Center on RTI Team
Center on RTI staff bring extensive experience and expertise in supporting the implementation and evaluation of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS)/response to intervention (RTI) at the elementary, middle and secondary levels through projects at the national, state and local level. Click on the links below to read more about the specific expertise of staff members.
Sarah V. Arden, Ph.D., is a senior researcher at AIR. In this role, Dr. Arden leads the intensive technical assistance efforts of the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) to support states in their implementation of systems to support intensive intervention, and as a content expert and technical assistance liaison for the National Center on Systemic Improvement (NCSI). Dr. Arden also serves as implementation coordinator for an Investing in Innovation and Improvement development research grant (i3) investigating district-wide implementation of tiered systems in mathematics with a focus on intensive interventions for students with disabilities and other at-risk learners. In her previous roles at AIR, Dr. Arden acted as project director for multiple small scale projects supporting schools and district implementation of RTI/MTSS and as a cross-state learning collaborative lead. Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Arden was an Office of Special Education Fellowship Scholar at the University of Texas at Austin where she was employed by the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk. There she served in a variety of research roles conducting large scale randomized control trials investigating increased academic outcomes and the efficacy of RTI/MTSS and tiered interventions for students with learning disabilities. Dr. Arden previously worked at the California Department of Education as an educational diagnostician, as an elementary resource specialist in K-6th grade in the Clovis Unified School District in Central California, and as an adjunct professor in the Kremen School of Education at California State University, Fresno. Arden earned a doctorate in Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin; with an emphasis on learning disabilities and behavior disorders. She has a master’s degree in Special Education from California State University, Fresno, and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
Lauren Artzi, Ph.D., is a senior researcher at AIR with expertise in dual language learners in preschool, second-language education, literacy instruction for students with disabilities, and MTSS. Dr. Artzi directs a preschool and early elementary early literacy initiative project in the state of Delaware focused on supporting educators with language and literacy instruction within MTSS. Artzi provides technical assistance on effective instruction within MTSS with the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center and the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI). With the NCSI, Dr. Artzi co-leads the Language and Literacy Cross-State Learning Collaborative with more than 25 state and entity members, guiding topics on language and literacy within MTSS. Artzi is also currently leading a technical work group for the National Center on Intensive Intervention focused on assessment and instruction for English learners in intensive intervention. Prior to her position at AIR, Artzi was a research associate at the Center for Applied Linguistics where she provided professional development to states, schools, and districts on best instructional practices for English learners and young dual language learners and managed research projects investigating critical components of literacy instruction. Artzi completed her doctorate in curriculum and instruction at the University of Maryland, with research focused on effective vocabulary practices and promoting oral language proficiency in young learners.
Tessie Rose Bailey, Ph.D., is a senior technical assistance consultant at AIR. Her primary responsibilities include developing high quality technical assistance resources and providing technical assistance to support implementation RTI/MTSS at the state, district, school, and university level. She currently provides RTI/MTSS support through several national centers: Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center, National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI), College and Career Readiness and Success Center (CCRS), and National Center on Intensive Interventions (NCII). Prior to her current work, she coordinated several MTSS/RTI state and district grants/contracts, including facilitation of a statewide MTSS Community of Practice, evaluating the efficacy of MTSS implementation, developing model demonstration sites in progress monitoring, supporting RTI implementation in rural schools, implementation of published assessment and data systems (i.e., AIMSweb, DIBELS, fastbridge), and scaling up RTI/MTSS. She has provided direct MTSS/RTI support and professional development to teachers and leaders in 43 states. Dr. Bailey has published and presented on problem solving and teaming, screening and progress monitoring, RTI for specific learning disability eligibility, tiered interventions in high schools, and MTSS/RTI essential components. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Utah in special education and post-doctoral work in RTI/MTSS at Lehigh University’s Center for Promoting Research to Practice.
Linda Brissenden is an experienced school improvement specialist who currently works directly with administrators, teams and teachers in Illinois school districts to enhance data-based decision making to determine, deliver, evaluate, and improve needs-based MTSS services to students. Through the Illinois Center for School Improvement at AIR and in conjunction with the emphases put forth by the Illinois State Board of Education through IL-Empower’s ESSA plan, Brissenden works to assist districts identify students for tiered instruction using multiple data points, develop protocols and customized forms for systemwide use and set up systems to monitor progress using evidence-based interventions. Brissenden has worked with districts’ MTSS and Leadership Teams to develop MTSS Guidebooks that provide rationales and definitions, document procedures, outline services available district-wide, utilize common language, and provide embedded professional development through job aides for MTSS team members, classroom teachers, tiered group instructors and building administrators. Having previously served as the Chair of the Gifted Advisory Council for the Illinois State Board of Education, she is a proponent of MTSS for all students, including those who excel and need additional and different support to thrive. Brissenden co-authored a Federal School Climate multi-year grant which was one of three awarded in Illinois. Much of that grant focused on providing interventions, including PBIS strategies, and programming for classroom teachers to use when working with students whose learning was impacted by adverse social and/or emotional experiences, trauma and/or homelessness.
