Irma Perez-Johnson is a vice president at AIR. She is an expert in the design and implementation of rigorous evaluations of employment, adult training, and K–12 educational interventions, including pilots and demonstrations, and the application of behavioral insights to improve program outcomes and performance in various policy contexts.
For the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Dr. Perez-Johnson has led many large-scale, complex random assignment and mixed-methods studies, including an evaluation of the Self-Employment Training Demonstration, which helps unemployed and underemployed displaced workers start businesses in their fields of expertise. She also directed a study featuring rapid-cycle evaluations of low-cost behavioral interventions in various ongoing DOL programs and a taskforce that identified strategies to help experienced workers who become disabled stay at or return to work. Dr. Perez-Johnson has directed evaluations of training vouchers, job search assistance, re-employment bonuses, eligibility assessments and other elements of the Unemployment Insurance program, and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
For the U.S. Department of Education, Dr. Perez-Johnson helped design and direct an evaluation of data-driven instruction. She also helped lead the impact and implementation evaluation of Race-to-the-Top and School Improvement Grants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 65 districts, and more than 500 schools; directed a study of tiered quality rating and improvement systems in Race-to-the-Top Early Learning Challenge Grant states; and oversaw more than 20 methodological studies under the Analytical and Technical Support Services project.
An accomplished researcher with more than 20 years of experience, Dr. Perez-Johnson has led or played lead roles in studies focusing on topics as diverse as job search assistance; welfare-to-work transitions; occupational skills/vocational training; entrepreneurship and self-employment; training and other types of vouchers; unemployment insurance; employment and reemployment supports for dislocated workers, veterans, at-risk youth, and individuals with disabilities; the U.S. workforce development system; economic development; shortages of health professionals; workplace health/safety regulations; retirement savings; teacher training, evaluation, and compensation; school improvement/turnaround; educational standards and assessments; achievement gaps; “small schools;” educational standards and assessments; data-driven instruction; tiered quality-rating/improvement systems; and substance abuse prevention. She’s deeply interested in efforts to link research and practice and to promote evidence-based policy; to leverage existing administrative data to support low-cost evaluation and research; more effective use of analytics and innovative designs (e.g., Bayesian, factorial) for continuous quality improvement; and to draw on methods and findings across disciplines to design and implement more effective social policies and programs.
Dr. Perez-Johnson has extensive publications and presents her work widely to policy and practitioner audiences. She is also an experienced manager. Before joining AIR, over her 20 years at Mathematica Policy Research, Dr. Perez-Johnson assumed progressive leadership roles including as member of the company’s Board of Directors, Corporate Lead for the Application of Behavioral Insights, and Associate Director of Human Services Research.
Ph.D., Education Policy, Measurement, and Evaluation, University of Pennsylvania; M.S., Urban Studies and Planning, Regional Economics Concentration and B.S., Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Enrolled in Ph.D. program at Columbia University, Economics)