Grants Office Update: July 2019

Principal Investigator:  Colleen Young
Department:  Office of Child Development
Project Title: Partnerships for Family Support
Agency Name:  Allegheny County
Award Dates: 7/1/19 – 6/30/20 
Amount: $200,000

Principal Investigator: Colleen Young
Department:  Office of Child Development
Project Title: Real Help, Real Time
Agency Name: Providence Connections Inc
Award Dates: 7/1/19 – 6/30/20 

The Partnerships for Family Support program seeks to enhance quality in a primary prevention system for families with young children in Allegheny County. The approach of this system is the implementation of the family support principles, which highlight community governed, designed, and improved services and activities. Cornerstones of the prevention system are the promotion of evidence-based home visiting and the use of the Protective Factors framework to strengthen families and improve the outcomes for young children.

The Real Help, Real Time program seeks to meet basic needs in support of Allegheny County Family Support Network families in obtaining and retaining employment through providing grants. The majority of funds typically go towards housing, utilities, and transportation. Additionally, families are offered targeted assistance and referrals in a variety of areas (e.g., budgeting, vocational training, child care assistance, housing referrals, etc.). In addition to the center-based work that supports families to obtain and retain employment, the Network focuses on developing new strategies to strengthen regional partnerships that will improve employment opportunities for families. The Office of Child Development will perform the program management and evaluation services of the project.


Principal Investigator:  Debra Moore
Department:  Instruction and Learning
Project Title:  Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA)
Agency Name:  Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Award Dates: 7/1/19 – 6/30/20 

PASA is a $4.2 million project awarded to the Department of Instruction and Learning, School of Education and funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The project is led by Director, Debra W. Moore, and Senior Advisors, Steven R. Lyon and Clement Stone.

The PASA projectdevelops annual assessments in reading, writing, math, and science for approximately 20,000 Pennsylvania school students with the most significant cognitive disabilities and cannot participate in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA). The assessments are specifically designed to increase access to the general education curriculum for this population of students further increasing equity in educational experiences for all students in Pennsylvania.

In addition to developing the assessments; the project also delivers and scores the assessments, trains test administrators, reports results from the assessments to stakeholders including parents, and conducts validity studies to ensure technical adequacy while maintaining compliance with federal laws and Pennsylvania School Code. The assessments are periodically subject to peer review by the U.S. Department of Education and, most recently, were deemed to ‘substantially’ meet requirements, a distinction rare among alternate assessments nationally.


Principal Investigator:  Stephen Bagnato
Department:  Psychology in Education
Project Title:  SPECS for Pace/PLAID
Agency Name:  Pace School
Award Dates: 7/1/19 – 6/30/20 
Amount: $88,700

Pace Approved Private School administrators and their Advisory Board have been engaged in the design of an innovative and more holistic school-family-community educational model to support the progress of students with significant social-emotional, behavioral, psychiatric, and neurodevelopmental disabilities.  The new model, PLAID (Positive Learning and Integrated Design), was approved for continued funding from the Hillman Foundation, Benedum, and Grable Foundations and the Pace Endowments.  The PLAID model integrates the collaboration among Pace School with Carnegie Mellon University, Carlow University, and the University of Pittsburgh.


Principal Investigator:  Carl Fertman
Department:  Health and Physical Activity
Project Title:  Maximizing Adolescent Potentials Program (MAPS)
Agency Name:  Allegheny County
Award Dates: 7/1/19 – 6/30/20 
Amount: $493,640

Maximizing Adolescent Potentials secured a contract with the Allegheny County Office of Behavioral Health in the amount of $493,640. This funding will support community-based Prevention and Behavioral Health programming in Allegheny County schools. 

As a contracted prevention provider, the program will continue its school and community programming with children, adolescents and their families implementing evidence-based curriculum. Areas of focus include prevention of gambling, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

In addition, this funding supports the assignment of Behavioral Health Liaisons in schools to provide technical assistance and training to staff while also supporting students experiencing a barrier to learning. Our program provides support to students in pre-K through 12th grades.


Principal Investigators: Heather Bachman/Melissa Libertus/Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal
Department: Psychology in Education
Project Title: How Parents Support Young Children’s Mathematical Thinking Across SES
Agency Name: National Institutes of Health
Award Dates: 5/1/19 – 4/30/24 
Amount: $281,825

Socioeconomic disparities in math skills have grown in recent years, as the math skills of children at the upper end of the income distribution have grown faster than those of children from middle- or low-income families (Reardon, 2011). SES gaps in math skills first emerge in preschool (Klibanoff, Levine, Huttenlocher, Vasilyeva, & Hedges, 2006; Stipek & Ryan, 1997) and are maintained as children progress through school (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2005). SES-related disparities in math skills are concerning to policy makers and educators because they have implications for long-term achievement and educational attainment in adulthood (Duncan et al. 2007; Ritchie & Bates, 2013). Thus, there is an urgent need to disentangle the mechanisms underlying SES disparities in math skills before children start kindergarten. This investigation aims to delineate the proximal experiences driving socioeconomic disparities in math skills in the home environment during early childhood. Study aims will be addressed using longitudinal, multimethod data from a socioeconomically diverse sample of 4-year-olds (N = 400) and their parents, including direct assessments, in-home observations, surveys, and time diaries. Findings from this research will fill critical gaps in the extant literature and identify key targets for experimentally manipulated intervention and policy efforts which seek to improve the well-being of socioeconomically disadvantaged children.