Virginia Buysse, Ph.D., is a principal researcher in early childhood at the AIR. She currently serves as Principal Investigator on a project funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) evaluating TeacherRead—a targeted shared book reading program—in the New York City Pre-K for All Program. She also co-directs two research studies funded through the AIR Fund infant-toddler initiative. One study is a randomized control trial evaluating a language-based Early MTSS intervention supported by the IHI Breakthrough Collaborative approach in home visiting programs in Pennsylvania. The other is an randomized control trial to evaluate a parenting intervention focused on increasing early math learning in toddlers (two- and three-year-olds) living in a high-need community in Silicon Valley. She also serves as a senior content expert on birth-to-three programs for the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI). Previously, she served as Co-PI on several national early childhood centers, including the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion (NPDCI), the Center to Mobilize Knowledge on Early Childhood (CONNECT; both funded by OSEP), and the Center for Early Care and Education Research – Dual Language Learners (CECER-DLL) funded by the Office for Planning, Research, and Evaluation, US HHS. She served on the National Research Council’s Committee on Early Childhood Care and Education Workforce. She is past president of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) where she led the development of the DEC/NAEYC joint position statement on inclusion published in 2009. She has authored four books on relevant early childhood topics including evidence-based practice, consultation and coaching, program quality, and the handbook of MTSS and RTI in early childhood. She has published over 90 peer-reviewed journal articles on early childhood education and early intervention. She received a doctorate in Early Education and Early Intervention from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Linda Cavazos, Ph.D., is a senior technical assistance consultant at AIR. Dr. Cavazos conducts research and provides professional development and coaching for districts and states in the areas of MTSS/RTI, special education, and school turnaround. She has experience directing RTI/MTSS research projects, acting as a RTI Literacy Coach and RTI master reading teacher, and providing professional development. Currently, Dr. Cavazos is the project director of an OSEP funded Model Demonstration Project for MTSS for English Learners (3rd-5th) with reading-related disabilities. Prior to joining AIR, she served as research project coordinator of a similar project focused on kindergarten through third grade. Dr. Cavazos has extensive experience using RTI/MTSS with English learners and culturally and linguistically diverse learners with and without exceptionalities. She has focused on preparing teachers to effectively provide academic interventions to students who struggle to learn and culturally and linguistically diverse students. Dr. Cavazos is fluently bilingual in English and Spanish and serves as an adjunct professor at Concordia University Austin where she teaches graduate courses in Special Education in the Differentiated Instruction and the Advanced Literacy programs. Dr. Cavazos holds a Ph.D. in Multicultural Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin.
Gail Chan, Ph.D., a senior researcher at AIR has over 20 years of experience working in psychology and special education across school, recreational, residential and academic settings. Dr. Chan’s currently acts as the Technical Assistance Coordinator for the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) and oversees the Center’s targeted and intensive technical assistance efforts. Dr. Chan also serves as a Good Behavior Game (GBG) Trainer and Project Director, where she contributes substantively to product development and the training and support with districts and states in the U.S. and internationally. Part of her role on GBG projects includes helping locales develop capacity to implement and sustain GBG. Dr. Chan has also recently completed work as a task lead on an Institute of Education Sciences (IES)–funded impact evaluation of training in multi-tiered systems of support in behavior (MTSS-B). Prior to joining AIR, she worked for Oxford Brookes University as the Project Manager for a feasibility study involving GBG. As Project Manager, Dr. Chan oversaw the day to day operations and led or co-led recruitment efforts, training and delivery of coaching support, data collection and analysis, technical assistance and evaluation and dissemination activities. She has also worked as a Behavioral Consultant for families with children with special educational needs and as an Assistant Director of Education for children with a diagnosis of Autism in Ireland. She has completed a diploma in Business Management and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the doctorate level (BCBA-D). Dr. Chan holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
Ramona Chauvin, Ph.D., is a senior technical assistance consultant for AIR with many years of experience working in public and private school settings in urban, suburban, rural, and hybrid communities. She has dedicated her life to the field of education in a variety of roles: Teacher, adult educator, department chair, coach, graduate assistant and later instructor for field-based reading/ELA methods courses, higher education literacy instructor for non-traditional students in a satellite K-8 teacher-education program, lead writer for a federally funded project with a state department around the "Big Five" from the National Reading Panel Report, consultant with a 12-school district consortium, mentor for doctoral students with an online university, and lesson plan developer for a Pre-K-3 blended leadership program. Dr. Chauvin has extensive experience providing personalized support and technical assistance, as needed, at state, regional, district, and school levels. Her work focuses on increasing student growth and closing achievement gaps through ongoing support that includes coordination, collaboration, and two-way communication as part of multi-tiered systems of support. Dr. Chauvin is currently serving as a TA liaison with the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) project, which focuses on providing state-requested TA based on a continuous improvement model with emphasis on disadvantaged children living in poverty and children with disabilities; using evidence-based practices and differentiated interventions and multi-tiered systems of support to improve literacy student achievement from birth through grade 12. Additionally, as part of the New Mexico K-3 Reads to Lead state-wide initiative, Dr. Chauvin provided personalized TA using multi-tiered systems of support with more than 10 schools using a coaching model, hands-on and engaging demonstration lessons, and school-site requested professional development. Dr. Chauvin worked as a Reading First regional coordinator for the Louisiana State Department of Education and the program director of Western Washington University’s K–8 Teacher Education Program in Everett, Washington. She has a K-12 reading specialist certificate and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction/teacher development from the University of New Orleans.
