Nonie K. Lesaux is the Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Professor of Education and Society. Her research focuses on promoting the language and literacy skills of today's children from diverse linguistic, cultural and economic backgrounds, and is conducted largely in urban and semi-urban cities and school districts. Lesaux's work has earned her the William T. Grant Scholars Award, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor given by the United States government to young professionals beginning their independent research careers. She has served on the U.S. Department of Education's Reading First Advisory Committee, and the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council's Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8. In addition to her faculty appointment at HGSE, Lesaux currently serves as the chair of the Massachusetts' Board of Early Education and Care. Lesaux's developmental and experimental research on school-age children and youth investigates language, reading, and social-emotional development; classroom quality and academic growth; and strategies for accelerating language and reading comprehension. Her research on our youngest children, with colleague Stephanie Jones, focuses on the challenge of simultaneously expanding and improving the quality of early childhood education, at scale (The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education, Harvard Education Press, 2016). Lesaux's research appears in numerous scholarly publications, and its practical applications are featured in three books: Teaching Advanced Literacy Skills (Guilford Press, 2016), Cultivating Knowledge, Building Language: Literacy Instruction for English Learners in Elementary School (Heinemann, 2015), and Making Assessment Matter: Using Test Results to Differentiate Reading Instruction (Guilford, 2011). She is also the author of a widely circulated state literacy report, Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success, that forms the basis for a Third Grade Reading Proficiency bill passed in Massachusetts.
Click here to see a full list of Nonie Lesaux's courses.
Sources of Reading Comprehension Difficulty for English Language William F. Milton Fund (2006-2007) and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2006-2007)
Scholars Award, William T. Grant Foundation,(2007)
National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship,(2005)
Finalist, International Reading Association Outstanding Dissertation Competition,(2004)
Doctoral Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada,(2001)
Doctoral Training Award, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Population Health Division,(2001)
Joseph Katz Memorial Scholarship, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia,(2001)
Marg Csapo Scholarship, British Columbia Teacher's Federation,(2001)
Wilda Adams Memorial Scholarship, University of British Columbia,(2000)
Doreen Kronick Scholarship, Learning Disabilities Association of Canada,(1999)
MDRC is conducting the ExCEL P-3: Promoting Sustained Growth from Preschool to Third Grade Study which will study how instruction across K1, K2, and early elementary school grades can strength childrens cognitive and social emotional skills. Professors Catherine Snow and Lesaux will be responsible for:
Conceptualizing how to analyze the data collected about opportunities to learn within Boston Public Schools and community based (CB) classrooms to identify and distinguish supports for constrained vs. unconstrained skills (Snow)
Ensuring that the kinds of classroom fidelity and quality data collected are aligned with the goals and specifications of the 1st and 2nd grade curricula being implemented (Lesaux)
Strategizing to ensure that the data are collected and interpreted in ways that take into account the developmental trajectories of Dual Language Learners as well as native English speakers (Snow and Lesaux)
Participating in the writing of reports and manuscripts based on the findings (Snow and Lesaux)
Contribute expertise, review and provide feedback on the development of fidelity observation protocols and measures (Lesaux and Snow)
Participating in planning and carrying out data collection focused on child assessments (Snow and Lesaux)
The research team will work in collaboration with Boston Public Schools to identify policies, classroom-level factors, and school experiences that are associated with children's school success during pre-k and early elementary school grades. The researchers will collect qualitative and quantitative data to address three issues:
1) How students' cumulative experiences within and across settings affect their development over time
2) How students' characteristics and skills interact dynamically with the settings in which they find themselves
3) How these interactions shape children's experiences and developmental trajectories.
The researchers theorize that sustaining pre-k gains, optimizing learning in K3 (regardless of pre-k experiences), and acquiring excellent academic, cognitive, and social-emotional skills by the end of third grade will depend on which skills have been targeted and how.
