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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

Heather Aiken

Heather Aiken, PhD, NBCT, serves as the intervention director for Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI; formerly called Targeted Reading Intervention) at FPG. Before beginning this role, she worked for three years as a TRI literacy coach while earning her doctorate in teacher education and curriculum at UNC-Chapel Hill. Teaching has always been central in her life, starting with earning a B.A. in history and elementary education from The College of William and Mary. After graduation, she served in the Peace Corps as a language arts resource teacher in Grenada and went on to teach for more than 17 years. Find out more about Aiken and her work at FPG.

Iheoma Iruka

Iheoma U. Iruka, PhD, (pronounced EE-OMAH EE-ROO-KAH), is a faculty fellow and the founding director of the Equity Research Action Coalition at FPG (the Coalition) and a Research Professor in the Department of Public Policy. She is leading projects and initiatives focused on ensuring that minoritized children and children from low-income households, especially Black children, are thriving. Her work is focused on ensuring excellence for young diverse learners, especially Black children and their families, through the intersection of anti-bias, anti-racist, culturally grounded research, program, and policy. To learn more about Iruka's work, visit the ERAC website.

Nissa Towe-Goodman

Nissa Towe-Goodman, PhD, is a research scientist at FPG. Her research examines the interplay between the early family environment and the development of regulatory skills, and the implications of regulatory deficits for children's adaptation and mental health. This work has focused on the ways in which parenting and family violence influence early emotional, physiological, and behavioral self-regulation, how children's regulatory deficits may influence family functioning, and methodological approaches to assess regulation and parenting in at-risk contexts. Keep reading to learn more about her work at FPG.

Featured Projects

Meck Pre-K Program Evaluation

This project intends to conduct an independent, unbiased evaluation of the MECK Pre-K program that will be longitudinal in scope, tracking cohorts of MECK Pre-K students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools through 5th grade. Given the longitudinal nature of the evaluation and the need to track multiple cohorts, it is expected that this project will span 10 years. The focus of that evaluation will cover three key areas: program characteristics; program implementation and quality; and student outcomes.

Learn more about the Meck Pre-K Program Evaluation.


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.

More about our work