In more than 30 years with SRI International’s Center for Education and Human Services, principal scientist Mary Wagner, Ph.D., has focused her work in two areas: longitudinal studies of children and youth with disabilities and experimental evaluations of interventions.
Wagner has provided leadership in the design and conduct of four of the only five national longitudinal studies of children and youth with disabilities that have ever been conducted in the United States: the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS, 1985–1993), the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2, 2001–10), the National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study (NEILS, 1996–2007), and the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS, 2000–2007). These large-scale, nationally representative multi-method studies have provided a rich picture of the characteristics, functioning, school and extracurricular experiences, and outcomes in multiple domains of children and youth with disabilities across the age range. Study findings have helped shape special education policy and practice, including multiple reauthorizations of IDEA. With funding from a portfolio of federal secondary analysis grants, Wagner currently is using NLTS2 and SEELS data to identify school factors related to more positive student outcomes.
Wagner’s extensive experience with evaluations of interventions using experimental designs began with randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of the Parents as Teachers (PAT) home visiting program, which assessed the impact of PAT in multiple sites in three states (a U.S. Department of Education- and foundation-funded partnership) as well as its effects on two high-interest subpopulations, Latina and teen mothers (funded by the David and Lucille Packard and Stewart Foundations). SRI assessed how PAT affected parents’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors and children’s development.
Currently, Wagner is principal investigator of the Department of Education-funded Model Demonstration Coordination Center. Her team is examining factors associated with more effective implementation and sustainment of a variety of model demonstration projects in multiple domains, including, for example, early childhood language development, tertiary-level interventions for children with serious emotional/behavior problems at school, and response-to-intervention strategies for teaching writing to struggling ninth-graders.
Previously, Wagner was principal investigator of the National Behavior Research Coordination Center, which worked closely with four university-based behavior research centers in coordinating their RCTs of interventions for students with severe behavior problems in first through third grades. She also is co-principal investigator of the national RCT being done under scale-up conditions to assess the academic and behavioral effects of First Step to Success on elementary school children who exhibit behavior problems at school.