This study is designed to address the social processes of the urban, middle school classroom, in particular,
the adult-youth verbal interactions, and their influence on the literacy development of the enrolled youth. To design models of classroom intervention that prevent literacy difficulties and promote its development in adolescents, we must establish a better understanding of the language-based processes inherent in their daily classroom experience. Audio-recordings, collected during the academic year in 40 sixth-grade classrooms from two sites (Illinois, Massachusetts), will be analyzed for the characteristics of talk among and between teachers and students. The impact on gains in language and literacy will be examined using standardized measures of language and reading administered at the fall and spring of the academic year.
Over the past decade, districts, states and the federal government have invested heavily in education data systems. Those data are a vital national resource, with the potential to illuminate many longstanding debates in education. Yet the data remain vastly underutilized by the education research community. Through the Partnering in Education Research (PIER) fellowship, we will train the next generation of education scholars to collaborate with school agencies to put the data to use. To succeed, they will need more than the quantitative methodological skills taught in graduate programs. We have designed the program to provide the other soft and hard skills they will need to work successfully with school agencies: translating practitioners questions into tractable research questions, understanding when and where randomization and quasi-experimental designs are feasible, negotiating the fine points of a data security agreement, preserving relationships while reporting results with rigor and objectivity.
While on campus, the fellows will work with a community of prominent social scientists from across the Harvard campus (specifically, the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS), and the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)). In addition, the fellows will have access to the unique network of more than 60 school agencies around the country with whom the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard currently works. Each fellow will:
Serve as a research apprentice on education projects for a PIER core faculty member;
Be placed in an agency internship with one of our partner education agencies, during which they will design and execute a research project in collaboration with agency leadership;
Attend an annual Partnership Discovery Event connecting researchers with education leaders to design research projects on particular themes, such as blended learning or teacher evaluation;
Take part in a pro-seminar in education research. The seminar series will include Directors Cut sessions given by leading researchers, in which they will describe how their research project came about and the challenges overcome along the way.
Approximately 28 doctoral students will receive two- or three-year PIER fellowships. Across all cohorts, the PIER fellowship will support 68 fellowship years.
The early childhood years (through age 8) are vital to creating the foundation for later school success. In particular, a childs formal learning opportunities between preschool and third grade have a strong influence on the knowledge and skills critical to their academic trajectory throughout their schooling years. When the intertwined developmental tasks and accomplishments of these early years are compromised by inadequate opportunities to learn in low-performing schools, the negative effects on childrens academic outcomes can be both enormous and persistent. For these reasons, the PreK-3rd model has come into focus in education reform and policy circles (Hernandez, 2011; Kauerz & Coffman, 2013; National Governors Association, 2007). As opposed to focusing exclusively on high-quality preschool education (i.e., an inoculation approach), the PreK-3rd grade model takes a broader, longer range view of childrens development, pointing to the promise of a comprehensive approach to early education reform that crosses traditional boundaries of early learning and K-12 education. Though written about extensively, this approach to closing opportunity gaps and improving student outcomes is not yet widely implemented and has not been implemented or evaluated at scale. Building off of Boston Public Schools (BPS) successful PreK initiative, this project aims to operationalize the
recommended PreK-3rd grade reform strategies and pioneer their implementation at scale, all the while examining this particular case of education reform and its incremental progress towards better meeting young childrens needs.
The proposed project will initiate a strategic collaboration across sectors and disciplines, linking science and policy for a new generation of Pre-K. This effort will focus on convening, cultivating relationships, and communication, ultimately steering public policies and initiatives that significantly improve the quality of early learning environments as well as expand their reach. Specifically, this project has two key elements: (1) a one-day convening (12/12/14) that forges relationships among influential leaders and scholars in the early education field, where they engage in mutual learning and dialogue around the goal of creating actionable knowledge around issues central to advancing early learning for all; and (2) a multi-pronged communication strategy, rooted in the convening and designed to provide guidance to the field, that includes: an edited volume to serve as guidance for the field, especially decision-makers; a series of one-page translational briefs to support strategy and decision-making around PreK; webinars for practitioners; a 3-year plan for a series of follow-on institutes to build and enhance capacity among leaders and practitioners. The primary target audience is deliberately broad, including, for example: state- and federal- policymakers; education leaders; early education center directors; practitioners serving in formal or informal leadership roles; funders and non-profit leaders working in the early education sector; faculty and graduate students. This grant will facilitate both the convening and the communication strategies.