Nicol Christie, M.Ed., is a Technical Assistant Consultant with 20 years of experience serving children and families from diverse backgrounds and with special needs as an educator, trainer and administrator. Ms. Christie specializes in creating and delivering professional development to schools and districts implementing MTSS/RTI. She has experience working with state, regional and local audiences in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Wisconsin, Oregon and D.C. Ms. Christie coordinated on-site RTI coaching for 30 low-performing District of Columbia Public Schools. These projects required close engagement and collaboration with central office leadership to ensure successful implementation of MTSS/RTI. As a project lead with the Midwest Comprehensive Center and Regional Educational Laboratories Midwest, Ms. Christie manages the development of resource and product development that translate research into evidenced-based practice. Ms. Christie began her career in education as a middle school ELA and science teacher and has a Master’s in Curriculum, Instruction and Technology from Temple University. Prior to joining AIR, Ms. Christie served as Director of Supplemental Educational Services for four years, providing individualized and targeted academic support to special education students in public and charter schools.
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, CEEDAR Center, and National Center for Systemic Improvement, 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.
Taletha Derrington, Ph.D., is a senior researcher at AIR. She provides expertise in research, professional development, technical assistance, and content for projects related to early childhood education, care, health, and welfare. Through the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI), Dr. Derrington supports states in transforming their early intervention and early childhood special education systems to improve outcomes for young children with disabilities and their families and as part of work with the New York State Education Department she provides professional development on RTI/MTSS and formative assessment. Working to connect research, policy, and practice to improve outcomes, Dr. Derrington has extensive experience in child and family assessment systems, data-based decision making to guide services for individual children and families, identifying and selecting evidence-based practices for different tiers of supports, evaluating programs and systems for continuous improvement, and policy development and evaluation. Previously, Dr. Derrington was an Early Childhood Researcher at SRI International and a Senior Program Manager at Boston University School of Public Health. She earned a Ph.D. in Social Policy with a concentration on Child and Family Policy from Brandeis University, an M.A. in Developmental Psychology with a Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies on Culture and Disabilities from the University of Hawai`i, and a B.S. in Biology from the California Institute of Technology.
Rebecca Zumeta Edmonds, Ph.D., is a principal researcher AIR where she serves as the Co-Director of the National Center on Intensive Intervention, and as Project Director for an Investing in Innovation and Improvement (i3) Development Grant focused on intensive intervention in mathematics. She previously coordinated technical assistance for the Center on Response to Intervention at AIR and the Knowledge Utilization service area of the National Center on Systemic Improvement. 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.
Doug Fireside is a senior technical assistant at AIR. During his time at AIR Mr. Fireside has focused on educator evaluation and quality. He has worked closely with multiple states and districts to review, revise and refine their educator evaluation systems. Mr. Fireside has also provided onsite and virtual coaching support for teachers in grades k – 8 and designed and presented professional learning workshops focused on assessment literacy, using data to close student achievement gaps, using student data as part of a multiple measure evaluation system, as well as other topics related to educator effectiveness. Before coming to AIR he worked for 20 years in the Baltimore City Public School System where he was a classroom teacher focusing on the middle grades (6 – 8) and taught science, math and English, an academic coach and a school based administrator. He was a founding team member for Transformation School in the city and served as the Director of Instruction. Fireside also worked with the Hawaii Department of Education as they moved their teacher evaluation model to a multiple measures system. He provided technical support as well as in-person training to state, complex area and school based staff on all aspects of the new evaluation system. Mr. Fireside earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from the University of North Carolina – Greensboro and earned his Masters of Science in Education from Johns Hopkins University by completing a dual certificate in educational technology leadership and supervision and administration. He currently holds a Maryland teaching license with a reading and special education endorsement as well as his administrator I and II certificate.
Abigail Foley, M. Ed., is a researcher at AIR with more than seven years of experience in special education as an educator and researcher. In her present position, Foley provides technical assistance to states, universities, and school districts in the areas of MTSS/RTI and educator preparation and reform. Foley currently serves as a technical assistance specialists for the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center. In this role, she is charged with helping states and educator preparation programs align policy and program reform efforts to ensure that all educators are prepared to teach a diverse range of learners within a MTSS framework. She also assists in the development and dissemination of products, including briefs and course enhancement modules, that support reform efforts by providing research on MTSS, high-leverage practices, and practice based learning opportunities. In addition, Foley is the project coordinator for the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII), where she oversees the budget, manages subcontracts, and organizes collaborative efforts between project staff and external advisors. Foley also designs and delivers professional development for the Arkansas RTI State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG). Prior to AIR, Foley worked as an elementary special education teacher in the District of Columbia and taught both literacy and mathematics. 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.
