Professional Biography

Dr. Fantuzzo is founder and faculty director of the Penn Child Research Center at Penn GSE and the co-founder and co-director of the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy national network. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, Dr. Fantuzzo took a faculty position at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology and developed the Covenant House, a residential facility for children with serious emotional disorders. In 1983, he joined the faculty at the University of Rochester to work as a research associate at the Mt. Hope Family Center, a special research and treatment facility for young victims of child maltreatment. In 1986, he took a faculty position at California State University at Fullerton to work with a large, diverse Head Start program in Santa Ana. Working with Head Start, he examined the impact of maltreatment and domestic violence on children’s development and learning. This work paved the way for Dr. Fantuzzo’s joining the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 1988. Since that time, he has been involved in many foundation, state, and federally funded research projects that have involved extensive work with the City of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia’s early childhood programs, building sustainable research and service capacities.

Dr. Fantuzzo was invited to deliver a master lecture at the 2018 National Early Childhood Research Conference sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families. In this lecture, “The Use of Child Outcome Data in Head Start – We’ve Got to Get it Right!,” he provided an account of his three decades of early childhood research in Philadelphia.

Dr. Fantuzzo is also working on a Penn Futures initiative to improve the lives of Philadelphia youth and families, along with Dr. Vivian Gadsden and other Penn professors in the schools of Nursing and Social Policy and Practice. Dr. Fantuzzo and Dr. Gadsden convened a special lecture at Penn to focus on early childhood in Philadelphia, entitled, “What must we do to promote school readiness and school success?

Dr. Fantuzzo serves on the editorial boards of research journals in education and early childhood (e.g., Educational Researcher, Early Education and Development, and Children and Youth Services Review). He is a member of the National Academy of Education and the recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Involvement Award and the National Head Start Research Mentor Award.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Fantuzzo is a national leader in school-based, early childhood education research and the use of Integrated Data Systems (IDS) in education to enhance the well-being of children from low-income households living in segregated disadvantaged communities in large urban centers. His work has included building and using scientific validated capacities at the macro- and micro-systems levels for various populations of vulnerable children (e.g., children in Head Start, maltreated children, children with emotional and behavioral problems, students with low reading and mathematics skills, children in foster care, and children victimized by domestic violence).

At the macro-level, he co-developed the Kids Integrated Data System (KIDS) for Philadelphia, which was one of the first fully integrated data systems (IDS) providing research and planning information to inform public services. Based on the success of KIDS, he partnered with Dennis Culhane to develop and co-direct Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP), a MacArthur-funded national network of integrated data systems. They developed a distinctive approach to building and using IDS in government, described in The Integrated Data System Approach: A Vehicle to More Effective and Efficient Data-Driven Solutions in Government. The network currently serves state and local governments, representing over 50% of the U.S. population.

Through AISP, Dr. Fantuzzo has promoted the use of IDS through (1) identifying best practices, (2) assisting in the development of local and state IDSs, and (3) using AISP Network sites to conduct large multi-site research. This model for integrating data across education, health, and human service agencies, both in Philadelphia and nationally, has been used to study how various risks monitored by health and social service agencies affect the educational well-being of vulnerable children and youth. Dr. Fantuzzo and his colleagues have published over 25 major population-based studies using IDS to produce quality evidence for community leaders advancing city-wide policies and practices for young children. He also conducted research for the Pennsylvania State Office of Child Development and Early Learning examining PA’s Quality Rating Improvement System and validating PA’s Kindergarten Entry Inventory, the states kindergarten readiness assessment for all PA children.

At the micro-level, Dr. Fantuzzo has developed and tested school-based interventions using large-scale randomized control trial designs, which can be found in the Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse. He was the principal investigator, along with Vivian Gadsden and Paul McDermott, for the development and validation of the Evidence-based Program for Integrated Curricula (EPIC), a comprehensive school-readiness program for Head Start, which was successfully tested with a randomized control trial across the School District of Philadelphia (SDP).

