Portilla is a research associate in the Family Well-Being and Child Development policy area at MDRC. She is currently working on the implementation research and impact analyses for the Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation (MIHOPE), a large-scale national evaluation of home visiting programs that intend to prevent child maltreatment and improve maternal and child health, parenting skills, and child development outcomes. She is also involved in the MIHOPE long-term follow-up study, which aims to provide design options for how to assess long-term impacts on families and children who participated in MIHOPE.
Before her graduate studies, Portilla worked on several projects in MDRC’s early childhood portfolio: Head Start CARES, Foundations of Learning, and two early-childhood-focused programs in the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project: Kansas/Missouri Early Head Start and the Rhode Island Child Add-On. Her research in graduate school focused on early childhood development, social inequality, stress reactivity, and child and maternal executive functioning, in both domestic and international settings such as Pakistan and Colombia. Portilla earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from New York University and a PhD in developmental and psychological sciences from Stanford University.
MDRC PublicationsBriefMay, 2022
This is the fifth in a series of briefs highlighting strategies to increase educational equity by addressing students’ social and emotional needs. It describes strategies that school systems are using to increase students’ sense of school belonging and connectedness.BriefApril, 2022
This is the fourth in a series of briefs highlighting strategies to increase educational equity by addressing students’ social and emotional needs. It describes how three school systems are moving toward whole-system approaches focused on healing, prevention, and cultivating psychologically safe and supportive environments for all.BriefApril, 2022
An accompanying brief describes how three school systems are moving toward whole-system approaches focused on healing, prevention, and cultivating psychologically safe and supportive environments. This companion brief provides advice from leaders in two of those systems for others who may want to a develop a system-wide vision for such practices.Brief
Reflections from Leaders at District of Columbia Public SchoolsOctober, 2021
A previous brief from this series summarized the experiences and recommendations of leaders who are working to reexamine their districts’ systems, structures, and policies to ensure they support the well-being and learning of all students. This accompanying brief provides those leaders’ thoughts in their own words.Brief
Educational Equity Through Social and Emotional Well-BeingAugust, 2021
This is the second in a series of briefs highlighting strategies to increase educational equity by addressing students’ social and emotional needs. This brief shares the experiences and recommendations of leaders who are working to reexamine districts’ systems, structures, and policies to ensure they support all students.Brief
Solutions Through Social and Emotional Well-BeingJuly, 2021
This is the first in a series of briefs highlighting strategies to increase educational equity by addressing students’ social and emotional needs. It describes how environmental and structural factors cause disparities in social and emotional well-being that affect learning, then lays out three levels of change to address this inequity.CommentaryJune, 2021
In this commentary, which originally appeared in Early Learning Nation, MDRC’s Shira Mattera and Ximena Portilla suggest three important investments that states, districts, and programs can make to support high-quality teaching in early education settings.BriefOctober, 2020
More children spend time in preschool now than a decade ago, but not all of them get educational programs of the same quality. This brief explores how to put new classroom curricula in place across multiple schools to bolster classroom quality, instructional practices, and children’s skills.Report
Results from the Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program EvaluationJanuary, 2019
Home visiting provides information, resources, and support to expectant low-income parents and low-income families with young children. This report provides the final results from a national evaluation of four major evidence-based models of home visiting.Brief
A Summary of Results from the MIHOPE and MIHOPE-Strong Start Studies of Evidence-Based Home VisitingJanuary, 2019
Home visiting provides information, resources, and support to expectant low-income parents and low-income families with young children. This brief summarizes reports from two national studies of early childhood home visiting.Report
Results from the Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program EvaluationOctober, 2018
Adverse experiences in children’s earliest years can negatively affect development. Home visiting for expectant parents and families with young children can help, but implementation research is scant. MIHOPE, a national evaluation of a federal home visiting program, is examining 88 local programs across four evidence-based models to learn about their implementation and impacts.
ProjectsJoAnn Hsueh, Amena Sengal, Caroline Schultz, Emily Hanno, Ilana Blum, Katie Beal, Mallory Undestad, Marta Benito-Gomez, Meghan McCormick, Samantha Wulfsohn, Sharon Huang, Ximena Portilla, Brenna Healy
The Measures for Early Success Initiative aims to reimagine the landscape of early learning assessments for three- to five-year-olds in pre-K so that more equitable data can be used to meaningfully support and strengthen early learning experiences for all young children.
The inequities of educational outcomes, which in turn lead to inequities in other long-term outcomes, have long been issues of concern for policymakers and educators. For decades, academic programs and policies have been developed to address achievement gaps, yet disparities persist. However, districts and educational policymakers have not fully appreciated how the...Charles Michalopoulos, Kristen Faucetta , Megan Millenky, Ximena Portilla, Marie-Andrée Somers, Livia Martinez
A small body of research has found that families who participated in a home visiting program when their children were young may continue to benefit through their children’s adolescence. Therefore, a long-term follow-up study is being planned for families in the Mother and...Virginia Knox, Charles Michalopoulos, JoAnn Hsueh, Desiree Principe Alderson, Dina A. R. Israel, Erika Lundquist, Electra Small, Carolyn Hill, Rebecca Behrmann, Ximena Portilla, Anne Warren, Samantha Xia, Kelly Saunders, Ilana Blum, Mallory Undestad, Emily Davies, Cullen MacDowell, Marissa Strassberger, Sharon Rowser, Livia Martinez, Helen Lee
Home visiting programs operate around the country to prevent child maltreatment, improve maternal and child health outcomes, and increase school readiness. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 authorized the creation of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, expanding federal funding of home...Shira Kolnik Mattera, Electra Small, Nina Castells, Barbara S. Goldman, JoAnn Hsueh, Ximena Portilla, Frieda Molina, Howard Bloom, Patrizia Mancini, Sharon Rowser
Head Start, which serves nearly 1 million low-income children, is the nation’s largest federally sponsored early childhood education program. Designed to narrow the gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers, Head Start provides comprehensive programming during the preschool period to improve children’s social competence and academic readiness for...Dan Bloom, Lauren Cates, JoAnn Hsueh, Dina A. R. Israel, Charles Michalopoulos, Johanna Walter, Sally Dai, Ximena Portilla
Fueled by a strong economy and passage of the 1996 federal welfare law, which imposed new work requirements and time limits on cash benefits, welfare caseloads declined precipitously during the 1990s. Between 1993 and 2000, the number of families on welfare dropped 56 percent nationally, with individual states experiencing reductions ranging from 20 percent to more...
Low-income children too often begin school without the basic behavioral, emotional, and cognitive skills that they need to thrive academically — putting them at an immediate disadvantage and contributing to the large gap that develops in school achievement between low-income children and their more affluent peers. States and localities are responding by making major...