Allison Gandhi, Ed.D., managing researcher and director of the special education practice area at AIR, is an experienced project manager and researcher with extensive knowledge of special education policy and practice, especially around the implementation of tiered systems of support. For the past 10 years, Gandhi has led the knowledge development work for the OSEP-funded NCRTI and NCII. In this role, she regularly convenes and facilitates meetings with national experts to develop and refine evidence standards for evaluating the technical rigor of screening tools, academic and behavioral progress monitoring tools, and academic and behavioral interventions. Gandhi has also led research activities for both centers to gather and report on data on the implementation of RTI and she led the development of conceptual papers that incorporate the perspectives of a diverse range of advisors. Currently, Gandhi serves as a quality reviewer for an Investing in Innovation grant evaluating the impact of intensive intervention in math. She also recently served as the PI on an evaluation of Massachusetts’ State Personnel Development grant, in which the state is implementing large-scale professional development to model sites implementing the Massachusetts Tiered System of Supports, and PD on an IES grant examining the validity of test accommodations for students with word-reading disabilities or at risk of and receiving intervention for reading difficulty. Gandhi has presented and published extensively on topics related to the implementation of MTSS. She received her master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and a doctoral degree in education policy from Harvard University.
Lindsey Hayes, M.Ed., senior researcher at AIR, provides technical assistance for projects related to special education, educator evaluation, and educator preparation. Hayes works with the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center as the intensive technical assistance lead to coordinate activities that promote aligned teacher and leader preparation and development policies in 20 states. Hayes also works with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders as the content lead for special education to guide states in the creation of aligned professional learning systems for educators of students with disabilities. Hayes serves as a trainer and coach for AIR’s Center on Response to Intervention (RTI) where she has developed and delivered professional development sessions for schools, districts, and states on topics including implementation of MTSS, differentiated instruction, universal design for learning, co-teaching models, and mentoring and induction. Hayes previously worked as a special education coordinator for Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy. She has special education teaching experience in two public charter high schools, both in the District of Columbia. Hayes earned her M.Ed. in special education from George Mason University.
Lynn Holdheide, Ed.M., is the director for the Center on Great Teacher and Leaders and a managing technical assistance consultant for AIR with more than ten years of experience in providing responsive technical assistance of the highest quality to SEAs, Educator Preparation Programs and regional comprehensive centers. She also serves as the Director of Strategy and Operations to the Collaborating for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR Center) supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs and led by the University of Florida. Holdheide has spearheaded efforts to address the pressing challenges in evaluating teachers of students with special needs and served as a reviewer of the U.S. Department of Education’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver applications in 2012 and the Every Student Succeed Act state plans in 2017. Holdheide is a veteran in providing technical assistance through in-depth, face-to-face collaboration, as well as through online platforms and the development of customized resources that are directly responsive to state needs. With experience as a special education teacher and project coordinator and education consultant for nine years at the Indiana Department of Education, Division of Exceptional Learners, Holdheide is sensitive to the needs of teachers of students with disabilities and has a deep understanding of evidence-based practices for students with disabilities and the challenges that educators face in ensuring closing the achievement gap for students with disabilities. She is also well-positioned to advance coherence and alignment in instructional expectations across general and special education so that all teachers are prepared to support the learning of students with disabilities. Holdheide holds an undergraduate degree in special education from the Ohio State University and a master’s degree from Eastern Illinois University.
Dia Jackson, Ed.D., is a senior researcher at AIR where she provides leadership on technical assistance, research and professional development projects. Currently, Dr. Jackson is the project director for the Arkansas RTI State Professional Development Grant, the Hawai’i Comprehensive Framework Project and is Director of Professional Development and Coaching for the Delaware Early Literacy in MTSS Project. From 2014 – 2017 she led professional development and technical assistance for the New York State Education Department RTI Professional Development project, providing support to 54 elementary schools in New York City. Additionally, Dr. Jackson has provided professional development and technical assistance in RTI/MTSS in Vermont and U.S. Virgin Islands where she coached and trained state and district leaders in implementing RTI/MTSS. She has authored a number of publications on effective implementation of RTI/MTSS. Dr. Jackson serves as quality assurance reviewer for work around equity and inclusion for the Center on Great Teacher and Leaders as well as on the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform Center (CEEDAR). In her roles on CEEDAR she has coauthored policy briefs, policy framing documents and most notably co-authored CEC and CEEDAR’s High-Leverage Practices for Special Educators. Dr. Jackson is a veteran special educator. Prior to joining AIR, she taught in both inclusive and self-contained special education settings for students with disabilities for over nine years and has taught graduate level special education courses at universities in the Washington, DC area. She earned a B.A. in psychology from The University of Virginia in 2005 and a Master of Teaching degree in special education also from The University of Virginia. In 2015, she earned a Doctorate in Education in applied neuroscience in special education from The George Washington University.
