Our Research Team and Partners



The Harrisonburg City Public School division is the home of the Blue Streaks and is composed of a high school (Harrisonburg High School), two middle schools (Thomas Harrison Middle School, Skyline Middle School), five elementary schools (W.H. Keister Elementary School, Smithland Elementary School, Spotswood Elementary School, Stone Spring Elementary School, and Waterman Elementary School) and a vocational school, Massanutten Technical Center. It is located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley in Harrisonburg, VA. More than 4,000 students are enrolled in HCPS, and of these more than 35% are English language learners, making the school system one of the most diverse in the state of Virginia. The top foreign languages spoken by students are Spanish, Russian, and Kurdish. More than 30 additional languages are spoken by students. HCPS will partner with JMU researchers in the development of a proposed laboratory school model. 

Dr. John Almarode, Project Coordinator

Dr. John Almarode is an Assistant Professor of Education at James Madison University in the Department of Early, Elementary, and Reading  Education.  He has worked with all age groups in education from pre-  kindergarteners to graduate students.  John began his career in Augusta  County, Virginia teaching mathematics and science to a wide-range of  students.  As a member of the Department of Early, Elementary, and  Reading Education, John teachers courses on elementary science methods  and inquiry in the elementary school classroom. 

In addition to his work with pre-service teachers, John has worked with in-service teachers locally, nationally, and internationally in countries as far away as Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Thailand.  He has worked with thousands of teachers, dozens of school districts and multiple organizations including the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools, International Schools Group, Council for Exceptional Children, Virginia Association for Early Childhood Education, Virginia Department of Education, Virginia’s Training Technical Assistance Centers, Campus1, P. Buckley Moss Foundation, the Virginia Association of Science Teachers, and most recently as a Professional Development Associate for the Leadership and Learning Center.  John has conducted staff development workshops, keynote addresses, and conference presentations on a variety of topics including student engagement, evidence-based practices, creating enriched environments that promote learning, and designing classrooms with the brain in mind.

As a researcher, John actively pursues a research agenda that focuses on the design and measurement of classroom environments that promote student engagement, interest and engagement in STEM disciplines, specialized STEM high schools, interventions for low socioeconomic populations, college and university laboratory schools, and the translation of American education pedagogy in international schools.  John’s has presented his work at lcal, national, and international research conferences such as the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), American Educational Research Association (AERA), National Association for the Gifted (NAGC), and the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (NCSSSMST).  He has published papers and book chapters devoted to his research interests including a children’s book on the brain.  His new book from Corwin Press, Captivate, Activate, and Invigorate!  Grades 6 – 12: Engaging the Student Brain in Science and Mathematics, will be released this year.

John holds a Doctoral Degree in Science Education from the University of Virginia, a Master’s Degree in Teaching with an emphasis in Gifted and Special Education, and a Bachelor’s Degree, with Honors, in Physics and Mathematics. 

Dr. Carmen Bosch, Project Collaborator

Dr. Bosch is an assistant professor in the Learning, Technology and Leadership Education Department at James Madison University where she teaches educational foundations, multicultural education and TESOL courses to pre-service teachers.  Her research focus has been on Latino parental involvement.  She has an article in preparation on the metaphors Latino parents live by and is currently conducting research on college students’ attitude shifts in the multicultural education setting.  Dr. Bosch holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a bachelor’s degree in English.  She was awarded Wayne State University’s King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship for her doctoral work in bilingual and bicultural studies. She has been a facilitator for professional development on culture and teaching for the last eight years.  She is presently the communications director and webmaster for the Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Multicultural Education.  Prior to earning her Ph.D., Dr. Bosch was a high school Spanish teacher for 18 years and is a native speaker of Spanish. 

Dr. Bosch will focus on measuring culturally responsive instruction on the site visits as well as the development of a culturally responsive framework as part of the proposed laboratory school model. 

