the Project Manager for the Reading First Monitoring project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education in which she was responsible for budget oversight, quality control, staff supervision, contractual deliverables, and timeline management for all Reading First Monitoring site visits. Mrs. Lewis previously served as a Project Manager for the Enhanced Reading Opportunities (ERO) study, under IES, and for various projects for OSEP. Mrs. Lewis also provides comprehensive support services for other AIR projects; these services include coordinating logistics (registration, travel and reimbursements), planning training sessions, and managing documents.
Teri A. Marx, Ph.D., Researcher at the AIR, is the Task Lead overseeing technical assistance for Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) through NCII. Her responsibilities include providing training and support to IHEs about how to embed intensive intervention into coursework and/or professional development. Dr. Marx previously served as the Technical Assistance Liaison to Rhode Island where she supported districts and schools with implementing intensive intervention. Dr. Marx holds a B.A. in English Literature from North Central College, a M.S.W. in school social work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Prior to joining AIR, she worked as a school social worker in the state of Illinois, and supported with her schools’ implementation of multi-tiered systems of support.
Jennifer D. Pierce, Ph.D., Senior Technical Assistance Provider/Researcher at AIR, is the Technical Working Group Task Lead for the Knowledge Development service team. At AIR, Jennifer collaborates with New York State and New York City schools on the effective implementation of response to intervention. She also supports several states and districts in system change efforts as a part of as a Technical Assistance Facilitator for NCSI. Previously, Jennifer worked for over fifteen years as a teacher, coach, building level administrator, and district administrator in Washington state and served as adjunct faculty and researcher at the University of Washington. Her research interests center on Implementation Science, including the frameworks and factors associated with sustained use of educational innovations. Pierce also has expertise in designing and implementing professional development systems, particularly coaching models that lead to improved teacher practice and student outcomes. She earned her Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Melodee Walker, PhD., Researcher at the AIR, is the Formative Evaluation Task Lead for NCII. She also supports the instructional coaching team and module development as part of the NCII partnership with the University of Connecticut. Prior to AIR, she worked at the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk where she contributed to large-scale randomized controlled trial research teams implementing multicomponent reading interventions and conducting and managing program evaluation. Dr. Walker also has 11 years of experience as a special education teacher and reading specialist in both public and private school settings and has coauthored several publications on topics including reading, observation studies, response to intervention, and supporting ELs with reading difficulties. Dr. Walker earned a doctorate in Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin, with a concentration in learning disabilities and behavior disorders, a master’s degree in Learning Disabilities from Calvin College, and a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a Reading Endorsement from the University of Northern Iowa.
Matt Weingarten is a Research Assistant at AIR where he provides support for the communication, evaluation and technical assistance efforts for NCII and the NCSI. Matt studied Psychology and Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, with focuses in Social Cognition research and Abnormal Psychology.