Stephanie Jackson, Ph.D., is a managing research analyst at AIR where she directs policy, technical assistance, and evaluation projects for federal and state 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. She has been recognized for her educational leadership in schools and her practical and realistic perspective to foster the learning of all students, including students with disabilities. From 2010-2012, Dr. Jackson served as the project director for the National Center on Response to Intervention, a federally-funded technical assistance center, which helped states build their capacity to support districts in implementing RTI. This work, which has continued under the Response to Intervention Center at AIR, supports many districts across the country with implementing RTI with fidelity. In addition Dr. Jackson has served as a senior advisor on a number of state projects that focus on implementing multi-tiered systems of support in districts and schools. These include the New York State RTI Professional Development Project (NYC Region), Arkansas RTI project, and the Delaware Early Literacy RTI project. Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Jackson worked as a general education and special education teacher, a special education administrator, an elementary school principal, and associate director of a research institute in a large, urban university.
Elaine McNulty Knight, M.Ed., is a senior technical assistance consultant at AIR where she provides technical assistance to states through the Collaboration for Effective Educators Development, Accountability and Reform Center. She also served as an RTI consultant and trainer under the USVI RTI project for the St Croix School District where she facilitates the implementation of RTI and builds capacity across the district to increase the academic achievement for all students in reading and math. An emphasis of the project was to develop the leadership capacity of the team and to raise awareness of evidenced based practices. Prior to joining AIR, Ms. McNulty-Knight worked at the New Hampshire Department of Education as the RTI Consultant and Coach as well as a literacy consultant to schools and districts throughout the state. In this role she led the development and implementation of a 5 year strategic plan, supported the creation of 6 pilot sites to model the framework, developed a series of resources to guide districts and schools in the successful implementation of the RTI /MTSS framework, and coordinated with other efforts including the School Wide Integration for Transformation project in NH. Prior to her work with the NHDOE, Ms. McNulty Knight has 35 years of experience in public schools as a teacher, learning and assessment specialist and district administrator. As a district Director of Special Education for K-12, she lead her school district in the implementation of RTI/MTSS across all grades K-8 expanding services and improving outcomes for all students.
Laura Berry Kuchle, Ph.D., is a senior researcher at the AIR where she is currently working with the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII), the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR Center), and the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI). She also directs a state pilot program evaluation project. For NCII, she serves as the Evaluation Coordinator. She previously provided technical assistance four districts learning to implement intensive intervention and helped develop or revise training materials related to progress monitoring, diagnostic assessment, and intensive intervention design and delivery. For the CEEDAR Center, she is the AIR formative evaluation task leader and the intensive TA State Facilitator for New Hampshire. She also has contributed to product development, including a course enhancement module on behavior supports across three tiers of MTSS. For NCSI, she provides technical assistance related to using high-quality data for planning and evaluating State Systemic Improvement Plans. She 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.
Judith Littman, M.Ed., is a senior analyst at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), holds a master’s degree in education from the Johns Hopkins University with a specialty in reading. She has extensive experience in the area of research-to-practice, including 31 years as a classroom teacher and reading specialist. Since joining AIR in 2005, she has worked as a site coordinator for the Professional Development Impact Study, a national project designed to test innovative models of professional development for reading instruction in the second grade, served as a site lead for AIR’s Reading First and Early Reading First Monitoring Projects, participated in a randomized field trial of the Good Behavior Game Professional Development, a research-based behavior management strategy designed to enhance learning in early elementary school classrooms. Littman also served as a technical assistance provider and managed the subcontract budget on the Collaborating for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR Center), a national technical assistance center dedicated to supporting states in their efforts to develop teachers and leaders who can successfully prepare students with disabilities to achieve college and career ready standards. In addition, she provides product development, technical assistance and professional development in the areas of special education and Response to Intervention (RTI) on the Arkansas RTI Professional Development project.
Teri Marx, Ph.D., is a senior researcher at AIR. Dr. Marx provides technical assistance and professional development to states and school districts under the National Center on Intensive Intervention. Additionally, Dr. Marx serves as the Project Director on the Rhode Island Intensive Math Intervention Project. On each of these projects, Dr. Marx provides expertise and guidance surrounding implementation of MTSS. Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Marx was a dean’s scholar in engaged research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. At UNLV she also taught courses in Special Education, including legal aspects – a course that focused on eligibility determination through a Response to Intervention model, developing individualized education programs, and specially-designed instruction. Prior to her experiences in higher education, Dr. Marx worked as a school social worker in the state of Illinois. In this role, she served students with and without disabilities in PreK – 12th grade settings, and was a member of the multidisciplinary team responsible for determining eligibility and providing individualized services for students with disabilities. Dr. Marx also supported the implementing of a school-wide MTSS framework, leading problem-solving teams at the Tier 2 and Tier 3 levels, and developing and implementing behavioral interventions for students with the most severe needs. Dr. Marx earned a doctorate in Special Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; with an emphasis on access to general education, inclusion, and behavioral interventions for students with intellectual disabilities and emotional disturbance. She also has a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from North Central College, and an associate’s degree from the College of DuPage.
