Research Associate, Family Well-Being and Children’s Development Policy Area

Maier’s research focuses on enhancing young children’s early care and educational experiences so that they are better prepared for school academically, socially, and emotionally. As a research associate, she has extensive experience in the design, start-up, impact, implementation/field research, and measurement activities for a variety of research projects, most of which are focused on early childhood education programs that support development and school readiness in children from low-income families. Maier is project director of Head Start Connects, a descriptive study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that examines the coordination of family support services in Head Start programs. She is the deputy project director of Expanding Children’s Early Learning — Quality project and the HHS-funded Variations in Implementation of Quality Interventions project, both of which are three-group, random assignment studies examining the effect of different dimensions of quality on child outcomes. She leads measurement on the Expanding Children’s Early Learning P-3: Promoting Sustained Gains from Preschool to Third Grade study, where she is developing an aligned curriculum-fidelity tool for use in preschool through third-grade classrooms in Boston. She has led the implementation and measurement teams on Making Pre-K Count, which examined the effects of a preschool mathematics program. She received a grant from the Foundation for Child Development’s Young Scholars Program to conduct What Matters Most for Teachers and Young Children, a secondary data analysis of Making Pre-K Count data where she is examining associations among teacher professional development, specific teacher practices, and child outcomes, and describing patterns of teacher practice as they naturally occur. She also coauthored a literature review examining the effect of family involvement on children’s learning. Maier received her PhD in applied developmental psychology from the University of Miami, where she was an Institute of Education Sciences Predoctoral Fellow. Before joining MDRC, Maier was a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia.

  • MDRC Publications


      Improving Math Instruction in New York City

      October, 2016

      An evidence-based preschool math curriculum called Building Blocks, combined with ongoing professional development, was compared with “business as usual” pre-K programs across 69 public schools and community-based organizations. This report contains interim findings on the implementation of the model, the amount and quality of its math instruction, and children’s learning outcomes.


      Design Options for an Evaluation of Head Start Coaching

      July, 2014

      Using a study of coaching in Head Start as an example, this report reviews potential experimental design options that get inside the “black box” of social interventions by estimating the effects of individual components. It concludes that factorial designs are usually most appropriate.


      A Focus on Literacy and Math Achievement Outcomes and Social-Emotional Skills

      October, 2013
      Frances L. Van Voorhis, Michelle Maier, Joyce L. Epstein, Chrishana M. Lloyd

      This report reviews 95 studies on how families’ involvement in children’s learning and development through activities at home and at school affects the literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional skills of children. The review also offers recommendations for additional lines of inquiry and discusses next steps in research and practice.

  • Other Publications

      Bohlmann, Natalie, Michelle F. Maier, and Natalia Palacios. 2015. “Bidirectionality in Self-Regulation and Expressive Vocabulary: Comparisons Between Monolingual and Dual Language Learners in Preschool.” Child Development 86, 4: 1,094-1,111.

      Williford, Amanda, Michelle F. Maier, Jason Downer, Robert C. Pianta, and Carolee Howes. 2013. “Understanding How Children’s Engagement and Teachers’ Interactions Combine to Predict School Readiness.Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 34: 299-309.

      Downer, Jason, Faiza Jamil, Michelle F. Maier, and Robert C. Pianta. 2012. “Implications of Information Processing Theory for Professional Development of Early Educators.” In Carolee Howes, Bridget K. Hamre, and Robert C. Pianta (eds.), Effective Early Childhood Professional Development: Improving Teacher Practice and Child Outcomes. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing Co.

      Maier, Michelle F., Virginia E Vitiello, and Daryl B. Greenfield. 2012. “A Multilevel Model of Child- and Classroom-Level Psychosocial Factors that Support Language and Literacy Resilience of Children in Head Start.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly 27: 104-114.

      Maier, Michelle F., Daryl B. Greenfield, and Rebecca J. Bulotsky-Shearer. 2012. Development and Validation of a Preschool Teacher Attitudes and Beliefs Toward Science Teaching Questionnaire.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly 28: 366-378.

      Dominguez, Ximena, Virginia E. Vitiello, Michelle F. Maier, and Daryl B. Greenfield. 2010. “A Longitudinal Examination of Young Children’s Learning Behavior: Child-Level and Classroom-Level Predictors of Change Throughout the Preschool Year.” School Psychology Review 39: 29-47.

  • Projects