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Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy

Marsico Institute

Who We Are


Douglas Clements, Ph.D.

Dr. Clements (Executive Director of Marsico Institute)

Douglas Clements, Ph.D., is currently the Executive Director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy. He is also the Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning and a Professor at the University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education.

Previously a kindergarten teacher for five years and a preschool teacher for one year, he has since conducted research and published widely in the areas of:

  • The learning and teaching of early mathematics
  • Computer applications in mathematics education
  • Creating, using, and evaluating a research-based curriculum and in taking successful curricula to scale using technologies and learning trajectories
  • Development and evaluation of innovative assessments of mathematics achievement, as well as mathematics teaching

While a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the University of Buffalo, he was a member of President Bush's National Math Advisory Panel, convened to advise the administration on the best use of scientifically based research to advance the teaching and learning of mathematics, and coauthor of the Panel's report. He was also a member of the National Research Council's Committee on Early Mathematics and co-author of their report. He helped develop the Common Core State Standards committee of the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, writing national academic standards and the learning trajectories that underlie them.

Currently, Julie Sarama and he are conducting several research projected funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES). For example, "Scaling Up TRIAD: Teaching Early Mathematics for Understanding with Trajectories and Technologies" and " Longitudinal Study of a successful scaling up project Extending TRIAD" are the third and fourth large research projects funded by the IES to evaluate our model for scaling up successful educational innovations (TRIAD = Technology-enhanced, Research-based Instruction, Assessment, and professional Development). Two recent research projects have just been funded by the NSF. In "Using Rule Space and Poset-based Adaptive Testing Methodologies to Identify Ability Patterns in Early Mathematics and Create a Comprehensive Mathematics Ability Test," we are developing a computer-adaptive assessment for early mathematics. In "Early Childhood Education in the Context of Mathematics, Science, and Literacy," we are developing an interdisciplinary preschool curriculum. See the "Research Projects" tab of Dr. Clement's Portfolio for more detail.

Doug's CV


Julie Sarama, Ph.D.

Julie SaramaJulie Sarama is the Co-Executive Director of Marsico Institute, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Innovative Technology, and Professor at the University of Denver. She was previously a Professor of Mathematics Education at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). She conducts research on young children's development of mathematical concepts and competencies, implementation and scale-up of educational reform, professional development models and their influence on student learning, and implementation and effects of her own software environments in mathematics classrooms, published in more than 50 refereed articles, 4 books, 30 chapters, and 60 additional publications. She has been Principal or Co-Principal Investigator on five projects funded by the National Science Foundation, including Building Blocks—Foundations for Mathematical Thinking, Pre-kindergarten to Grade 2: Research-based Materials Development and Planning for Professional Development in Pre-School Mathematics: Meeting the Challenge of Standards 2000. She is co-directing two large-scale studies funded by the U.S. Education Department's Institute of Educational Studies (IES). The first is a Phase II project, Scaling Up TRIAD: Teaching Early Mathematics for Understanding with Trajectories and Technologies was just awarded by the IES. The second is Increasing the Efficacy of an Early Mathematics Curriculum with Scaffolding Designed to Promote Self-Regulation. Sarama was previously the lead co-PI at the Buffalo site on another IES-funded project, A Longitudinal study of the Effects of a Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics Curriculum on Low-Income Children's Mathematical Knowledge (IES). This is one of seven national projects conducted simultaneously at the local and national levels (combined data) as part of the IES's Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research project. Dr. Sarama has taught secondary mathematics and computer science, gifted math at the middle school level, preschool and kindergarten mathematics enrichment classes, and mathematics methods and content courses for elementary to secondary teachers. She designed and programmed over 50 published computer programs, including her version of Logo and Logo-based software activities (Turtle Math, which was awarded Technology & Learning Software of the Year award, 1995, in the category "Math"). See Dr. Sarama's portfolio here. 

Julie's CV

Crystal Day-Hess, Ph.D.

crystal picture

Crystal Day-Hess, Ph.D., Assistant Director at the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, conducts early childhood research and professional development trainings across the country. She has extensive experience developing, coordinating, and conducting research in the early childhood field focusing on young children’s cognitive, social, and emotional school readiness skills (e.g., self-regulation/executive function, play, achievement motivation, caregiver sensitivity). Day-Hess has conducted research in coordination with administrators, teachers, parents, and students in multiple settings, including public and private preschools, Early Head Start and Head Start programs, and social service agencies. As part of this research, she has had in-depth experience administering a variety of early childhood assessments, including the following: K-BIT, DAS-II, PPVT, TERA, TEMA, BASC, CBQ, Self-Evaluative Emotions Coding System, Carol Dweck’s motivation paradigm, and a variety of caregiver sensitivity and attachment measures. Day-Hess also has experience developing, coordinating, and conducting professional development workshops for early childhood educators and administrators in multiple contexts and settings. She worked on several Early Reading First projects and has served as a training manager for the Scaffolding Early Learning and Tools of the Mind early childhood programs. Her work has been published in such journals as Early Education and Development and NHSA Dialog: A Research-to-Practice Journal for the Early Intervention Field, and in conjunction with ASCD. 

