Meet Our Team

Child360’s researchers are highly trained and bring a combined 123 years of experience to your project. Each team member holds a Master’s or Doctorate degree in areas related to their specializations, including early childhood development, teacher-child interactions, STEAM education, dual language learners, and family and community engagement.

Dr. Rosa Valdés

As Director of Research and Evaluation, Rosa Valdés oversees a team of researchers who conduct studies and evaluations focused on Child360’s programs, and the overall benefits and outcomes of high-quality early learning. These projects have a general focus on child outcomes, the early care and education workforce, Child360’s coaching model, family engagement, child development, and curriculum-related topics. She and her team also prepare data reports to meet grant requirements and for internal departments’ progress monitoring.

She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. She brings more than 25 years of interdisciplinary research experience to the department, having previously worked at LAUSD as a researcher and manager in the Program Evaluation and Research Branch, and at UCLA’s National Center for Research, Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing as a researcher.

Noelle Banuelos Developmental and Formative Evaluations; Data Usage

Noelle Banuelos has a Ph.D. in Social Research Methodology from UCLA, with a focus on evaluation, as well as a Master’s in Educational Psychology from California State University, Long Beach. She has been with Child360 since 2014 and brings over 30 years’ experience in the research educational field. Her most recent projects include developmental and formative evaluations of Child360’s coaching program and coaching supervision; and family engagement data, analysis, and maximizing data use, which entails working closely with a school district’s Early Childhood Education leadership. In addition to her work in early childhood education, Noelle has extensive experience in K-12 and post-secondary research and evaluation, grant-writing, and teaching research methods in graduate-level university programs.

Drew Barrett STEAM in Early Education

Drew has a Master of Science degree in Child Development from the University of La Verne. He joined Child360 in January 2014. His recent work includes the evaluation of the evolving platform of STEAM in Early Care and Education, as well as Child360’s STEAM program. His research methodology includes qualitative and quantitative approaches, and he has previous experience in working with children on the autism spectrum.

Claudia Benavides Quality Improvement in the Quality Movement

Claudia has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UCLA. She joined Child360 in 2013. She is currently developing a system for improving data quality at California State Preschool Program sites, including data related to the qualifications of teachers and site directors as related to the California Quality Continuum Framework. Her previous work includes an evaluation of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. Claudia has worked in the field of education research for over 15 years.

Donna Escalante Family and Community Engagement

Donna has a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Psychology and Technology from USC, as well as a Master’s in Education from USC. She joined Child360 in January 2013. As Senior Research Analyst, she works on the evaluation of Child360’s Best Start Communities in the area of community and family engagement.

Mariel Doerfel Early Literacy and Development, DLLs

Mariel has a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from UCLA, with a focus on language and cognitive development between the ages of 0 and 5. She joined Child360 in October of 2013. Her recent research projects include a family engagement intervention to address the income-based word gap in early childhood, a quantitative analysis of child outcomes from LAUP’s preschool programs, and an evaluation of job satisfaction and wellness among preschool teachers and directors. Currently, she is developing a set of resources that will support and inform Child360’s quality improvement coaching program.

Estéfani Marin Intern

Estéfani Marín is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Estéfani’s work is situated at the intersection of family and education, with an emphasis on the role of sibling support among Latinx first-generation college students. Her work seeks to challenge deficit models of thinking and to raise awareness of the attributes underrepresented students possess that allow them to exert agency within structural confinements. As a Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) scholar, she desires to expand her research repertoire to translate her academic interests with impactful societal changes. Estéfani will work alongside Child360 and the GEDI community to accomplish this goal.

Alejandra Portillo Bicultural Community Evaluator

Alejandra Portillo has a Master’s degree in Education from San Jose State University. She is a bicultural Latina community researcher and evaluator skilled at making data accessible, engaging, and culturally relevant to community leaders and diverse stakeholders. As a Research Analyst at Child360, her work focuses on supporting the evaluation of Best Start, a place-based initiative funded by First 5 Los Angeles. She brings expertise in working with Spanish-speaking and bicultural families and collaborates with members of underserved communities to improve outcomes for vulnerable populations. Alejandra’s professional experience has focused on qualitative and quantitative data collection and survey research methods, having worked on numerous evaluation and needs assessment projects where she contributed by coordinating and implementing telephone interviews, surveys, and focus groups.

Veronica Torres Special Education

Veronica Torres holds a Master of Arts degree in Child Development from California State University, Los Angeles. She joined Child360 in March 2018, and brings niche experience with data and evaluation related to children with special needs in the classroom. In her current role, Ms. Torres maintains the co-data management of Quality Start Los Angeles’ iPinwheel coaching and site information, and develops monthly reports to identify trends, needs and data accuracy. Other responsibilities involve performing on-site monitoring and compliance visits, and verifying data collection and accuracy. Previously, Ms. Torres had an integral role at the Los Angeles Unified School District, gathering, analyzing and verifying Special Education data accuracy and progress as it pertained to compliance with the Modified Consent Decree with special education law. She has over eight years of research and evaluation experience, 14 years of Early Education experience, and serves her community on various committees and boards.

Alex Zepeda Specialized Child360 programs

Alex has a Master of Public Health degree from UCLA. She joined Child360 in December 2006. Currently, she is involved in the data review and rating process for the local QRIS, Quality Start Los Angeles, and is the study liaison for First 5 California’s Dual Language Learner Pilot Study. Her recent projects include evaluations of the Program Leadership Consultation and preschool obesity prevention program, as well as, a study on preschool teacher turnover and retention. Prior to her tenure at Child360, Alex worked on school readiness projects at the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities.