We are dedicated to improving outcomes for all children with disabilities through our work with the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring. Our staff is located at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, DC and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.
Dr. Maurice McInerney is a nationally recognized expert in special education policy, translating research into practice, and using technology to improve results for children with disabilities and their families. Dr. McInerney is knowledgeable about how to scale up scientifically based practices to improve results for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. He is also experienced in synthesizing research, developing practical products, and communicating those products to targeted audiences of IDEA stakeholders in states and localities across the country.
For the Student Progress Monitoring Center, Dr. McInerney oversees day-to-day operations, conceptualizes future project activities, and implements planned activities. Dr. McInerney provides leadership for the implementation support and evaluation core service areas.
Dr. Nancy Safer has over 30 years of experience in special education with expertise in program development and policy research and analysis related to services for children and youth with disabilities. She is the former executive director of the Council for Exceptional Children where she provided, for almost ten years, strategic and operational leadership in the management and coordination of the organization of more than 50,000 special educators, related professionals, and families.
Dr. Safer is also the former director of the Division of Educational Services at the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs in which she was responsible for the Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities Program and the Preschool Formula Grants Program, and eight discretionary grants programs.
For the Student Progress Monitoring Center, Dr. Safer oversees day-to-day operations, implements planned activities, and conceptualizes future project activities. She also oversees areas related to knowledge and awareness and information dissemination.
Dr. Lynn Fuchs - Professor in the Department of Special Education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University
Dr. Lynn Fuchs has over 20 years experience working with students with special needs. She is a nationally recognized expert conducting research on classroom-based assessment and instructional methods to enhance outcomes for students with disabilities. She is the co-director of the Vanderbilt Reading Clinic, which provides intensive reading instruction to students with severe reading disabilities and designs sophisticated evaluation methods to track and account for student growth. She was the co-editor of The Journal of Special Education for 15 years and currently serves on the boards of ten journals. In l998, Dr. Fuchs was the co-recipient of the Mayor's Award: Educator of the Year (Nashville, TN) and won the Palmer O. Johnson Memorial Award for the best article in an American Educational Research Association journal. She was also the recipient of the Samuel Kirk award for Best Practice Article in Learning Disabilities Research and Practice (2000), of the School Psychology Review Best Article of the Year award (2001), and of the Career Research Award from the Council for Exceptional Children.
Dr. Doug Fuchs has been principal investigator of 35 research grants and cooperative agreements, most of which have come from the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education. This research has focused on the development of effective and practical pre-referral interventions, peer-assisted learning strategies in reading and math, curriculum-based measurement procedures, and methods of reintegrating students with high-incidence disabilities into mainstream settings. He is the author or co-author of more than 200 articles in peer-review journals, and has won "best paper" awards for several of these publications, including the American Educational Research Association's Palmer O. Johnson Award, the American Psychological Association's Fellows' Award (Division 16), the Samuel A. Kirk Award (Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children), and "Best Paper of the Year" Award (National Association of School Psychologists). In 2001, he was named Joe B. Wyatt Distinguished University Professor by Vanderbilt University . In 2003, with Lynn Fuchs, he was awarded the Council for Exceptional Children's Career Research Award.
Muna Shami joined AIR in 1999. She serves as the Deputy Project Director for the National Center for Student Progress Monitoring, where she supports the Center’s Principal Investigators in implementing project activities to meet the Center’s goals. Muna also serves as the Evaluation Task Leader for the Access Center: Improving Outcomes for All Students K-8. In addition to her work on the centers, she is a Task Leader for the implementation of the Task Order Contract to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) where she supports policy makers in collecting, analyzing, and reporting on the IDEA-Part D National Programs.
Her previous work experience includes working on two technical assistance centers: the Elementary and Middle Schools Technical Assistance Center (EMSTAC) and the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, where she provides technical assistance to Safe Schools, Healthy Students grantees. Before joining AIR, Muna worked as a Research Assistant with the Social and Emotional Child Development Research Lab and the Early Childhood Self-Regulation, Motivation, and Language Research Lab at George Mason University. She was also a counselor at Northern Virginia Community College.
Muna is currently enrolled in the doctoral program in Education Studies at American University. She holds masters degrees in Psychological Services from Marymount University and Developmental Psychology from George Mason University and a B.A. from George Mason University in Psychology.
Jacki Bootel works on the Student Progress Monitoring Center as a Communications Specialist. Her responsibilities include overseeing the development of new practitioner-focused documents for the Center, as well as the day-to-day management of the Center’s website. Jacki also heads the team that puts together the Center's monthly newsletter, The Progress Monitor. In addition, she provides technical assistance to the field as necessary.
In addition to the Student Progress Monitoring Center, Jacki works on The Access Center, a national technical assistance (TA) center funded to improve educational outcomes for elementary and middle school students with disabilities. Jacki leads the marketing and outreach activities for this project, including writing and disseminating the Center's monthly newsletter.