The project initiates a strategic collaboration focused on Pre-K improvement and expansion, linking science and policy for a new generation of early education. This effort focuses on cultivating relationships among Hampden County's early education stakeholders and leaders in the early education field from across the nation. Ultimately, the outcome of this convening includes actionable policy guidance for Hampden County, Massachusetts, and the nation--guidance to inform improvements to the quality of early learning environments as well as to inform expansion efforts. Specifically, this project has two key elements: (1) a one-day convening (12/12/14) that forges relationships among stakeholders in Hampden County's early education field with influential leaders and experts from across the nation, where they engage in mutual learning and dialogue around the goal of strengthening individual and organization capacities to advance early learning for all; and (2) a multi-pronged communication strategy, rooted in the convening and designed to provide guidance around the field's most pressing needs, with a particular focus on strengthening the quality of Pre-K for at-risk children, like many of those growing up Hampden County. Specifically, this multi-pronged communication strategy includes: an edited volume to serve as guidance for the field, especially decision-makers at the local level; a series of one-page translational briefs to support strategy and decision-making around Pre-K; webinars (aligned to the convening's major topics) for practitioners; a 3-year plan for a series of follow-on institutes to build and enhance capacity among leaders and practitioners in early education. Team researchers expect organizations and individuals from across Hampden County to be primary participants in these follow-on institutes. The target audience for this project is deliberately broad, including, for example: state- and federal- policymakers; education leaders (e.g., superintendents, assistant superintendents, etc.); early education center directors; practitioners serving in formal or informal leadership roles (e.g., head teachers, pre-school teachers, department heads); funders and non-profit leaders working in the early education sector; faculty and graduate students. This grant facilitates both elements of the project--the convening and the communication strategy for impact.
Childrens formal learning opportunities between preschool and third grade have a strong influence on the building of knowledge and skills critical to students academic trajectories throughout their schooling years. With the goal of better providing young children with the learning opportunities they require, the PreK-3rd model is a current focus of education reformers and policymakers. This model represents the promise of a comprehensive approach to early education reform that crosses traditional boundaries of early learning and K-12 education. Though written about extensively, this approach to closing opportunity gaps and improving student outcomes is not yet widely implemented, and has not been evaluated at scale.
Building off of Boston Public Schools successful PreK initiative, this project aims to operationalize the recommended PreK-3rd grade reform strategies and pioneer implementation at scale, all the while examining this particular educational reform approach and its incremental progress towards better meeting young childrens needs. The initial phase focuses on 1st grade literacy instruction and includes a multi-step plan. The project begins by: (1) identifying core design principles and structures; (2) creating a content-based and comprehensive literacy program with both teachers and students needs at the fore; and (3) piloting the program in the context of a collaborative professional development system that is curriculum- and data-driven.
Early education and care (EEC) providers play an essential role in facilitating young childrens development. As a result, early childhood quality improvement efforts often include attention to educator competencies such as instruction and relationship quality. Yet, these efforts have placed little emphasis on an essential set of skills EEC providers capacities for social, emotional, and cognitive regulation. These skills, including stress management, coping and emotional regulation, and relationship-building, influence educators instructional and classroom practices and therefore childrens outcomes.
