Jessica Young

Email Jessica Young

Jessica Young
Research Scientist

Mailing Address: 

43 Foundry Avenue
Waltham, Massachusetts 02453-8313



Jessica Mercer Young is dedicated to improving young children’s school readiness skills and approaches to learning with a particular focus on vulnerable and at-risk populations. A former preschool teacher, her work focuses on the intersection of developmental science and early childhood education, exploring the ways in which families, teachers, and schools promote children’s positive development. An expert in child development, she studies the potential of interventions to improve children’s academic achievement, particularly in the domain of mathematics and mastery motivation.

Young is currently Principal Investigator (PI) with Kristen Reed of Games for Young Mathematicians, a study of the effectiveness of a game-based professional development intervention for promoting low-income children’s school readiness skills and mathematics learning. Young and Reed are examining the effectiveness of a game-based professional development intervention for promoting low-income preschool children's school readiness skills and mathematics learning. 

As Co-PI, with Reed and Heidi Rosenberg, of Family Engagement in Early Mathematics, a study funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation, Young is examining the effectiveness of an additional teacher professional development/family engagement model for increasing preschoolers' knowledge and skills in mathematics, above and beyond the Games for Young Mathematicians model, to support teachers in engaging families with early mathematics using a set of at-home activities and mathematics mini-books that align with the mathematical content of the games and activities teachers are implementing in the classroom.

Young is also PI, with Reed and Rosenberg, of a study of preschool teachers’ instructional practices funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation that is investigating the potential of a math and mindset professional development intervention for promoting teachers’ mathematics instruction, mathematics-related talk, and enhancing the feedback they provide to children.

Young contributed to EDC’s design of developmentally appropriate K–2 mathematics formative assessment tasks for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC). These tasks are engaging for children, informative for teachers—tasks include detailed observation checklists that help teachers gain insight into student understanding—and serve as examples of how to engage students with the Common Core State Standards with a particular focus on the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

Previously, Young was co-PI of an Early Reading First grant that employed a quasi-experimental study design to determine the impact of professional development on early childhood teachers’ language and literacy instructional practices and low-income preschool children’s learning. In addition, Young is an expert on the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO PreK) tool and has led Train-the-Trainer seminars and professional development institutes. She also evaluated the Mass. Department of Early Education and Care’s approach to assessing the quality of early childhood educational settings, improving their quality, and communicating this to parents and stakeholders, contributing to the QRIS pilot evaluation and QRIS Provisional Standards Study.

She has coauthored publications on early childhood education and development, including "Use of a Storytelling Context to Improve Girls' and Boys' Geometry Skills in Kindergarten" and book chapters in Contemporary Perspectives on Mathematics in Early Childhood Education and The Oxford Handbook of Intellectual Disability and Development. She has served as a reviewer for Early Childhood Research Quarterly and Infant and Child Development.

Young received a BA in psychology from Boston College, an EdM in human development and psychology from Harvard University, and a PhD in developmental and educational psychology from Boston College.