Paul Austin McDermott


Human Development and Quantitative Methods Division

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania

Phone: 215-898-7368


Professional Biography

Dr. Paul McDermott is a Professor in the Quantitative Methods Division at Penn GSE. A psychometrician and quantitative psychologist, he previously served as director of Clinical and Industrial Measurement for The Psychological Corporation and holds Diplomate from the American Academy of Assessment Psychology. Dr. McDermott is also a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist.

Dr. McDermott specializes in measurement theory, test construction, applied multivariate statistics, and multilevel and longitudinal modeling. He develops standardized measures of school behavioral adjustment, classroom learning behaviors, neighborhood effects, addiction severity, pain, and cognitive growth. Recent nationally standardized measures include the Adjustment Scales for Early Transition in Schooling, the Adjustment Scales for Children and Adolescents, the Learning Behaviors Scale, and the Preschool Learning Behaviors Scale. All of these instruments have been translated into numerous languages and are applied worldwide. Dr. McDermott co-authored the Adjustment Scales for Preschool Intervention, which is designed for Head Start populations. 

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. McDermott directs several large-scale measurement development programs. In cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, he applies nationally representative data from his Adjustment Scales for Early Transition in Schooling to discover types of school maladjustment and to trace developmental patterns for pre-K through first grade. This program is identifying behavioral change trajectories that are emblematic of long-term academic proficiency and social resilience. A second program is longitudinally equating assessments from the Head Start Preschool Learning Behaviors Scale with those from the elementary school Learning Behaviors Scale. This work is revealing growth patterns in stylistic classroom learning behavior as related to later attendance, achievement, and adjustment problems. Dr. McDermott also directs a national epidemiologic investigation of the protective functions of children’s and adolescents' differential learning behaviors for K-12. Additionally, he is involved in research that examines assessor bias in high-stakes psychological assessment for special education classification.

Dr. McDermott is co-principal investigator for a large-scale Spanish/English translation and equating study assessing classroom behavioral disorders via the Adjustment Scales for Preschool Intervention, supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. This work applies item response theory (IRT) and other advanced psychometric procedures to develop linguistically and culturally appropriate measures with bilingual preschool teachers and diverse Latino populations in Miami. 

Dr. McDermott also supervises a Penn research group that is scaling and validating several measures of classroom learning behavior as well as school and home assessments of youth social-emotional adjustment in Trinidad and Tobago. These measures are nationally standardized across the islands as supported by the Ministry of Education. Funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Dr. McDermott directed development of the Learning Express, an individually administered adaptive performance battery for measuring preschool learning growth over brief intervals as grounded in IRT, and the Learning-To-Learn Scales to assess differential learning styles related to strategic planning in learning, persistence, appropriate risk-taking, attentiveness, and interpersonal responsiveness in learning situations.

Selected Publications

McDermott, P. A., Watkins, M. W., Rhoad, A. M., Chao, J. L., Worrell, F. C., & Hall, T. E. (in press). Classroom context as a framework for assessing social and emotional adjustment: A national study in Trinidad and Tobago. Psychology in the Schools, 52.

McDermott, P. A., Rikoon, S. H., & Fantuzzo, J. W. (in press). Transition and protective agency of early childhood learning behaviors as portents of later school attendance and adjustment. Journal of School Psychology, 52.

McDermott, P. A., Watkins, M. W., Rhoad, A. M., Chao, J. L., Worrell, F. C., & Hall, T. E. (2015). Trinidad and Tobago national standardization of the Adjustment Scales for Children and Adolescents. International Journal of School and Educational Psychology, 3, 278–292.

McDermott, P. A., Watkins, M. W., Rovine, M. J. & Rikoon, S. H. (2014). Informing context and change in young children's sociobehavioral development―The national Adjustment Scales for Early Transition in Schooling (ASETS). Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29, 255–267.

McDermott, P. A., Rikoon, S. H., & Fantuzzo, J. W. (2014). Tracing children's approaches to learning through Head Start, kindergarten, and first grade―Different pathways to different outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106, 200–213. 

Penderi, E., Petrogiannis, K., & McDermott, P. A. (2014). Psychometric properties and factor structure of the Greek version of the Preschool Learning Behavior Scale. International Journal of School and Educational Psychology, 2, 271–282.

McDermott, P. A., Watkins, M. W., & Rhoad, A. (2014). Whose IQ is it?―Assessor bias variance in high-stakes psychological assessment. Psychological Assessment, 26, 207–214.

McDermott, P. A., Watkins, M. W., Rovine, M. J. & Rikoon, S. H. (2013). Assessing changes in socioemotional adjustment across the early school transitions―New national scales for children at risk. Journal of School Psychology, 51, 97–115.

Zhang, X., McDermott, P. A., Fantuzzo, J. W., & Gadsden, V. L. (2013). Longitudinal stability of IRT and equivalent-groups linear and equipercentile equating. Psychological Reports: Measures and Statistics, 113, 1303–1325. 

Rikoon, S. H., McDermott, P. A., & Fantuzzo, J. W. (2012). Approaches to learning among Head Start alumni: Structure and validity of the Learning Behaviors Scale. School Psychology Review, 41, 272–294.

McDermott, P. A., Rikoon, S. H., Waterman, C., & Fantuzzo, J. W. (2012). The Preschool Learning Behaviors Scale: Dimensionality and external validity in Head Start. School Psychology Review, 41, 66–81.

Waterman, C., McDermott, P. A., Fantuzzo, J. W., & Gadsden, V. L. (2012). The matter of assessor variance in early childhood education―Or whose score is it anyway? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27, 46–54.

George, S., McDermott, P. A., Watkins, M. W., Worrell, F., & Hall, T. E. (2012). The assessment of youth psychopathology in Trinidad and Tobago: A cross-cultural construct validity study of the Adjustment Scales for Children and Adolescents (ASCA). International Journal of Educational and Psychological Assessment, 10, 159–178. 

McDermott, P. A., Fantuzzo, J. W., Warley, H. P. Waterman, C., Angelo, L. E., Sekino, S., & Gadsden, V. L. (2011). Multidimensionality of teachers’ graded responses for preschoolers’ stylistic learning behavior: The Learning-To-Learn Scales. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 71, 148–169.

Fantuzzo, J. W., Gadsden, V. L., & McDermott, P. A. (2011). An integrated curriculum to improve mathematics, language, and literacy for Head Start children. American Educational Research Journal, 48, 763–793.

McDermott, P. A., Fantuzzo, J. W., Waterman, C., Angelo, L. E., Warley, H. P, Gadsden, V. L., & Zhang, X. (2009). Measuring preschool cognitive growth while it’s still happening: The Learning Express. Journal of School Psychology, 47, 337–366.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R., Fantuzzo, J. W., & McDermott, P. A. (2010). Typology of emotional and behavioral adjustment for low-income children: A child-centered approach. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31, 180–191.

Gross, K. S., & McDermott, P. A. (2008). Use of city archival data to inform dimensional structure of neighborhoods. Journal of Urban Health, 86, 161–182.

McWayne, C. M., McDermott, P. A., Fantuzzo, J. W., & Culhane, D. P. (2007). Employing community data to investigate social and structural dimensions of urban neighborhoods: An early childhood education example. American Journal of Community Psychology, 39, 47–60. 

McDermott, P. A., Goldberg, M. M., Watkins, M. W., Stanley, J. L., & Glutting, J. J. (2006). A nationwide epidemiologic modeling study of LD: Risk, protection, and unintended impact. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39, 230–251.