Self-regulatory skills are needed by everyone who works with young children, and early childhood educators have stressful jobs under the best of conditions. But this stress
is magnified in vulnerable communities, because young children living with the adversities of poverty exhibit more behavior problems, on average, than their peers (Evans et al.,2004; Gunnar, 2000). In these same settings, early childhood educators often face significant personal stresses. For example, research has found moderate to high rates of depression among Head Start staff (HHS/ACF/OPRE, 2006) and 61% of full-time early childhood staff earn roughly the equivalent of the poverty level income for a family of four (U.S. GAO, 2012).
It is not surprising, then, that high rates of off-task behavior and cycles of negative interactions among adults and children are common in EEC settings in disadvantaged communities (Raver, 2004). In such circumstances, a negative feedback loop can emerge in which stressed, dysregulated children and chaotic environments strain EEC providers, interrupting their interactions with children and hindering their ability to manage behavior, cope with challenges, and provide high quality instruction. This cycle may help to explain alarmingly high rates of behavior problems and even expulsions among preschoolers and kindergarteners (Gilliam, 2005; Gilliam & Shahar, 2006).
To break this cycle, this project aims to build EEC providers self-regulatory skills, including emotional regulation, stress management, executive functioning, and ability to communicate calmly and warmly with children, in order to support the high quality interactions and skill modeling that support childrens self-regulation.
An intervention in which project staff work with EEC providers at one Boston site to help them understand and work toward strong self-regulation will be developed and implemented. The intervention will include reflective exercises, discussion, case studies, video, and other interactive strategies that have been shown to be effective.
An intervention focused on providers self-regulation could improve the learning environment through a two-fold process: first, by increasing providers' awareness of their own reactions to stressors, and second, by strengthening their abilities to manage their classrooms and develop students own self-regulatory capacities. The expected result is that EEC providers improved self-regulation will affect individual students and also the overall classroom climate, or the dynamic relationships among students, teachers, and peers (Pianta & Hamre, 2009), such that an entire classroom of students could be shifted toward cycles of greater self-regulation.
To build EEC providers self-regulatory capacity, several opportunities within the EEC setting will be harnessed. These include providers deep knowledge from the field, the chance to get ongoing feedback and input from providers, and the chance to develop and test new strategies in real time.
The foundations of lifelong health are established in the earliest years of childrens lives. Because children develop in relational contexts, adults health and well-being are fundamental to childrens. Thus, promoting young childrens healthy development requires focusing resources towards a community-wide commitment to building capacity among adults and institutions, including early education and care settings.
This project is designed to build community capacity to promote young childrens healthy development by building early care and education providers health, well-being, and skills. Targeting vulnerable communities, the project has two primary goals. First, it aims to increase the functioning and sustainability of systems and the adults who work within them, above and beyond providing an array of services. Second, it aims to build knowledge about scaling effective, research-supported practices (rather than programs or curricula) for promoting young childrens healthy development.
The project takes a tiered approach in which a targeted project serves as a learning lab for effecting community change. It: (1) begins with a broad focus on mapping community contexts and how they shape early childhood development, (2) works with an early care and education setting in an identified (vulnerable) community to develop a set of strategies for building educators capacity to serve the target children, and (3) utilizes the knowledge gained to disseminate lessons about building and scaling community-level capacity-building.
The 2-year project is the first step in a program of work to enhance community change initiatives in ways that support young childrens healthy social, emotional, and cognitive development. It focuses on early care and education providers as a lever for change. Specifically, it aims to build providers health, well-being, and skills, through supporting their positive interactions with children and provision of high quality learning environments. In so doing, it targets community change at multiple levels: by improving adults health, childrens health, and community capacity.
