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Research & Evaluation

At FPG, we are committed to conducting research and evaluation studies that improve children’s lives, support families, and inform public policy. Through rigorous study design, data collection and analysis, and dissemination, we seek to identify factors that shape development from infancy to adolescence and to develop and test the effectiveness of interventions, public policies, and public programs. Many of our investigators focus on research, development of interventions, and evaluation of programs in early childhood and elementary education, especially programs for children from low-income families and children with disabilities. In addition, they conduct research on child development within children’s environmental contexts, including families, schools, and communities. Projects focus on developmental outcomes related to racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity in support of social justice and racial equity.

Featured People

Ximena Franco Jenkins

Ximena Franco-Jenkins, PhD, is a senior research scientist at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG), co-director of FPG's National Implementation Research Network (NIRN), and the early childhood portfolio lead at NIRN. She has more than 17 years of experience in applied research, primarily with ethnically diverse children and families, dual language learners, and multilingual learners within school and community settings. Her work integrates children's socio-emotional development and educational and family environments and aims to develop culturally robust assessments and support the implementation of evidence-based practices.

laura kuhn

Laura Kuhn, PhD, is an advanced research scientist at FPG. As a member of the Data Management and Analysis Core (DMAC), she provides statistical support on a wide range of child development and intervention studies. Her skills range from the design of randomized control trials (RCTs) and cluster RCTs, longitudinal analyses, and measurement validation to hierarchical linear modeling, structural equation modeling, factor analysis, latent class analysis, and propensity score matching (among others). Kuhn has also led work on early language and executive function in preschoolers and she was recently part of a team awarded an Institute of Education Sciences grant to build a comprehensive model of classroom quality that incorporates children’s individual experiences.

Featured Projects


Funded with a grant of nearly $700K from the U.S. Department of Education, a team from FPG recently launched Project EXPRESS: EXamining interventions to PRomote Executive function and Social Skills. Jessica Steinbrenner is the principal investigator on this five-year study evaluating two treatment programs working with adolescents on the autism spectrum. The two interventions―Program for Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS), which addresses social skills, and Unstuck and On Target (UOT), which targets executive function skills—are being implemented by middle school staff in schools in North Carolina and the San Diego area of California.

Racism and Resilience Among Black Autistic Children and Caregivers

Persistent, and quite pervasive, racial disparities have been found between Black, autistic children and their white, autistic peers. These disparities range from notable inequities in the timeliness of diagnosis to receipt of substandard services to their under-representation in research studies. While key disparities have been documented, there is a need for increased attention on potential underlying drivers of these disparities that are rooted in the Black experience. We know from existing research on Black health and wellness that racism is linked to some poorer physical and mental health outcomes. This project will examine the impact of racism and resulting racial trauma on the mental health outcomes of Black parents of autistic children (ages 3 -9) as well as the downstream consequences that parental racial trauma has on child behavior and development.


Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI)

Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI) is designed to help teachers in kindergarten and first grade use a diagnostic reading instruction approach to implement individualized reading instruction for children in their classrooms who are struggling with learning how to read. This replication study seeks to demonstrate the effectiveness of Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI, formerly called Targeted Reading Intervention) in helping grade 1 struggling readers make substantial gains in reading during one school year. It extends prior TRI studies by conducting an independent external evaluation of the TRI, testing long-term impacts for struggling readers into grade 3, and examining teachers' sustained impacts for three years.


Featured Resource

COVID-19 Resources

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenging time for everyone, especially for children and families who found themselves navigating shifts and disruptions in the trusted routines, services, and schedules they typically rely on. During the pandemic, our researchers, implementation and technical assistance specialists, faculty fellows, students, and staff actively responded to the needs of families, educators, and other professionals by developing and offering evidence-based, user-friendly resources and information.

More about our work