Links and Contacts


Carol Baldassari

Senior Research Associate
Van Loan School - Suite 321

Education and Professional Membership

  • M.S., Environmental Social Sciences, Graduate Center at City University of New York
  • M.Ed., Education, Lesley University
  • B.A. University of Massachusetts/Amherst
  • American Evaluation Association.

Recent Projects

Since joining PERG in 1993, Carol Baldassari has designed, developed, and conducted numerous evaluations focused on the design, development and implementation of mathematics and science formal and informal education programs, K-16. Recent evaluation and research projects include:

  • A ten-year cluster of NSF-funded mathematics programs: an initial Math/Science Partnership program, the partnership’s Phase II program, two Noyce Scholars programs, and, most recently, a research program on Mathematical Habits of Mind. Partners include mathematicians and mathematics educators from institutions of higher education, an educational R&D organization, and several school districts in Massachusetts.
  • A Case Study Research program, funded by NSF, examining the influence of an immersive professional development program for mathematics teachers on their learning, beliefs, and classroom practices.
  • An NSF-funded Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) Center dedicated to supporting the teaching of geoscience in the context of societal issues both within geoscience courses and across the undergraduate curriculum with the goal of developing a citizenry and workforce that can address environmental and resource issues facing society.
  • A research study focused on an inquiry-based, investigative after-school natural science program for middle school students. This project was also funded by the NSF.
  • Two NSF-funded Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) programs. One was a partnership of university- and research institution-based ocean science researchers and an informal science education institution. The second involves a university, urban public school, and a science center. Both programs are dedicated to strengthening public understanding of the importance of the oceans through the collaboration of research scientists and educators.

Prior Work

For several years, Carol was the Housing Policy Analyst for the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, focusing on affordable housing research and policy issues, and assisted the greater Boston region’s 101 cities and towns on designing local housing programs.

In education, Carol served as a consultant to schools and other educational institutions, working collaboratively with teachers and administrators to develop indigenous professional learning and curriculum improvement programs, and designing environments to support children’s learning and play. Earlier, she taught students in grades 6-12, working at an independent progressive middle school and a regional public high school.

Joan Karp

Senior Research Associate
Van Loan School - Suite 321

Since joining PERG in 2000, Joan Karp has evaluated a wide range of projects, including:

Phase I & II of a large science education Math Science Partnership (MSP), funded by NSF, with a wide variety of components

  • A project to transform a written curriculum into a digital format
  • New activities to support two-year college geoscience faculty
  • Lesson study in mathematics projects
  • Other science and mathematics professional development programs
  • Museum exhibitions
  • Media arts education program
  • After-school university/school partnerships
  • Health information website

Prior work

Prior to joining PERG, Joan managed two NSF-funded mathematics teacher enhancement and training projects at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and was instrumental in an early school improvement program in the Boston Public Schools. She has also worked with a range of school systems and community groups on diversity issues.


  • M.Ed. Harvard Graduate School of Education;
  • B.A., Sociology, Brandeis University

Judah Leblang

Senior Research Associate
Van Loan School - Suite 321

Judah has been a staff member at PERG since 2000, and a senior associate since 2006. He has evaluated a variety of large and small projects and specializes in:

  • Museum exhibits and websites
  • Informal learning and out-of-school-time programs
  • Teacher professional development programs in mathematics, American history, and the humanities
  • Working with non-profit staff to assess their evaluation needs and build evaluation capacity within their organizations

During his time at PERG, Judah has collaborated with PERG staff and evaluation/research colleagues at several museums and research centers, including TERC and the Boston Museum of Science. He has also presented at both poster and panel sessions at AEA, focusing on his work on a variety of NSF-funded projects, including Cosmic Questions, an evaluation done in conjunction with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In addition, he has developed and co-taught seminars on program development and evaluation planning/building evaluation capacity for staff in non-profit organizations.

Prior work

Judah brings an extensive background in education, writing and cross-cultural communication to his evaluation work. His prior experience as a teacher of deaf children and a sign language interpreter influence his commitment to meeting clients "where they are" and helping them assess their needs and establish clear program goals.