Dr. Fantuzzo is also the developer or co-developer of several published assessment tools validated for young children and families from low-income households that are used nationally and internationally. He completed a large longitudinal study with Paul McDermott examining the transition of Approaches to Learning Skills from Head Start to second grade using a vertically scaled multidimensional measure developed with Paul McDermott and Vivian Gadsden. He currently leads work resulting in the development and validation of a psychometrically valid assessment of classroom engagement that is in the School District of Philadelphia’s Kindergarten Report Card. He and his colleagues are developing, with support from the William Penn Foundation, practical “tool kits” of evidence-based activities that teachers can do in the classroom and parents can do at home to enhance engagement competencies.


Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology) Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, 1980
M.A. (Honorary) University of Pennsylvania, 1990
M.A. (Theology) Fuller Theological Seminary, 1976
B.A. (Psychology) Marietta College, 1974

Areas of Expertise

Early childhood education, Head Start

Learning-to-Learn competencies that foster classroom engagement

Use of Integrated Data Systems for social policy research

Early childhood risk including child maltreatment, family violence, homelessness


Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy

Read about Dr. Fantuzzo's work with Integrated Data Systems.

Selected Publications

Fantuzzo, J. W., LeBoeuf, W. A., Brumley, B., Coe, K., McDermott, P. A., & Rouse, H. (2019). What's behind being behind? Using integrated administrative data to enhance our understanding of how publicly monitored early risk experiences uniquely affect children's growth in reading achievement. Children and Youth Services Review, 96, 326–335.

Culhane, D., Fantuzzo, J., Hill, M., & Burnett, T. C. (2018). Maximizing the use of integrated data systems to serve state and local governments through advancing core ids components. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 675(1), 221–239.

Fantuzzo, J., Henderson, C., Coe, K., & Culhane, C. (2017). The Integrated Data System Approach: A Vehicle to More Effective and Efficient Data-Driven Solutions in Government. Paper commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation.

Barghaus, K. M., Fantuzzo, J., LeBoeuf, W., Li, F., Henderson, C., & McDermott, P. (2016). Problems in classroom engagement: Validation of an assessment for district-wide use in the early primary grades. Early Education and Development, 28(2), 1–13.

Fantuzzo, J., & Culhane, D. (2015). Actionable intelligence: Using integrated data systems to achieve more effective and efficient government. New York: Palgrave/MacMillian.

Fantuzzo, J., LeBoeuf, W., & Rouse, H. (2014). An investigation of the relations between school concentrations of student risk factors and student educational well-being. Educational Researcher, 43(1), 25–36.

McDermott, P., Rikoon, S. & Fantuzzo, J. (2014). Tracing children’s approaches to learning through Head Start, kindergarten, and first grade: Different pathways to different outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(1), 200–213.

Fantuzzo, J., Gadsden, V., Li, F., Sproul, F., McDermott, P., Hightower, D., & Minney, A. (2013). Multiple dimensions of family engagement in early childhood education: Evidence for a short form of the Family Involvement Questionnaire. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 734–742.

Fantuzzo, J., LeBoeuf, W., Brumley, B., & Perlman, S. (2013). A population-based inquiry of homeless episode characteristics and early educational well-being. Children and Youth Services Review, 35, 966–972.

Fantuzzo, J., LeBoeuf, W., Chen, C., Rouse, H. L., & Culhane, D. P. (2012). The unique and combined effects of homelessness and school mobility on the educational outcomes of young children. Educational Researcher [Invited Special Issue], 41, 393–402.

Fantuzzo, J., LeBoeuf, W., Rouse, H., & Chen, C. (2012). Academic achievement of African American boys: A city-wide, community-based investigation of risk and resilience, [Commissioned article]. Journal of School Psychology, 50, 559–579.

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

Fantuzzo, J., Perlman, S., & Dobbins, E. (2011). Types and timing of child maltreatment and early school success: A population-based investigation. Children and Youth Services Review, [Special issue on the maltreatment of young children], 33, 1404–1411.