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IES Grant

Title: School Support, School Connectedness, and the Educational Outcomes of Military-Connected Students: An Exploratory Study of Student Mobility
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Spencer, Renee Awardee: Boston University
Program: Systemic Approaches to Educating Highly Mobile Students      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2018-06/30/2022) Award Amount: $1,399,914
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A180142

Co-Principal Investigator: Cavell, Timothy; Slep, Amy; Herrera, Carla

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to identify school supports that may improve the educational outcomes of military-connected students (i.e. students who have at least one parent/guardian who is on active duty in the U.S. military). The typical military family moves every two to three years, which means that school-age children from military families change schools frequently. After first identifying school supports accessed by military-connected students, researchers will explore the associations between student mobility, access to school supports, school-connectedness, and educational outcomes. Results will be used to provide guidance to schools and districts on how to be responsive to the needs of military-connected students.

Project Activities: The research team will provide a rich description of school supports available to military-connected students and parents, and will investigate whether access to school supports by military students and parents moderates the association between student mobility and school connectedness. Researchers will also examine the extent to which school connectedness mediates the association between mobility and educational outcomes. In addition, the research team will conduct qualitative analyses of students' and parents' experiences of mobility and school supports.

Products: Researchers will produce preliminary evidence on the promise of school supports for improving student outcomes of military-connected students. In addition, researchers will produce study briefs as well as articles for peer-reviewed journals. The research team will also develop a webinar for principals and other administrators on providing support to military-connected students.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The primary setting for this research is the North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS) in WA, which serves the children of service members at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Sample: The study will examine two cohorts of 3rd and 5th grade military-connected students (N=650) and their parents in NTPS. Military-connected students are defined as students who have at least one parent/guardian who is on active (full-time) duty in the U.S. military. Also participating will be NTPS elementary and middle school principals, counselors, and teachers, and select military base personnel.

Malleable Factors: The research team will explore school supports available to military students and parents. These include formal support programs that are not military specific (e.g., school counselor, after-school programs), military-specific supports fashioned exclusively for military students and parents, and informal supports commonly found within the social ecology of elementary schools (e.g., teacher-student relationships, supportive peer networks).

Research Design and Methods: This is a mixed-methods study. Researchers will conduct structured interviews with school principals, counselors, base personnel, and military parents and students to inventory existing school supports. They will also conduct student and parent surveys, as well as in-depth qualitative interviews with a sub-sample of participants. In addition, the research team will conduct a series of analyses that test the relationships between student mobility, access to school supports, school-connectedness, and educational outcomes. Then they will test an omnibus model in which student mobility, family strain, access to school supports, and school connectedness are used to predict student outcomes.

Control Condition: Due to the exploratory nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: The research team will measure student mobility, family strain, school supports, school connectedness, and educational outcomes (academic and psychosocial). The team will develop new self-report measures of mobility and school supports for this study. Measures of family strain, parental health, school connectedness, and student psychosocial functioning will be developed from items from existing measures. Data on student grades, attendance, and standardized tests (English, Language Arts, Math) will be obtained from the NTPS. Researchers will continue to collect these data on students who transfer from the NTPS to other school districts. To ensure comparability across different school districts (within or outside the state of Washington), all student test scores will be standardized relative to the state average.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use structural equation modeling to test the hypothesized models of the relationship(s) between student mobility, access to school supports, school-connectedness, and educational outcomes. Researchers will also conduct a case-oriented thematic analysis of the transcripts of the family and teacher interviews. The research team will then integrate findings from their model testing with findings from their case-oriented thematic analysis.

Related IES Projects: Developing a Model for Delivering School-Based Mentoring to Students in Military Families (R305A140285)

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