Gena Nelson, Ph.D., researcher at AIR, develops resources and provides technical assistance to support the implementation of RTI at the state, district, and school level. She currently contributes math content expertise and product development for state and district projects aimed at improving outcomes for students with disabilities who receive intensive supports. She is also the implementation coordinator for an Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) algebra model demonstration grant. Prior to her current work, she taught high school math and special education for 2 years and served as project coordinator for a grant designed to develop math screening and progress monitoring tools. She has professional experience developing interventions and providing training and coaching to staff related to assessment-use and instructional practices. Her research interests include longitudinal outcomes for students with math learning difficulties and disabilities, intervention, and data-use practices in schools. She earned her M.A. in School Psychology and her Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Minnesota.
Jill M. Pentimonti, Ph.D., is a principal researcher, at AIR. Dr. Pentimonti serves as the Coordinator for Knowledge Development for the National Center on Intensive Intervention where she manages and oversees activities related to developing and synthesizing knowledge on intensive interventions. Dr. Pentimonti also serves as Principal Investigator on two grants from the Institutes for Education Sciences (IES); a psychometric evaluation of a preschool classroom observation tool and an efficacy evaluation study of a targeted shared book reading program in preschool classrooms. She also leads a $1.5 million internally-funded grant to support and evaluate the scale-up of Pennsylvania’s Early Multi-tiered Systems of Support in infant-toddler programs throughout the state. She previously served as Project Lead for the Delaware Early Literacy Initiative, which provided support to districts in Delaware in implementation of evidence-based literacy practices within MTSS through professional development and coaching. She also served as a consultant to the Delaware RTI Coalition providing research, content development expertise, and identification of process tools and next steps in the area of RTI. Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Pentimonti was a Research Scientist at The Ohio State University (OSU) in the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy where she worked as 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 served as Co-Investigator on a longitudinal study of 1,200 children focused on reading comprehension development. Additionally, Dr. Pentimonti has taught university coursework at OSU for both pre- and in-service teachers in graduate education programs. Prior to her experience at AIR and at OSU, Dr. Pentimonti worked as a Kindergarten teacher in the Chicago Public School system and a Pre-Kindergarten teacher in Washington D.C. at an early childhood center for hearing impaired children. Dr. Pentimonti earned a doctorate in Reading and Literacy in Early and Middle Childhood from The Ohio State University. She also has a master’s degree in Reading Education from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree in Education from Northwestern University, and a bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Notre Dame.
Amy Peterson, M.A., is a senior researcher at AIR with more than eleven years of experience conducting public policy and education research, communications, training, and technical assistance across a range of topics including MTSS, intensive intervention, selecting and implementing evidence-based practices, implementation fidelity, stakeholder engagement and collaboration, continuous improvement and data-based decision making. Currently, Peterson oversees website development and maintenance, mass communications, product development, and stakeholder engagement for the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) and Center on Response to Intervention at AIR. In addition, she provides technical assistance and co-leads a cross state learning collaborative that brings state leaders and teams together focused on improving language and literacy outcomes through a lens of continuous improvement for the National Center of Systemic Improvement (NCSI). Peterson has supported a number of state and local level MTSS efforts including directing a project with the Vermont Agency of Education focused on supporting local education agencies and schools refining their MTSS framework and data collection processes to support specific learning disability identification. Prior to joining AIR in 2010, Ms. Peterson was a research intern at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Ms. Peterson graduated from St. Lawrence University with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Education and received her M.A. in Education Policy from The George Washington University.
Kathleen L. Pfannenstiel, Ph.D., is a senior researcher at AIR where she provides technical assistance and professional development to states and school districts with an emphasis on improving results for students with disabilities. Dr. Pfannenstiel is the principle investigator for an Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) model demonstration grant where she works with middle school general and special educators to increase the use of evidence-based practices in mathematics to increase outcomes for students in special education, as well as those at-risk for mathematics disability. In addition, she currently serves as the mathematics content specialist and lead of the mathematics cross-state learning collaborative for the National Center on Systemic Improvement (NCSI). As part of this role Dr. Pfannenstiel provides technical assistance to three states; focusing on strengthening core mathematics instruction within MTSS. In addition, she serves as a mathematics specialist for an Investing in Innovation and Improvement development grant to support the implementation of intensive interventions in mathematics for students with disabilities. In this role, she provides training in mathematics within MTSS to increase educator skills in both Tier 2 and 3 mathematics instruction. Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Pfannenstiel was an educational specialist in special education at the Region 13 Educational Service Center in Austin, TX and a project coordinator for three grants at the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk. The three grants created and tested curriculum to improve the outcomes of Tier 2 and 3 students identified as at-risk for mathematics difficulties within a MTSS framework in elementary and middle school levels. At the university level, she has taught undergraduate and graduate classes in special education as an adjunct faculty member and currently serves as a lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to her work at the university level, Dr. Pfannenstiel taught in public schools in Illinois and Texas at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Dr. Pfannenstiel earned a doctorate in Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin; with an emphasis on learning disabilities and behavior disorders. She also has a master’s degree in Education Psychology from University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree in Special Education high incidence disabilities from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb.