  • B.S. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Major: Deaf Education, Minor: Elementary Education
  • M. Ed. Northeastern University. Higher Education Administration
  • M.A. Lesley University. Interdisciplinary Studies; area of concentration: Creative Writing

Elizabeth Osche

Research Associate
Van Loan School - Suite 321

Elizabeth came to PERG in the summer of 2006. During her time here she has worked extensively on the Boston Science Partnership and its second phase, the Boston Energy in Science Teaching project. She has also been involved in a number of ocean-science related projects, including the evaluation of COSEE OCEAN, a partnership between the New England Aquarium and the Boston Public Schools, and a NOAA funded Bay Watershed Education (B-WET) project. She has also conducted and assisted on a number of smaller project evaluations ranging from after-school science education programs to teacher education programs in science, arts, and literacy, as well as museum work.

Prior work

Before coming to PERG, Elizabeth interned at the Education Development Center (EDC) working on child-care quality research. She has also taught at the early childhood level.


  • B.S., Psychology, Juniata College, 2003
  • M.A., Developmental & Educational Psychology, Boston College, 2006

Debra Richardson Smith, Ph.D.

Director, PERG
Van Loan School - Suite 321

Debra became PERG's director in the fall of 2008. With over thirty years of experience in research, program development and evaluation, she has also taught in a variety of settings from Kindergarten to graduate school. Debra has evaluated a range of projects, specializing in:

  • Professional learning communities
  • Collaborative inquiry
  • Arts curriculum
  • Student assessment
  • School reform and
  • Equity and diversity

Prior work

Debra was founding director of the Collaborative Inquiry and Development Group at the University of Southern Maine. She also directed research and development projects with K-12 schools and districts in the Southern Maine Partnership for many years.

Education and Professional Memberships

  • Ph.D., Educational Studies, Student Assessment and Teacher Metacognition,
  • Lesley University, 2000
  • M.Ed., Learning Environments, Independent Studies Program, Lesley College, 1978
  • B.A., Art, University of Massachusetts Boston, 1976

Sheila Williams

Administrative Coordinator
Van Loan School - Suite 321

Sheila began working at PERG in the spring of 2001. She manages the PERG business office. She successfully maintains oversight and manages PERG’s contracts,while providing financial recordkeeping, reporting and forecasts. Sheila is the PERG liaison for clients and other University departments. She has acquired and implements a diverse range of administrative skills. She possesses years of experience coordinating, planning and supporting day-to-day operational functions.

Prior Work

Prior to working at PERG, She was employed at Harvard University for 8 years and the Randstad Agency for 3 years in the Administrative field. She also worked as a Hair Styling apprentice for a short time after completing Blaine, The Hair and Beauty School.


  • B.A., Arts in Liberal Studies, Lesley University
  • A.S., Computer Science, Newbury Junior College

Brenda Engel

Senior Research Assoiciate and Professor Emerita

In 1974, after a year of intensive planning on the part of a dedicated group of parents, teachers, and consultants, the Cambridge Alternative Public School opened as one of the first "open classroom" public schools in Boston. Having recently returned from a half-year in England, Brenda Engel participated in the year-long planning and subsequently became the school's documentor/evaluator. Brenda recalls that the pedagogy of the Alternative School, influenced by the British Primary School movement, was not firmly rooted in American education. Its implementation was still long on theory and short on know-how.

Looking around, then, for useful ideas, Brenda attended a summer workshop with Patricia Carini at the Prospect School in North Bennington, Vermont. Carini had been developing qualitative ways of looking at and documenting children's work - ways which were congenial with "open education" practices. Through the Prospect connection, Brenda heard about and then joined the North Dakota Study Group on Evaluation, attending their second annual conference at the University of Chicago. Many of the educators who would be important to her intellectually and professionally over the next 20 years were already, or became, members of that group including George Hein.

In 1976, George Hein invited Brenda to join him in making a proposal to evaluate programs coordinated by the Cultural Education Collaborative in Boston. The matrix Brenda devised for the initial cluster of evaluations would serve as a model for the methodology used in the future projects of what soon became the Program and Evaluation Research Group. Though now retired in her capacity of PERG Co-Director, Brenda remains interested in the PERG community - staying in touch and occasionally attending meetings.

George E. Hein

Senior Research Associate and Professor Emeritus

Professor Emeritus George E. Hein retired in June 1998, after over twenty years of teaching and administrative work at Lesley College. Together with Brenda Engel, he co-founded PERG in 1976 to evaluate the educational work of twenty-five museums and arts organizations in the Boston area. He has remained active in this area ever since, developing comprehensive, qualitative evaluation systems for museum programs and exhibits, as well as for mathematics and science education programs.

