I am an associate professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and was previously an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine. I am a 2008 National Academy of Education, Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, and a graduate of the University of Virginia (UVa), College of Arts and Sciences and Curry School of Education. At UVa, I was a history major, focused on race relations in the American South, completed an oral history of school desegregation in Prince Edward County, Virginia, and earned a master's degree in teaching. I began my career in education as an American history teacher and chair of the history and civics department in an ethnically diverse middle school. As a former history teacher, I learned the importance of identifying effective instructional practices and literacy interventions that enabled my students to succeed in school. Experiments are valuable tools for understanding what works to improve student literacy outcomes.
My professional goal is to improve policy and practice by conducting randomized experiments of literacy interventions that have a solid grounding in research and theory. In my experimental work, I use a range of tools to understand the mechanisms that promote literacy achievement. These tools include observations of teacher instruction in classrooms, home-based observations and interviews with parents, and surveys. I am particularly interested in capitalizing on the strengths of multiple methods to understand how and why interventions work.
Three principles of collaboration underpin my program of experimental research:
1. Collaborations with interdisciplinary teams of scholars, including psychologists, linguists, statisticians, sociologists, and economists, can promote the use of diverse methods that show whether and how literacy interventions work in real-world settings, including school classrooms, after-school programs, and children’s homes.
2. Collaborations with school and district leaders can build political and administrative support for multiple, large-scale randomized experiments of literacy interventions that work at scale and are cost-effective. Toward this end, I am currently directing an i3 project involving collaborations with district superintendents, literacy directors, and school principals in seven North Carolina public school districts. I have also conducted experiments in collaborations with school districts in metropolitan Boston, southern California, and northern Virginia.
3. Collaborations with intermediary organizations can foster a long-term commitment to replicating and extending findings from experiments that inspire the confidence of policymakers and practitioners. To pursue collaborations with intermediary organizations, I have conducted experiments in partnership with the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP); the National Writing Project (NWP) and the Center for Educational Partnerships (CFEP) at the University of California, Irvine; and Communities in Schools of North Carolina (CIS).