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IES Grant

Title: An Efficacy Study of the School-based National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders Model (NPDC)
Center: NCSER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Odom, Samuel Awardee: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Program: Educators and School-Based Service Providers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2019) Award Amount: $3,498,529
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324A150047

Co-Principal Investigators: Ann W. Cox, Suzannne Kucharczyk, and Brian Boyd

Purpose: This project will assess the efficacy of a widely used professional development model that promotes program quality, teachers' use of evidence-based practices (EBPs), and positive outcomes for elementary school students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study will respond to a national need to prepare teachers to implement effective, research-based educational programs for students with ASD to improve behavioral, social, and academic outcomes for these students.

Project Activities: The researchers will conduct a randomized controlled trial of the effect of the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder (NPDC) comprehensive model on elementary school, teacher, and student outcomes. The goal of the NPDC model is to promote the use of EBPs for children and youth with ASD through the provision of comprehensive professional development. Researchers will train and support teachers and school-based teams at the study schools to provide appropriate and individualized interventions using EPBs to participating students.

Products: Products include evidence of the efficacy of the NPDC model for schools and teachers in providing quality support and interventions to students with ASD and for promoting positive behavioral, social, and academic student outcomes. In addition, there will be peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in elementary schools in North Carolina. These schools will be distributed across urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Sample: School staff (e.g., teachers, related service providers, administrators, etc.) at the intervention schools will participate in the NPDC professional development model for 1 year. A minimum of 10 students (kindergarten through Grade 5) with ASD in each of the 60 schools will also participate (total of 600 students) in both inclusive and non-inclusive programs.

Intervention: The professional development model serving as the treatment condition in this study was developed by the NPDC, has been used by agencies in 12 states, and is currently being used to train hundreds of teachers in the United States and other countries. The model consists of forming a team at the school building level to assess program quality, use program quality information for program improvement, develop measureable student goals, link goals to EBPs, and implement these practices to achieve student goals. In addition, teachers are offered professional development (an online course and participation in an intensive summer workshop). A significant feature of this model is the coaching and feedback provided by research staff and local district personnel.

Research Design and Method: Using a cluster randomized controlled trial, 60 participating schools will be recruited over the first 3 years and randomly assigned to treatment and control conditions. Data will be obtained via school records, online assessment, and direct assessment in the beginning and end of the year-long implementation to determine whether the NPDC model leads to improved outcomes for students with ASD.

Control Condition: Schools in the control condition will engage in services as usual. They will also receive awareness training about ASD and obtain a profile of the quality of the ASD program at their school based on the Autism Program Environment Rating Scale (APERS).

Key Measures: The APERS, Evidence-Based Practice Inventory (EBPI), and researcher-developed assessment of fidelity of EBP use will be used as the service provider measures. The Psychometric Equivalence Tested Goal Attainment Scale will be the proximal student measure used. A battery of standardized assessments that measure social, communication, academic, and behavioral outcomes will serve as the distal student outcome measures, including Childhood Autism Rating Scale, 2nd Edition (CARS), Academic Performance Rating Scale, Differential Abilities Scale (DAS II), Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS), Children's Communication Checklist—2, Repetitive Behavior Scale, and Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale 2nd Edition. An implementation index will track implementation of the model in NPDC and control schools.

Data Analytic Strategy: A multilevel hierarchical linear model will be used to determine differences on school-level and student-level variables. A mediational analysis will determine the relative association of quality of EBP use to student outcomes. A correlational analysis will explore the association of systems variables with implementation of the model. Exploratory and descriptive analyses of the association between observed fidelity and observed outcomes will be conducted.

Related IES Projects: Comparison of Two Comprehensive Treatment Models for Preschool-Aged Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders and Their Families (R324B070219); Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (CSESA) (R324C120006)