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IES Grant

Title: Efficacy Study of Foundations, School-wide Positive Discipline for Middle Schools
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Sumi, W. Carl Awardee: SRI International
Program: Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (9/1/2016-8/31/2020) Award Amount: $3,283,424
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A160005

Co-Principal Investigator: Michelle Woodbridge

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of Foundations, a positive and proactive approach to school-wide discipline developed by Safe & Civil Schools (SCS). Foundations provides tools and strategies to help K–12 school staff establish proactive, nonpunitive school-wide discipline policies, manage student misbehavior, foster student motivation, and create a positive and productive school climate. More than 5,000 schools across the U.S. have implemented Foundations; however, rigorous evidence supporting this widely used intervention is limited, especially in secondary schools.

Project Activities: The researchers will assess the efficacy of Foundations under routine conditions in a diverse set of middle schools, and will assess critical factors that may mediate its effects on school climate and students' behavioral and academic outcomes.

Products: The findings from this project can help strengthen the knowledge base regarding "what works" in improving the behavioral and academic challenges of middle school students. The team will produce publications, presentations, and study reports in multiple formats accessible to wide audiences of educators, administrators, parents, students, and researchers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in middle schools in California, Texas, and Washington.

Sample: Sixty middle schools across multiple districts in three states will participate in the study. The schools are diverse in geographic location, degree of urbanicity, size, and student characteristics.

Intervention: As a Tier 1, universal intervention, the Foundations program focuses on guiding members of an entire school staff in developing a school-wide environment that is safe, civil, and conducive to learning. The Foundations intervention is typically implemented over a 2-year period, and includes professional development (e.g., training, videos, workshops), ongoing technical assistance, and program materials for members of a school's leadership team. The Foundations program guides the team through the step-by-step process of designing a positive and proactive school-wide discipline plan for all students in all school settings. Over the course of two years, leadership teams from multiple schools participate in 1-, 2-, or 3-day training sessions, for a total of 15 days of training each year by on-site, SCS-certified consultants. The program also provides 36 hours of video and 6 volumes of printed matter (approximately 1,800 pages of content) that systematically guide educators through 6 modules and can be used individually or presented to a group. There are accompanying module study guides, sample forms for data collection, lesson plans to teach expected behavior, and hundreds of real-life examples of specific applications from successful schools.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will stratify schools within districts on key variables (e.g., discipline climate, size, academic achievement) and then randomly assign schools to implement Foundations (30 Foundations schools) or continue with business-as-usual practices (30 control schools). Schools assigned to the intervention condition will implement Foundations for two years. The researchers will collect data using a variety of methods (e.g., surveys, observations, records extraction), sources (e.g., school records, educators, parents, students), and measures, including annual assessments of school-wide discipline practices, climate, behavior incidences (e.g., discipline referrals, suspensions), and academic achievement (e.g., state test results) in both the intervention and control conditions. Furthermore, schools implementing Foundations will complete training surveys and detailed progress monitoring tools, including quarterly implementation checklists and annual implementation rubrics, to gauge the level of exposure and adherence to the school-wide model.

Control Condition: In this study, schools that are randomly assigned to the control condition will continue with their business-as-usual practices.

Key Measures: Measures of school staff discipline practices include the School-Wide Evaluation Tool, the Effective Behavior Support Survey, and school observations. Researchers will collect school records data including school achievement test scores to assess students' engagement and social and academic competence. The research team will also administer a School Safety Survey to assess staff, student, and parent perceptions of school climate.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will examine whether Foundations schools exhibit a greater rate of improvement over comparison schools by fitting a two-level hierarchical linear model, where the first level is year/time and the second level is school. The researchers will also use school-level analyses to examine the effects of Foundations on grade-level scores on state reading and math accountability tests, outcome measures from the Effective Behavior Support Survey, school observations, and behavioral outcomes. In addition, the research team will also conduct exploratory analyses of potential moderators and mediators.