Our Team

Marsie Torchon

Project Director

Ms. Torchon will chair I-SMART’s governance board and oversee the project on behalf of the Maryland State Department of Education, where she oversees implementation of Maryland’s alternate assessments and monitors and facilitates the administration of accommodations and accessibility features for all assessments. She has previously worked as a scoring specialist with Pearson for nine years, where she was involved in the planning, developing, and scoring programs for PARCC and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, as well as for Maryland, Virginia, and Washington’s alternate assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Ms. Torchon received her B.S. in psychology with a minor in special education from James Madison University.

Meagan Karvonen

Principal Investigator

Dr. Karvonen, principal iInvestigator, will oversee the governance, research, design, implementation, and dissemination activities for I-SMART. She will also serve as the primary contact between ATLAS and Maryland, I-SMART’s lead partner state. Dr. Karvonen is an associate director of ATLAS and the director of the Dynamic Learning Maps® Alternate Assessment Consortium, which delivers alternate assessments in English language arts and mathematics to students with significant cognitive disabilities in many states across the United States. She has nearly 20 years’ experience managing state- and federally funded projects. She has co-authored 40 articles and book chapters, more than 50 technical reports, and nearly 100 presentations. Her recent work includes developing methodologies for investigating opportunity to learn, fairness, content progressions, and growth within alternate assessments. She is especially interested in validity research and the implications of policy for students with significant cognitive disabilities and their teachers.

Jose Blackorby

Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Blackorby, co-principal investigator will serve on the leadership and research teams and co-lead the assessment design team for I-SMART. Dr. Blackorby is the senior director of research and development at CAST. He has over 20 years’ expertise in the design and implementation of large-scale, multifaceted studies with research, policy, and practical implications for students with disabilities. Dr. Blackorby led a team to design the first national assessment inclusive of 10,000 students in all 13 federal disability categories as part of the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study, and he was principal investigator of the IES-funded National Study of Alternate Assessments, which documented alternate assessment practices across the country. A widely published author, Dr. Blackorby serves in an advisory role on national panels for government initiatives and private organizations. He contributed peer-reviewed publications and reports that have had policy significance in the areas of special education, academic achievement, STEM, universal design for learning, and alternate assessment.

Russell Swinburne Romine

Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Swinburne Romine, co-principal investigator, will lend his expertise in developing learning map models for the Dynamic Learning Maps® and Enhanced Learning Maps projects to I-SMART. He will be on I-SMART’s leadership and research teams and will co-lead the assessment design team. He currently serves as associate director for test development and production for the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment Consortium, which delivers alternate assessments in English language arts and mathematics to students with significant cognitive disabilities in many states across the United States. Swinburne Romine’s research interests are in the areas of intersection between developmental psycholinguistics and large-scale assessment of reading comprehension; he has significant expertise in using principles of evidence-centered design and universal design for learning to create assessments for students with disabilities. He earned a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota, where he previously taught classes in educational psychology and educational measurement.

Gail Tiemann

Co-Principal Investigator, Research Project Manager

Dr. Tiemann, co-principal investigator and I-SMART’s project manager, will oversee overall project implementation as well as co-lead I-SMART’s leadership and research teams. She recently served as co-director of a statewide summative assessment program, directing the development, administration, and score reporting of next-generation assessments in English language arts, mathematics, and science. Previously, Dr. Tiemann directed the development and validation of performance tasks for the Career Pathways Assessment program and coordinated the development of the Adaptive Reading Motivation Measures. Tiemann earned a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Kansas, specializing in research, evaluation, measurement, and statistics. She has 15 years’ experience managing federal program activities, including facilitation of multiple partners, data collection and analysis, resource development, and reporting. Her research has included topics in validity evaluation, test security, innovative item types, educational technology, and culturally responsive assessment and evaluation.

Sue Bechard

Senior Advisor

Dr. Bechard will serve on I-SMART’s leadership and research teams as a senior advisor to the project. Dr. Bechard has served in a similar role for the Dynamic Learning Maps® Alternate Assessment Consortium since 2011. She has focused her career on promoting inclusive educational assessment and instructional practices through design and implementation of comprehensive alternate assessment systems in more than 18 states. This has included providing face-to-face and online professional development opportunities to teachers of students with significant cognitive disabilities. She has served as principal investigator or leadership team member on numerous federally funded grants. Her research focuses on the development, validation, alignment, and consequences of assessments for students with disabilities.

Lori Anderson

Research Team Member

Dr. Andersen will serve on I-SMART’s research team and will have principal responsibility for the development of the science learning map model. Dr. Andersen earned a doctorate in educational policy, planning, and leadership from the College of William and Mary. She is the science research lead for the Dynamic Learning Maps® Alternate Assessment Consortium, where she conducts research that focuses on the application of science education research to develop DLM’s science learning map model and the use of evidence-centered design and universal design to create assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Dr. Andersen is a national board certified teacher who taught science in K–12 schools for 17 years and taught courses in science education and research methods at Kansas State University. She has co-authored 12 articles, five book chapters, and 17 conference presentations, and she has led numerous teacher professional development presentations.