Before joining AIR in 2004, Jacki was employed at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). During her 11 years at CEC, Jacki provided technical assistance to CEC’s 67+ volunteer Children and Youth Action Network (CAN) Coordinators throughout the country, helping them to establish and maintain their CAN networks. She wrote a weekly Policy update about important legislation, regulations, or policies that affect the special education field, and developed and conducted advocacy training for CEC members, providing them with on-line and printed tools to become more effective advocates.
Dr. Rebecca Holland Coviello has been with AIR since September, 2005. Her responsibilities at the Center include planning and coordinating the annual Summer Institute and providing technical assistance at the state, local, and district levels. In addition to her work at the Student Progress Monitoring Center, Rebecca contributes to the Regional Educational Laboratory- Southwest, managing data collection for a randomized controlled trial of a reading comprehension intervention for 5th grade ELL students.
Rebecca has several years of research experience relating to children’s literacy and language development. She has worked closely with school districts and Head Start programs to develop, implement, and evaluate preschool curricula geared toward promoting optimal language, literacy, and social-emotional development. She worked on an evaluation of curricula designed to boost reading abilities of 9th-graders who read below grade level. She has also worked on a nationwide study of pre-service teachers’ preparation to teach reading in the primary grades.
Rebecca has a Ph.D. and M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from Penn State, and a B.S. in Child and Family Development from the University of Central Missouri.
Dr. Allison Gruner Gandhi, Senior Research Analyst, joined AIR in 1995. She currently serves as the Coordinator for Technical Review Committee activities under the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring, in which she manages and oversees procedures related to the submission of tools from vendors, expert review of tools, and communication of review results to consumers. Dr. Gandhi also serves as the Coordinator for Technical Review Committee activities under the National Center on Response to Intervention, and as a Task Leader for the Communications and Dissemination Task Order Contract to the OSEP, under which she supports policymakers in collecting, analyzing, and reporting on data related to IDEA-Part D National Programs.
In addition, Dr. Gandhi is conducting data collection and analysis for the Special Education Component of the Audit of the Written, Taught, and Tested Curriculum for New York State, in which she is working collaboratively with districts that are under corrective action with the state due to failure to make AYP, in order to develop action plans for improvement. Dr. Gandhi has worked as Task Leader or Project Manager on a variety of research and evaluation projects for a variety of clients, including the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, the National Center for Education Statistics, and the Center for Mental Health Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Prior to her current position at AIR, Dr. Gandhi spent five years as an independent consultant, providing research and evaluation services to local school districts, including the New York City public school system, the District of Columbia public schools, the Ithaca, New York public schools, and several large urban districts in Massachusetts.
Dr. Gandhi’s expertise is in K-12 special education policy, with an emphasis on inclusion. Other areas of expertise include urban education, education reform, assessment, and the transfer of educational research into practice. She is highly skilled in a broad range of research methods, with particular expertise in quantitative methods, and experimental and quasi-experimental research design. Dr. Gandhi has a Masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a doctorate in Education from Harvard University.
Christian Villenas assists the Center in various evaluation activities including survey and research design, and data collection. He is currently a doctoral candidate and AIR Predoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at The Johns Hopkins University where his research interests include special education, the social context of disability, and statistical methodology. Prior to joining AIR, Christian was employed at the Community Development Research Center in New York City where he engaged in research on community development corporations and national workforce development initiatives. Christian also holds an M.S. in Urban Policy from the New School for Social Research and a B.A. from New York University.
Sarah Short joined AIR in 2005. She lends administrative and organizational support to the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring. She assists with information dissemination activities and helps provide technical assistance to the field. In addition to her work on this center, she also supports The Access Center: Improving Outcomes for All Students K-8, a national technical assistance (TA) center funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs. Sarah has B.A.s in English and Sociology from Franklin & Marshall College.
Adam Battle joined AIR in 2008. He lends organizational support to the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring. In addition to his work with this center, he also assists with the Center for Early Literacy Learning and the National Center on Response to Intervention. Adam has a B.S. in Economics from Central Michigan University.
Dr. Ingrid Oxaal is the Associate Division Director of the Research to Practice Division’s (RTP) Elementary and Middle School Team (EMST). The EMST project officers manage a variety of technical assistance, professional development, model demonstration and research projects which strive to improve educational opportunities for children. Dr. Oxaal’s projects focus on literacy-related research and technical assistance. Prior to joining the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in 1997, Dr. Oxaal had been a general education teacher, a special education teacher and an elementary school principal. She also had directed the Peace Corps education program in Botswana where she developed and implemented pre-service and in-serve professional development programs for volunteer teachers. Dr. Oxaal graduated with a B.A. in Elementary Education from the George Washington University, earned her master’s degree in Learning Disabilities from the University of Northern Colorado and her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Utah.