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IES Grant

Title: Development of an Instructional Alternative to Out-of-School Suspension: The Instructional Suspension Learning Alternative (ISLA)
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Nese, Rhonda Awardee: University of Oregon
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Context for Teaching and Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2018 - 06/30/2021) Award Amount: $1,399,962
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A180006

Co-Principal Investigators: McIntosh, Kent; Nese, Joseph; and Horner, Robert

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to refine and test an intervention to reduce exclusionary discipline, improve student behavior and student-teacher relationships, and increase instructional time for students. Researchers will design the Instructional Suspension Learning Alternative (ISLA) to function as a Tier I universal intervention within middle schools that have Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in place. ISLA systems and practices will provide alternatives to sending misbehaving students out of the classroom and support for students returning to the classroom following exclusionary discipline.

Project Activities: The study will take place in three phases: iterative development with two middle schools in Year 1, usability and feasibility testing in another two middle schools in Year 2, and pilot testing in Year 3 using a single-case multiple baseline design in another six middle schools.

Products: Researchers will produce a fully developed intervention, the Instructional Suspension Learning Alternative (ISLA) Model for PBIS middle schools to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline practices and improve student behavior and achievement. They will produce peer-reviewed publications and share ISLA user guides and materials, technical reports, video tutorials, trainings, and webinars through the Office for Special Education Programs (OSEP) Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports website.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in urban, suburban, and rural middle schools in Oregon.

Sample: The sample will include two middle schools during the development phase, an additional two middle schools during the refinement phase, and another six middle schools during the pilot phase. Students with four or more office discipline referrals and lower than 80 percent attendance in each pilot study school (about 25-120 per school) and all school staff (about 40-70 per school) will respond to a school climate survey for baseline measurement in the pilot study and two students from each pilot school (12 students total) who have received the most behavior referrals at the conclusion of ISLA implementation will be interviewed.

Intervention: Researchers will design the ISLA Model to function within PBIS structures and processes (e.g., Leadership Team, school-wide expectations for positive behavior, training for all school staff) as a universal intervention for student misbehavior that minimizes disruptions in instruction for everyone in the classroom. Under this model, classroom teachers and other school staff engage in a triage process designed to minimize out-of-classroom time and effectively reengage misbehaving students.

Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, the researchers will work in two middle schools to develop ISLA systems and practices through a cycle of implementation and feedback. In Year 2, the researchers will refine the ISLA model in two different middle schools through usability, feasibility, social validity, and fidelity testing, along with preliminary assessment of student outcomes and teacher and administrator practices. In Year 3, six new middle schools will participate in a pilot test of ISLA's promise using a single-case multiple baseline design, with groups of two schools randomly assigned to implementation at three different time points across the school year.

Control Condition: In the multiple baseline pilot study, each school will serve as its own control.

Key Measures: The researchers will use focus group and survey measures to assess intervention usability and feasibility. They will look at outcome measures at the school level and include: office discipline referrals, suspensions, expulsions; minutes of lost instructional time; student-teacher relationships and school engagement (Delaware School Climate Survey); and user satisfaction (administrators, instructional staff, and students).

Data Analytic Strategy: During the development and refinement phases, the researchers will analyze feedback from rating scales and focus groups for common themes. During the pilot phase, they will visually analyze the dependent variables (minutes of lost instructional time, behavior referrals, suspensions/expulsions) to determine the level, trend, variability, and immediacy of effects pre and post ISLA implementation. They will also estimate Tau-U (an overlap statistic) and will use the trend autoregressive (TAR) model the estimate the trend difference between baseline and intervention. Finally, researchers will analyze the teacher-student relationship and student engagement data using non-parametric paired-difference tests.