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Research & Evaluation Division

Members of FPG’s Research and Evaluation Division 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 members of the division 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, members of the division 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 Projects


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. The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of TRI on young English learners’ reading achievement. Specifically, this project aims to replicate how the TRI can improve teacher knowledge in both the foundation and the pedagogy of the teaching of reading, and, more importantly, to understand whether the TRI can improve student reading outcomes for young English learners.

Learn more about TRI.


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.

Learn more about Project EXPRESS.

Featured People

Margaret Swingler

Margaret Swingler, PhD, is a research scientist at FPG. She is the UNC PI of the FLP-ECHO project. Her research examines the psychophysiological and neurodevelopmental underpinnings of early socio-emotional and cognitive development, with a specific focus on attention, executive function, and regulation. In her work, Swingler examines the role of the child's early environment on these processes, including important factors in the environment like the parent-child relationship, early caregiving experiences, and early life stress. In a second line of work, Swingler examines maternal factors that predict variation in caregiving behavior and abilities, and potential implications for child psychophysiological and neurodevelopmental functioning in development.

Ximena Franco-Jenkins

Ximena Franco-Jenkins, PhD, is an advanced research scientist at FPG. She has more than 15 years of experience in clinical and life-span developmental psychology and applied research. Most of this research experience has been with ethnically diverse children and families within clinic, school, and community settings. She is especially interested in the study of socio-emotional development of preschool-aged dual language learners (DLLs). Her work integrates children's educational and family environments and is aimed at developing culturally robust assessment and intervention strategies for early care and education teachers working with DLLs.

Research & Evaluation Leadership

ann sam; woman with long brown hair wearing blue shirt stands outside in front of trees
Ann Sam

Ann Sam, PhD, is an advanced research scientist at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. Her research and professional development interests are rooted in her direct experience as a public-school teacher working in preschool and kindergarten classrooms with students with autism. The primary goal of her work is to increase awareness and use of evidence-based interventions and resources designed to improve outcomes for students with autism. At the heart of her work is ensuring this access extends to professionals in underserved communities—those with fewer resources available for extensive in-person training and support.