Marc W. Hernandez is a principal research scientist in the Academic Research Centers and founding director of NORC’s Early Childhood Research and Practice Collaborative. He is an applied developmental psychologist with expertise in cognitive development, early childhood and elementary education, both in informal (home-based) and in formal (school-based) educational settings. He is experienced in designing and conducting experimental studies, cluster randomized trials, quasi-experiments, mixed-methods research, psychometric analysis for assessment and survey development, and program evaluation. Hernandez’s research and evaluation program focuses on identifying, developing, and evaluating programs interventions, tools, technologies, best practices, and policies designed to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged children, early in their lives (i.e., over the birth to third grade continuum). This program of work has lead him to work extensively in home, preschool and elementary school settings, with children, parents, educators/practitioners, and administrators. Through the Collaborative, Hernandez partners closely with researchers, practitioners, nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies to develop and/or evaluate education programs, interventions, curricula, tools, and assessments. Utilizing a whole child, 360° approach to development, his work aims to produce tools and knowledge that will help illuminate what continuum of supports are necessary to close the opportunity gap.
Hernandez is an active member of the Getting on Track Early for School Success project, which involves a team of educators, researchers, and psychometricians from across the University of Chicago and NORC. The formative assessment is intended to act as an organizing tool that will allow teachers to tailor instruction to help preschool children increase oral language, literacy, and mathematics proficiency, while also reducing gaps in kindergarten readiness among children from disadvantaged homes. He is also helping lead the Kindergarten Readiness Indicator project, which includes the development of a one-time, 15-minute direct assessment of key predictive skills included in more comprehensive Getting on Track assessment.
He is a long-time TMW initiative collaborator at the University of Chicago. He works with researchers and practitioners in the fields of medicine, psychology, technology, and early intervention to develop and evaluate a comprehensive suite of birth through early childhood interventions focused on facilitating children’s language, social-emotional, and cognitive development.
Hernandez is the co-principal investigator of NORC’s independent evaluation of the Oakland Promise, a cradle to career program that includes four component programs: Brilliant Baby, Kindergarten to College, Future Centers, and College Scholarship and College Completion. This evaluation includes mixed-method approaches to evaluating each individual component of the Promise. It also includes a longitudinal, randomized controlled trial examining the impact of Brilliant Baby, a college savings account (CSA) and financial coaching intervention for Medicaid-eligible families with infants, on children and parents.
Hernandez also serves as a co-principal investigator for a multi-state evaluation of the Reading Corps program, an evidence-based literacy intervention program, which is delivered by AmeriCorps members to at-risk preschool through third grade students. NORC’s efforts to evaluate the Reading Corps model have included a process assessment of program implementation, quasi-experimental impact evaluations of the preschool program, and randomized control trial impact evaluations of the kindergarten through third grade program.
Hernandez was principal investigator for the Parent, Family, Community Engagement (PFCE) project, which in collaboration with the Region V Head Start Association and National Head Start Association (NHSA), created the Parent Gauge formative assessment tool. The tool was designed to provide Head Start and Early Head Start practitioners with actionable information about parent strengths and needs, and program inputs, aligned with the Office of Head Start’s PFCE Framework. NORC continues to advise NHSA on continued tool development and ongoing statistical analysis.
Hernandez also works closely with foundations, such as the Kenneth Rainin Foundation in Oakland, CA, to help inform early childhood grant-making decisions informed by the latest developmental, education, and learning science, as well as local parent and community needs. Through these collaborations, Hernandez and his team have conducted literature reviews, household surveys/interviews, and stakeholder engagements. He has also helped lead evaluations of foundation-funded programs, such as the randomized controlled trial evaluation of the SEEDS of Early Learning professional development program.
Hernandez is an active participant in the University of Chicago’s undergraduate and graduate student mentorship and career-development programs. He also currently serves on Age of Learning’s Curriculum Board and as a charter member of Morton Arboretum’s Education and Information Advisory Committee.