Evaluation and Research Team

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Welcome to the Evaluation and Research Team

About the Evaluation and Research Team

The Evaluation and Research Team is a multi-disciplinary unit dedicated to improving the lives of children and families through evaluation and research partnerships with both local and national nonprofit organizations.

We utilize a mixed-methods, partnership-based approach throughout data collection, interpretation, and reporting. Our team is committed to supporting our research and evaluation partners through ongoing communication and collaboration.

The Evaluation and Research Team members have backgrounds in research and practice related to early childhood, K-12 education, and social work. Your project will be guided by an Evaluation and Research Manager who has a Ph.D. in a related field and extensive experience working with community and research organizations.

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We Value:

  • Listening to family and community voices
  • Understanding and reducing disparities, inequities, and opportunity gaps
  • Being research-based and innovative
  • Letting community needs drive our agenda
  • Bringing respect for families and communities, and rigorous research together
  • Taking an ecological approach across contexts and the lifespan
  • A commitment to community capacity-building

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Who We Are

Photo of Caitlin Spear, a woman with brown hair and glasses wearing a pink shirt.Caitlin Forbes Spear, PhD, Interim Director of Evaluation and Research, Director of Literacy and Learning. Caitlin received her doctorate in special education from the University of Oregon, followed by a post-doctoral research appointment at the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy at the Ohio State University. Caitlin’s research and practice interests focus on early childhood and early elementary learning, around the topics of special education, positive racial and disability identity, and language and literacy development.  She brings a strong set of analytic, data and project management skills to her research and evaluation work, including a diverse methodological background across single-case, qualitative, and quantitative methodologies. A former special education teacher, Caitlin also has significant education content-expertise, including a focus on early childhood special education, educator training and professional development, culturally relevant pedagogy, and measuring complex classroom processes.


Photo of Amanda Cross, a woman with light brown hair, black rimmed glasses, a blue sweater, and a wavy-patterned green, tan, and gray scarf. In the background are snow-covered trees.Amanda Brown Cross, PhD, Evaluation and Research Manager. Amanda received a doctorate in Criminology from the University of Maryland. Her research interests and experience are in school-and community-based prevention and intervention and in experimental methods and program evaluation. She has been particularly involved in work with high-risk youth. Amanda has extensive experience working closely with community-based youth- and family-serving agencies in the Pittsburgh region. She has published peer-reviewed research on both qualitative and quantitative analysis of community- and school-based programs.


Photo of Jenn Briggs, a smiling woman with long light brown hair, wearing a dark blue shirt with horizontal white stripes.Jennifer Briggs, PhD, Evaluation and Research Manager, Developmental Researcher in OCD's Literacy and Learning Division. Jenn received her doctorate in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh before beginning her role as a research and evaluation manager with the Evaluation & Research Team. Jenn’s research and practice interests focus on early childhood learning and development around the topics of social justice and equity, particularly as they relate to teacher training and practice. She brings a strong background in mixed-methodological research, with a particular focus on qualitative methods and translating research into practice. As a former special education coach and practitioner, Head Start advocate, teacher educator, and parent, Jenn brings multiple perspectives to inform her research and practice.


Headshot of Abby Chen, a woman with light brown hair and blue eyes.Abby Chen, MAT, Evaluation and Research Coordinator. Abby earned her master’s in teaching from Chatham University and is a certified PreK-12 teacher who has taught students of all ages in school, outdoor, and online programs, with a focus on math, science, and the environment. She supports ERT's research and community programs with her technical skills in editing, project coordination, and data collection.


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Contact ERT

Abby Chen
ERT Coordinator

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Learn More About the Evaluation and Research Team

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