Jennifer D. Pierce, Ph.D., is a researcher and senior technical assistant consultant for AIR with thirteen years of prior experience working in public and private school settings as a teacher, coach, building leader, and district-level leader and four years of experience working in higher education as a research assistant and instructor. Her areas of interest center on supporting the implementation of evidence-based interventions by teachers and schools, including professional development and coaching models to reduce the research-to-practice gap; Implementation Science, including frameworks across fields and factors associated with sustained use of evidence-based interventions; and, the application of MTSS across general and special education, including RTI and PBIS. Jennifer also has a background in literacy instruction for struggling learners. At AIR, Jennifer leads several teams on the National Center for Systemic Improvement and the National Center for Intensive Intervention. Pierce also served as the Project Director for the New York State Education Department Personnel Professional Development project. She earned her Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Washington, Seattle.
Jenna Richard is a technical assistance consultant at AIR who provides support to school districts in the areas of intensive intervention for mathematics and MTSS through the Rhode Island Intensive Math Intervention Project. Ms. Richards brings her knowledge and experience with data based individualization process, teaming structures, progress monitoring tools specific to math content, and evidence based math interventions in the elementary and secondary settings to the development of content, coaching, and training to support improving outcomes for at risk students and students with disabilities who receive intensive supports and to facilitate team meetings. Prior to joining AIR, Ms. Richard worked as a Middle School Math Educator and Interventionist for Coventry Public Schools in Rhode Island. While working as an Interventionist she, along with colleagues on a target team, built a math intervention system using the MTSS framework in a secondary setting. In this role, she worked extensively to improve the data based decision making systems in place. She also provided support to classroom teachers with the use and implementation of evidence based resources in the area of mathematics. This work was supported by the RI MTSS team and National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII). She earned a dual B.A. in Elementary Education with a Middle School Endorsement and Mathematics from the University of Rhode Island. Ms. Richard most recently received her Certificate of Graduate Studies from Rhode Island College in the area of Math Specialists and has hopes to apply this towards a Master’s Program in the coming year.
Kristin Ruedel, Ph.D., a principal researcher at AIR, currently directs streams of work focused on enhancing educational opportunities for students with disabilities. Dr. Ruedel focuses her technical assistance and research on best practice in developing a data-driven culture to inform state/district program improvement efforts, applying the principles of implementation science to guide continuous improvement, using MTSS and appropriate evidence-based practices with fidelity, and the integrating digital technology to transform and enhance the teaching and learning experience. Currently, she serves as the deputy director on the Center for Technology and Disability and as the Data Use Service Area lead on the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI), both funded by the Office of Special Education Programs. In her role on NCSI, she leads Center efforts to support states in collecting, managing, using, interpreting and reporting data associated with implementation of their state systemic improvement plan and achievement of their student outcome goals. Primary responsibilities include leading teams and directing streams of work to develop high quality technology assistance resources and supports to build SEA and LEA capacity to implement MTSS and evidence-based practices, develop effective data management systems, and conduct appropriate analyses of program improvements. Dr. Ruedel also serves as the Senior Advisor on a 2 year innovative research study that is exploring the efficacy of MTSS for infants and toddlers through studying the impact using a language-based intervention within a MTSS framework in home visiting programs. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Ruedel has worked in a variety of roles, including serving as a technical assistance provider to states and districts, as a teacher, teacher trainer, and project evaluator, and as a researcher applying quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Dr. Ruedel has worked in both domestic and international program and policy development, implementation, and evaluation with the aim of improving learning opportunities and policies to support students with disabilities. Dr. Ruedel earned her doctoral degree in special education policy with a concentration in using large-scale data sets from the University of Maryland.
Stacia J. Rush, Ph.D., joined the American Institutes for Research in Washington, DC as a Research Analyst in 2005. Dr. Rush has served as a technical assistance liaison for multiple federally funded centers including the Access Center, the National High School Center, National Center on Student Progress Monitoring, and National Center on Response to Intervention. In these roles she provided support to states around differentiation of instruction, RTI/MTSS, progress monitoring, and more. She also supported a number of audits and evaluations including as the Deputy Director of the New York Special Education Curriculum Audit project, acting as Director of the individual school audits task, coordinator of the North Rockland Central School District Curriculum Audit; and Site Visit Coordinator for the Quality Review of Special Education Service Delivery in District of Columbia Public Schools and Charter Schools. She also provided training and technical assistance to elementary and secondary schools as they scale up implementation of differentiated instruction as part of the Say Yes to Education project in Syracuse, NY. Dr. Rush is currently a Technical Assistance Liaison on The Collaborating for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform Center (CEEDAR), and a Technical Assistance Liaison on the Great Lakes Regional Comprehensive Center serving as project lead in Indiana, where she led the Indiana Department of Education's state-wide RtI/MTSS initiative. Before joining AIR, Dr. Rush was the Associate Director of the Diagnostic Teaching Clinic in the College of Education at North Carolina State University. The Clinic, through a multidisciplinary team approach, conducts psychoeducational evaluations for children and adults with learning and behavioral difficulties, and assists in the implementation of educational programs for its clients. Prior to her work at the Clinic, Dr. Rush served as a Diagnostic Prescriptive Specialist, an Exceptional Education Lead Teacher, and an Exceptional Education Consultant in North Carolina, and as a cross categorical Exceptional Education Teacher in Louisiana. Dr. Rush received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from North Carolina State University, her Master’s Degree in Learning Disabilities from Louisiana State University, and her Bachelor’s Degree in Behavior Disturbances from Auburn University.
