Nikki Aikens

Nikki Aikens

Principal Researcher
  • Descriptive analysis and reporting
  • Dual language learners
  • Early childhood development and measurement
  • Head Start
  • Family engagement
Focus Areas
  • Quality Improvement
  • Early Childhood
  • Child Development
  • Early Childhood Systems
  • Quality Measurement
  • Human Services
About Nikki

Nikki Aikens is a senior researcher who specializes in descriptive and evaluation studies focused on young children, their families, and the quality of programs serving them, including Head Start, Early Head Start, and publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs.

Aikens has expertise in early childhood assessment and child care quality measurement and has informed decisions regarding instrumentation for the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES 2006, 2009, and 2014), Baby FACES 2009, and UPCOS studies. Other areas of expertise include family engagement and assessment approaches with dual language learners. She has also contributed to data analysis and reporting for these and other early childhood studies, including qualitative coding, hierarchical linear modeling, and descriptive analysis. For Baby FACES 2009, she led the descriptive analysis and reporting of the study’s home visit and classroom quality data, and she has conducted similar analyses of Head Start classroom quality for the FACES studies.

Currently, she directs the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) Longitudinal Study, which is examining implementation and outcomes for children and families participating in HCZ’s early childhood and school programs. She also directed the Head Start Family Voices Pilot Study and led the FACES 2014 Family Engagement Plus study, two efforts to better understand the family engagement and service provision experiences of families and staff participating in Head Start and Early Head Start. She serves as co-principal investigator on the FACES 2014 and 2019 studies.

Aikens, who joined Mathematica in 2006, is a manuscript reviewer for Early Childhood Research Quarterly and Child Development and has served as a member of the Society for Research in Child Development Committee on Policy and Communications. She holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Key Projects
  • Harlem Children's Zone Longitudinal Study

    This longitudinal study, which Mathematica began conducting in spring 2010, examines students’ outcomes and school experiences as they progress from early childhood programs through Promise Academy (PA) charter schools.

  • Head Start: The Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES)

    Mathematica conducted the 2006 and 2009 FACES studies, and, for the most recent studies (2014-2018 and 2019), redesigned FACES to provide key data more rapidly and with greater frequency and to help researchers examine more complex issues and topics in greater detail with more efficiency.

  • Head Start Family Voices Pilot Study

    Head Start and Early Head Start aim to increase the school readiness of young children in low-income families. To better understand the experiences of participating families and staff, Mathematica developed interviews to collect qualitative data from these individuals.

  • Universal Preschool Child Outcomes Study (UPCOS)

    The Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) was created to increase the number of preschool slots available in the most underserved Los Angeles' communities. Since 2007, Mathematica has conducted this study to provide descriptive information about the diverse population LAUP serves.

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