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IES Grant

Title: Research Partnership to Improve a Multi-tiered System of Supports in Early Childhood Programs in a Large Urban District
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Goldstein, Howard Awardee: University of South Florida
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2016-6/30/2019) Award Amount: $400,000
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H160034

Co-Principal Investigator: Brown, Tracye H.

Partner Institutions: University of South Florida; Hillsborough County Public Schools

Purpose: As Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) are extended to early childhood education, new issues arise regarding training teachers, identifying at-risk students, providing students with tiered services, monitoring student progress, and adjusting those services as needed. In this project, Florida's Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) examined how MTSS has been implemented in inner-city early childhood settings in order to improve its implementation and prepare for its scale-up.

Partnership Activities: The partnership included an internal HCPS partnership between the unit responsible for early childhood education, the unit responsible for MTSS in grades K12, and the research and evaluation office, as well as an external partnership with the University of South Florida. In Year 1, the partnership conducted an exploratory study of the implementation of MTSS and in Year 2, they used the data from that study to improve MTSS implementation.

Setting: This project took place in Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS), Florida. HCPS has 3,000 students enrolled in public pre-K and Head Start. While this district is geographically diverse, the project focused on inner city Tampa.

Sample: The project focused on 60 classrooms in 27 school sites: 30 drawn from Tampa's 92 Head Start classrooms and 30 drawn from its 196 Early Exceptional Learning Program (EELP) classrooms. Both types of classrooms served 3 to 5-year-olds. The Early Exceptional Learning Program serves students identified as having special needs primarily through self-contained classrooms but also with blended classrooms that combine both typically developing students with those identified as having a developmental delay.

Partnership Activities: The partnership described the state of teacher preparation to use MTSS practices and state of MTSS implementation, and then correlated this data with students' school readiness outcomes. The team collected and analyzed a variety of measures on teacher readiness (e.g., the MTSS Belief and Knowledge Survey), students' school readiness (e.g., the Florida Voluntary Pre-K Assessment), and program implementation (e.g., the Early Childhood Education MTSS Fidelity Rubric). The team also gathered and analyzed information on program implementation by conducting focus groups with various stakeholders, including principals and assistant principals; Head Start and EELP teachers and paraeducators; Head Start and EELP parents; and related service providers.

Key Outcomes: The HCPS partnership presented findings of the degree of teacher preparation for and implementation of MTSS, and its association to student readiness to multiple groups through reports to stakeholder and community groups, presentations at local and state practitioner meetings, presentations at national conferences, and publications in peer-reviewed practitioner and researcher journals.

The partnership's findings as described in Goldstein et al. (2019) are as follows:

  • Few partnership classrooms (n = 298) met expectations on pre-K assessments at the beginning of year. Although they made substantial improvements (e.g., 81—88% meeting or exceeding expectations) on the VPK assessment at the end of year, they did not differ significantly from Pre-K students in the district not in partnership classrooms (n=1274).
  • No more than 28% of the students who were meeting expectations on the Pre-K assessments met expectations in kindergarten. Outcomes were somewhat better for children who exceeded expectations on the VPK assessments, as 27% to 59% of these students met expectations on the STAR or iReady tests.
  • Kindergartners who had been enrolled in partnership pre-K classrooms were more likely to meet expectations for reading, as indicated by the STAR early Literacy assessment, compared to their kindergarten classmates, although this effect was not evident on the iReady Reading assessment. Conversely, the partnership students had a slight but significant disadvantage on the iReady Math assessment.


ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Goldstein, H., McKenna, M., Barker, R. M., & Brown, T. H. (2019). Research-Practice Partnership: Application to implementation of Multi-Tiered System of Supports in early childhood education. ASHA Perspectives, 4, 38—50.

Goldstein, H., & Olswang, L. (2017). Is there a science to facilitate implementation of evidence-based practices and programs? Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, 11, 3—4, 55—60. doi: 10.1080/17489539.2017.1416768

Olswang, L., & Goldstein, H. (2017). Collaborating on the development and implementation of evidence-based practices: Advancing science and practice. Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, 11, 3—4, 61—71. doi: 10.1080/17489539.2017.1386404