Jenny Scala, M.A. is a senior researcher at AIR. Scala is the project manager of AIR’s early warning system efforts and participates in multiple projects using her expertise in using data to inform instructional decision-making across the nation. Scala has led projects focused on dropout prevention in rural states and districts as well as urban districts. She has served as a researcher on multiple Regional Education Laboratories, including West and the Northeast and the Islands leading early warning systems work including indicator validation, development of an early warning system tool, and implementation of early warning systems. Scala has served as a Technical Assistance Liaison for the National High School Center (NHSC) as well as a Technical Assistance Provider for the National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRTI). In these roles, she has provided trainings and professional development opportunities to a number of state, district, and school leadership teams in a number of states. In addition, Scala has been providing technical assistance to educators for over 15 years. Her technical assistance experience to states, districts, schools, and other technical assistance providers includes supporting state education agency staff to create new strategies for supporting underperforming districts and schools; assisting states, districts and schools to support implementation of RTI in secondary schools; aiding states to address high school improvement; and creating statewide frameworks focused on improving adolescent literacy outcomes. She has also worked with districts to provide volunteers training aligned to district curriculum; and has provided social/emotional programs to both middle and high school students. Mrs. Scala holds a B.S. in Learning and Organizational Change from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Kathleen Theodore, M.A., is a senior technical assistance consultant at AIR where she leads the Early Childhood Community of Practice for the five states that comprise the Southeast Comprehensive Center. Additionally, Theodore has extensive experience and expertise implementing MTSS with a particular focus on state and school-wide reading models, providing technical assistance and support to states, school districts and schools in Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, and New Mexico. She assists states in designing professional development modules and providing professional development on research-based literacy instruction and data-based individualization. Theodore serves as a TA liaison for the federally funded Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) grant program, supporting several states with improving birth through grade 12 literacy outcomes within tiered systems of support. Previously, Theodore worked for the Louisiana Department of Education’s Region I Education Service Center, where she coordinated and conducted comprehensive regional and statewide Reading First professional development to support district Reading First coordinators, school administrators, reading coaches, and teachers in implementing effective literacy instruction and intervention within the state's three-tiered model of support. Theodore has 24 years of previous work in the New Orleans Public Schools serving in various roles, such as classroom teacher, staff developer, and district reading facilitator, amassing a wealth of knowledge in designing and implementing literacy instruction and interventions to meet the needs of all learners, especially struggling readers and students with learning disabilities. Theodore holds an M.A. in curriculum and instruction from Xavier University of New Orleans and a B.A. in Learning Disabilities and Elementary Education from Dillard University of New Orleans. She is currently completing her dissertation at the University of New Orleans in educational leadership.
Zach Weingarten, Ed.D., is a researcher at AIR where he provides technical assistance to states, districts, and schools in the areas of RTI/MTSS and intensive intervention for students with disabilities and struggling learners. He currently leads formative evaluation activities for the Delaware Early Literacy Initiative, a state-wide project aimed at improving the implementation of evidence based literacy practices within a MTSS framework. His work for this project focuses on assessing the implementation of evidence based literacy practices and MTSS at the school level. In addition, he supports formative evaluation and develops technical assistance resources and products for the National Center on Intensive Intervention. Weingarten also provides evaluation support for an Investing in Innovation and Improvement development research grant (i3) investigating district-wide implementation of tiered systems in mathematics with a focus on intensive intervention. Prior to joining AIR, he was an elementary school special education teacher in Arlington, Virginia, where he taught in both self-contained and resource classrooms. Weingarten holds a doctoral degree in special education from The George Washington University.
Haidee Williams, Ph.D., a senior technical assistance consultant at AIR. Dr. Williams has over 35 years of experience in school improvement which also includes, MTSS, rural education policy and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Over half of those years she has been working within or providing technical assistance and professional learning to educational organizations, to increase coherence and the capacity of educational systems of support to improve teaching and learning for all students. This includes use of research based universal screening for all students, multiple tiers of instruction and support services, and an integrated data collection and assessment system to inform decisions at each tier of instruction. Some selected examples of her work have addressed improvement science, networked improvement community’s, rural teacher recruitment and retention, standards-based instruction, STEM curriculum development and refinement, strategies for English learners, STEM education, and processes to improve support teaching and learning. Presently, Dr. Williams serves as a Regional Education Laboratory Southwest (REL SW) partnership facilitator lead for the REL SW Networked Improvement Community, the rural TA consultant for the Texas Comprehensive Center and Great Lakes Comprehensive Center. She is also a partner lead for the 100Kin10 to integrate improvement science principles and strategies in their partners programs. Dr. Williams areas of expertise centers on MTSS, rural education policy and practice, improvement science, and STEM equity and resources.
1The Center on RTI at AIR was the National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRTI) from 2007-2012.