Robert Dolan

Assessment Design Team Member

Dr. Dolan will serve on the assessment design team and will help ensure that I-SMART assessments meet the standards of universal design. He brings more than 30 years of experience in cognitive neuroscience, learning science, assessment, instructional design, and software architecture and engineering. He is an expert in applying universal design for learning to assessment of diverse learners in terms of both pedagogy and technology integration. Prior to establishing his own consulting organization in 2013, Dr. Dolan spent thirteen years as a senior research scientist at CAST (2000–2007) and Pearson (2007–2013). At both organizations he designed, implemented, and evaluated technology-based learning and assessment solutions with emphases on cognition, accessibility, and usability. He led the development of extensive guidelines for applying universal design for learning to assessment design and has focused on research and innovation at the intersections of formative assessment, adaptive learning, and educational data mining.

Nicole Ofiesh

Assessment Design Team Member

Dr. Ofiesh is a senior research scientist whose primary focus is on the application of universal design for learning to secondary and postsecondary settings, including workforce development. With a background in diagnostic assessments, cognition and learning, she brings expertise in translating brain-based learning to human performance. Her work spans over thirty years as a learning specialist and researcher, most notably in the arena of test accommodations and cognition, beginning in the 1980’s working with adolescents in residential treatment facilities, and more recently as an expert to the United States Department of Justice on this topic. Dr. Ofiesh was previously associate director and senior research associate at the Schwab Learning Center at Stanford University, conducting research on behavior, attention, and test accommodations in postsecondary settings.

David Rose

Assessment Design Team Member

Dr. Rose will serve on the assessment design team and contribute to the development of assessments that meet the standards of universal design for learning. Dr. Rose is a developmental neuropsychologist and educator whose primary focus is on the development of new technologies for learning. In 1984, he co-founded CAST, a not-for-profit research and development organization whose mission is to improve education for all learners through innovative uses of modern multimedia technology and contemporary research in the cognitive neurosciences. That work has grown into the field called universal design for learning, which now influences educational policy and practice throughout the United States and internationally. Rose is the coauthor of five scholarly books, numerous award-winning educational technologies, and dozens of chapters and research journal articles.

Lindsay Ruhter

Assessment Design Team Member

Ms. Ruhter will serve on I-SMART’s assessment design team and lead the development of innovative test items, as well as support development of the learning map model. Ms. Ruhter earned a master’s degree in special education at the College of William and Mary. She currently serves as test development coordinator for the Dynamic Learning Maps® Alternate Assessment Consortium, where she uses her special education background to review and edit test items to increase accessibility to science content for students with significant cognitive disabilities. She also develops and conducts training for item writers, internal reviewers, and external reviewers. Before joining DLM, Ms. Ruhter was a special education teacher in Virginia, where she taught students with mild to moderate disabilities and students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Michelle Shipman

Assessment Design Team Member

Ms. Shipman will serve on the assessment design team and supervise the development of Essential Element Concept Maps and preparations for item writing and external review. Ms. Shipman has served as the ELA test development coordinator for the Dynamic Learning Maps® Consortium since 2012 and is also the test development lead for all CETE-delivered alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards. Ms. Shipman’s research involves text development for reading assessments and the design of writing assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities to further their literacy skills. Ms. Shipman's 20-year teaching career included teaching science and language arts classes. She earned a BA in education from Washburn University with emphases in English and science.

Brooke Nash

Research & Psychometric Team Member

Dr. Nash will serve on I-SMART’s research team and will lead the psychometric team with principal responsibility for psychometrics, data management, and analysis. Dr. Nash earned a doctorate in in educational psychology from the University of Kansas, specializing in research, evaluation, measurement, and statistics with a minor in special education. She currently works at the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation as a senior psychometrician. She previously worked as a psychometrician at Ascend Learning, specializing in assessments in the higher education field. Her research interests include formative assessment, scoring models for technology-enabled assessments, and implementation of diagnostic assessment platforms.

Amy Clark

Psychometric Team Member

Dr. Clark will serve on I-SMART’s psychometric team and support data management and analysis. Dr. Clark began her career as a classroom teacher and developed an interest in the use of assessment for improving student outcomes. She received a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Kansas, specializing in research, evaluation, measurement, and statistics with a minor in curriculum studies. She currently serves as a psychometrician for the Dynamic Learning Maps® Alternate Assessment Consortium. Her research interests include exploring potential threats to validity, the development of actionable score reports, and the implementation of diagnostic assessment platforms.

Susan Martin

Technology Team Member

Susan Martin is director of Agile Technology Solutions at the University of Kansas, which will produce the software through which I-SMART assessments are delivered and the reporting dashboard teachers will use to access reports on students’ I-SMART assessment performance. Ms. Martin is a key partner with the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, coordinating with stakeholders and overseeing program execution. Martin has spent her entire career working in software development and integration. She came to KU after nearly 20 years in management at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where her work included leading project management, business analysis, development, database administration, and quality assurance teams.