Katzir, T., Lesaux, N.K., & *Kim, Y. (in press). The role of reading self-concept and home literacy environment in fourth grade reading comprehension.,(forthcoming)
Kieffer, M. J. & Lesaux, N.K. (in press). The role of morphology in the reading comprehension of Spanish-speaking English Language Learners. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal.,(forthcoming)
Lesaux, N.K., Rupp, A.A., & Siegel, L.S. (in press). Growth in reading skills of children from diverse linguistic backgrounds: Findings from a 5-Year longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology.,(forthcoming)
Samson, J. & Lesaux, N.K. (in press). Language minority learners in special education: Rates and predictors of identification for services. Journal of Learning Disabilities.,(forthcoming)
Kieffer, M.J., Lesaux, N.K., & Snow, C.E. (in press). Promises and pitfalls: Implications of No Child Left Behind for identifying, assessing, and educating English language learners. In G. Sunderman (Ed.), Holding NCLB Accountable: Achieving Accountability, Equity, and School Reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.,(forthcoming)
Lesaux, N.K., Vukovic, R.K., Hertzman, C., & Siegel, L.S. (2007). Context matters: Examining the early literacy skills and developmental health of kindergartners. Early Education & Development, 18, 497-518.,(2007)
Kieffer, M.J. & Lesaux, N.K. (2007). Breaking down words to build meaning: Morphology, vocabulary, and reading comprehension in the urban classroom. The Reading Teacher, 61, 134-144.,(2007)
Lesaux, N.K. & Geva, E. (2006). Synthesis: Development of literacy in language minority learners. In D. L. August & T. Shanahan (Eds.) Developing Literacy in a second language: Report of the National Literacy Panel. (pp. 53-74). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.,(2006)
Francis, D.J., Lesaux, N.K., Rivera, M., *Kieffer, M.J., & Rivera, H. (2006). Practical guidelines for the education of English language learners. Portsmouth, NH: Center on Instruction.,(2006)
Lesaux, N.K. (with Koda, K., Siegel, L.S. & Shanahan, T). (2006). Development of literacy of language minority learners. In D. L. August & T. Shanahan (Eds.) Developing literacy in a second language: Report of the National Literacy Panel. (pp.75-122). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.,(2006)
Rupp, A.A., Lesaux, N.K., & Siegel, L.S. (2006). Meeting expectations? An empirical investigation of a standards-based reading assessment. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 28(4), 315-333.,(2006)
Ragan, A., & Lesaux, N.K. (2006). Federal, state, and district level English Language Learner program entry and exit requirements: Effects on the education of language minority learners. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 14(20).,(2006)
Lipka, O., Lesaux, N.K., & Siegel, L.S. (2006). Retrospective analyses of the reading development of a group of grade 4 disabled readers: Risk status and profiles over 5 years. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(4), 364-378.,(2006)
Lesaux, N.K., Lipka, O., & Siegel, L.S. (2006). Investigating cognitive and linguistic abilities that influence the reading comprehension skills of children from diverse linguistic backgrounds. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 19(1), 99-131.,(2006)
Lesaux, N.K., Pearson, R., & Siegel, L.S. (2006). The effects of timed and untimed testing conditions on the reading comprehension performance of adults with reading disabilities. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 19(1), 21-48.,(2006)
Lesaux, N.K. (2006). Building consensus: Future directions for research on English Language Learners at-risk for learning difficulties. Teachers College Record, 108(11), 2406-2434.,(2006)
Francis, D.J., Lesaux, N.K., & August, D.L. (2006). Language of instruction for language minority learners. In D. L. August & T. Shanahan (Eds.) Developing Literacy in a second language: Report of the National Literacy Panel. (pp.365-414). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.,(2006)
Lesaux, N.K. & *Crosson, A.C. (2005). Addressing variability and vulnerability: Promoting the academic achievement of English learners in San Diego. In R. Hess (Ed.). Urban Reform: Lessons from San Diego (pp.263-281). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.,(2005)
Lesaux, N.K, & Siegel, L.S. (2003). The development of reading in children who speak English as a second language (ESL). Developmental Psychology, 39(6),1005-1019.,(2003)
Wilson, A.M. & Lesaux, N.K. (2001). Persistence of phonological processing deficits in college dyslexics with age-appropriate reading skills. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34, 394-400.,(2001)
Member, International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities
Member, Society for the Scientific Study of Reading
Society for Research in Child Development