Prof. Hein has served three-year terms as both secretary and chair of ICOM/CECA, the international professional association for museum educators, and was elected to the AAM/ICOM Board. He was also the founding director of the Lesley College Ph.D. program, guiding it through its initial state authorization and regional accreditation. In 1985, a new Division for Advanced Graduate Study and Research was created as part of the Lesley College Graduate School to house the Ph.D. Program, and George was appointed its dean.

In 1990, Dr. Hein spent a sabbatical semester as a Fulbright Fellow with Prof. Paul Black at King's College, London. In 1996, he took sabbatical leave with NSF support to study learning in museums and serve as a visiting faculty member at the Museum Studies Program at Leicester University. More recently, he was the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Visiting Scholar at CalTech, where he gave a short course on learning in museums, as well as an Osher Fellow at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and a visiting faculty member at Technical University in Sydney, Australia.

Together with PERG colleague Sabra Price (now Sabra Lee), Professor Hein co-authored Active Assessment for Active Science, published by Heinemann in 1994. In 1998, his book, Learning in the Museum, was published by Routledge, along with a monograph, Museums: Places of Learning, written with Mary Alexander and commissioned by AAM EdCom in honor of its twenty-fifth anniversary. Some recent papers and lectures can be found on George Hein's Lesley University home page.

Since retirement, Professor Hein has continued active professional work as a consultant and advisor to museums and other professional organizations. In 2006-7, he served as President of TERC, an educational research and development organization. Recent papers and lectures can be found on George Hein's ( Lesley University home page.

Sabra Lee

Sabra was a staff member at PERG from 1978-2012 and evaluated a variety of large and small projects in both formal and informal education, specializing in:

• Assessment of elementary/middle school hands on science
• Systemic change in science teaching, K-8
• Professional  workshop and institutes in science education, colleges/universities professors, mathematics
• Teacher professional development in mathematics
• Science partnerships
• Case studies of teachers, geoscience departments

Prior work

Prior to joining PERG worked for the Cambridge-Somerville Mental Health and Retardation Center where she opened and ran the first preschool classroom for multiply handicapped and severely mentally challenged children. She developed tutorial materials for the children, and recruited and trained volunteers who worked with the preschoolers on a 1:1 basis.

She also worked at TERC on science curriculum projects and in the mathematics center, developing curricula.

B. A. Reed College, Portland OR. Major: Biology
M. Ed. Tufts University, Medford MA. Early childhood education

Gretchen Porter

Research Associate

Gretchen brings a diverse background, including more than 15 years of marketing research experience to PERG. After working in the corporate world, Gretchen came to Lesley University to complete her graduate studies in 2010 and joined PERG as a graduate research fellow. Her area of focus in Lesley’s Self-designed Master’s Program was educational research and its application to the science of learning—cognitive neuroscience and psychology.

Prior Work

Gretchen was a market researcher for companies including Gillette, Polaroid and General Foods. She is also a jeweler.


  • M.A. Education Research, Lesley University, 2013
  • M.A. Sociology (All but Thesis 1984), University of Houston
  • B.A. Sociology (1980), University of Houston

Mary Maxwell West

Senior Research Associate

Since joining PERG in 1993, Mary has worked primarily on evaluation and research on the Bob Moses Algebra Project. The work has included:

  • An 11-year study of the development of the math department, and student outcomes, in one middle school;
  • Studies of classroom discourse of two master teachers;
  • Tracking student math course enrollment from Algebra Project middle schools into high school in three sites, with comparison groups;
  • Collaborating with project-affiliated mathematicians, math educators, and professional development specialists, to study teacher development;
  • Collaborating with the project’s youth initiative to describe youth development;
  • Coordinating researchers in various sites across the country.

Prior work

Prior to joining PERG, Mary was evaluator for an NSF-funded grant for development of mathematics teacher preparation programs at four Boston area universities; a grant for college Algebra materials development; a grant for dissemination of NSF-funded elementary and middle school math curricula. She also conducted research on the development of proportional reasoning, and on science teachers’ use of a computer-based conferencing system. She was also Co-director of a national center, based at Harvard Graduate School of Education, for research on new technologies in math and science education.


  • Ed.M, Comparative Human Development, Harvard Graduate School of Education;
  • B.A. Wellesley College
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