Dr. Laura Desportes, Project Collaborator

Dr. Desportes is associate professor and head of the Exceptional Education Department at James Madison University where she teaches psychoeducational assessment to pre-service and in-service teachers and research design and data analysis to doctoral students in psychology. Her research on literacy development has been published in the Journal of Educational Psychology and her treatment outcomes research has been published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment and in the journal Women in Therapy. She was a Research and Evaluation Specialist for the former Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services where she conducted numerous outcome evaluation studies for state and federal agencies and legislative bodies. Dr. Desportes was a reading teacher in a comprehensive rehabilitation center for adolescents and adults with disabilities and was a research associate and Learning Disabilities Specialist for an NIHR R & D Project for Adults with Learning Disabilities. She is currently conducting research on resilience and efficacy in pre-service and early career special educators, and on progress toward inclusive models of education globally. Dr. Desportes will support the data analysis of the project. 

Dr. Allison Kretlow, Project Collaborator

Dr. Kretlow is Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the Exceptional Education Department at James Madison University, where she teaches courses on Reading and Behavior Interventions and supervises pre-service teachers in an intensive reading and behavior practicum. In the last five years, Dr. Kretlow has published 15 peer-reviewed articles related to early reading intervention, instructional coaching, evidence-based practices, and active engagement, and has provided over 300 contact hours of inservice instruction related to reading and behavior interventions to elementary teachers. Dr. Kretlow is a certified DIBELS ® Mentor and a certified Direct Instruction Trainer. In 2009, the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Research named Dr. Kretlow one of ten national Doctoral Student Scholars, for her potential to impact the field of education through research. Dr. Kretlow was also the sole recipient of a $20,000 grant for work related to her dissertation studying the impact of professional development on teachers’ use of evidence-based practices. In 2009, she received the Marvin Wayne Outstanding Paper award from the North Carolina Association for Research in Education, for her work on a large study investigating early reading intervention in kindergarten. Dr. Kretlow is currently completing work on two other grants focusing on investigating and implementing multi-tiered models of reading instruction in rural elementary schools in Virginia. She is a reviewer for the Journal of Special Education and the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and is the president-elect of the Virginia Council for Learning Disabilities. She has previously taught courses related to single-subject research, instructional design, assessment, and general methods. She holds a Master’s degree in Special Education, a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, and teaching licenses in special education and elementary education. Prior to earning her Ph.D., Dr. Kretlow served as an elementary special education teacher, and a Title I reading coach for five elementary schools in North Carolina. Dr. Kretlow will oversee the literature review, as well as the measurement of literacy instruction and engagement on site visits. She will lead the development of a framework for literacy and student engagement in the proposed laboratory school model. 

Dr. Jen Newton, Project Collaborator

Jen Newton is an Assistant Professor in the Exceptional Education Department and coordinator for the Inclusive Early Childhood program at James Madison University.  She teaches courses on differentiation of instruction, inclusive teaching and learning strategies, and early childhood development and assessment. She holds a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education and a bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders,. Prior to earning a Ph.D., Dr. Newton served as an infant/toddler developmental specialist and an inclusive pre-kindergarten teacher. Dr. Newton’s research interests include innovative methods to close the research-to-practice gap, including the development and testing of “signature pedagogies” for pre-service teacher education. Dr. Newton lead the literature review and will contribute to the development of an early childhood framework for the proposed laboratory school model. 

Dr. Kateri Thunder, Project Collaborator

Dr. Thunder is an Assistant Professor in the Middle, Secondary, and Mathematics Education Department at James Madison University, where she teaches courses on early childhood and elementary mathematics methods. In addition, she teaches mathematics specialist courses throughout Virginia.  Dr. Thunder’s research focuses on three areas of mathematics education: early childhood mathematics instruction, the experiences of African American children in mathematics education, and writing-to-learn strategies in mathematics instruction. Over the last four years, Dr. Thunder has formed and continues to maintain partnerships with local school divisions, where she provides on-going professional development for mathematics and reading specialists as well as for elementary school teachers on both mathematics and writing instruction. During the spring, Dr. Thunder had the honor of serving as an advisor for fellows in the International Leadership in Education Program visiting JMU from Ghana, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Dr. Thunder serves on the Central Virginia Writing Project Leadership Team and is the president-elect of the Jefferson Council of Teachers of Mathematics. She holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education, a Master’s degree in Elementary Education, a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, and a Virginia teaching license for grades NK-8. Prior to earning her Ph.D., Dr. Thunder taught elementary school and served as a Title I mathematics specialist in the Charlottesville City Schools. Dr. Thunder will oversee the measurement of mathematics instruction on site visits, as well as lead the development of a framework for mathematics instruction for the proposed laboratory school model.