Crystal's CV

Candace joswick, Ph.D.

Candace Joswick

Candace Joswick is a Research Project Director at Marsico Institute of Early Learning and James C. Kennedy Institute for Educational Success at the University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education. In this role, she participates in various research projects and is focused on testing learning trajectories with children and developing teachers' capacity to use learning trajectories as teaching and assessment tools. She previously worked as a middle and high school mathematics teacher, as an education faculty member at Ohio Dominican University, and as a researcher on numerous education projects at The Ohio State University. Joswick recently completed her dissertation titled Investigating the Relationship Between Classroom Discourse and Concept Development in Geometry Learning. She has presented at numerous local, state, national, and international conferences on classroom interactions, learning progressions, teacher preparation and teacher knowledge, mathematics coaching, and non-native English speaking students' mathematics classroom participation. She has also provided state-level professional development for elementary mathematics teachers and mathematics coaches. 

traci kutaka, ph.d.

Traci KutakaTraci Shizu Kutaka, Ph.D., is a Research Associate at the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy. Her research centers on early childhood care and education, mathematics teacher preparation and professional development, and program evaluation. She has provided quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods support for multiple research projects and has extensive experience supporting recruitment, data collection, and data management for state-wide and cross-national research initiatives. She has also developed expertise in survey/instrument design, revision, and validation. At Marsico, she works on multiple projects, including the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2) project; the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning; Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics; and the Regional Educational Laboratory Central. She is the author of multiple book chapters and empirical articles in the Journal of Teacher Education, the Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, and Early Child Development and Care.

Jessica Craig


Jessica Craig, M.A., is the Grants and Contracts Manager for the Marsico Institute. Jessica brings over 15 years of volunteerism and professional involvement in the nonprofit sector. Her talents and work experience include HR management and development, donor management, event coordination, client relations, funding research, contracting, grants and budget management. Formerly an early childhood educator, she has developed young children's curricula and has coordinated numerous early childhood projects. Jessica has worked closely with diverse communities and is highly interested in social-emotional development and its effects on early literacy. Her other interests include early childhood intervention and mental health for children and families. At the Marsico Institute, Jessica manages the operation of the office, manages select projects, and provides strategic HR and administrative support to the directors. She is committed to advancing the successful execution of the institute's strategic plans, aiding the directors and team in these efforts. She maintains and enhances the institute's website, and coordinates closely with the college's human relations and logistics teams. On the financial side, Jessica manages and oversees institute budgets, as well as prepares grant and contract documents. She is highly skilled in planning and coordinating logistics for special community events, such as the Marsico Institute's Community Lecture Series.

Kim Freda

Kim Freda

Kim Freda Kim is the Office Coordinator at the Marsico Institute, in this role, she provides administrative support to the directors, staff, and students. Kim is responsible for coordinating the day-to-day operations of the office, which include but are not limited to the following: updating manuals, processing direct pays, managing p-cards, ordering technology, and coordinating team schedules.Prior to working at the Marsico Institute, Kim worked as an Executive Assistant and Project Coordinator for the global human resources team at Liberty Global where she was responsible for corporate team coordination of various global initiatives including executive compensation programs, training and development, and talent management across three countries. Kim graduated with her bachelors in psychology from Moravian College where she focused her studies on organizational psychology and human resource management.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Holland banse, ph.d.

Holland BanseHolland Banse is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Marsico Institute of Early Learning and James C. Kennedy Institute for Educational Success at the University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education. Her research foci include supporting English Language Learners, mathematics education, and the intersection between those two domains. She was an IES Pre-Doctoral fellow (2013-2017), a 2016-2017 AERA-Measures of Effective Teaching Fellow, and a recipient of the 2016 SRCD-SECC dissertation grant. She has published in multiple journals, including Teachers College Record, Journal of Educational Research, and Teaching Children Mathematics. She is also a former preschool and prekindergarten teacher. 


Post Doctoral Research Fellow

The Marsico Institute is accepting applications for a Post Doctoral Research Fellow. The Marsico Postdoctoral Research Fellowship is an opportunity to participate in multiple research projects involving applied scientific research in education, including research-and-development projects and analyses of data from large-scale investigations of the effectiveness of mathematics interventions using randomized trials and other methodologies. Please click below for the full position summary.. 

Post Doctoral Research Fellow


The Marsico Institute is accepting applications for a postdoctoral fellowship that offers training focusing on early STEM learning for children with disabilities. This is a unique opportunity to learn and contribute to all aspects of the work of a new and innovative center focused on knowledge development, applied research, and technical assistance related to early STEM learning for children with disabilities. Please click below for the full position summary.