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IES Grant

Title: Evaluating the Impact of Integrated Behavior and Reading Multi-Tiered Systems of Support in Elementary Schools
Center: NCSER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Coyne, Michael Awardee: University of Connecticut
Program: Research Networks Focused on Critical Problems of Policy and Practice in Special Education: Multi-Tiered Systems of Support      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (07/01/2019-06/30/2024) Award Amount: $3,999,589
Goal: Efficacy Award Number: R324N190012

Co-Principal Investigators: Simonsen, Brandi; McCoach, Betsy

Purpose: The goal of this study is to rigorously evaluate the impact of integrated behavior and reading practices in kindergarten through Grade 2 within a comprehensive, multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework. Research has identified effective but separate reading and behavior practices for students with or at risk for disabilities and has examined separate reading and behavior tiered systems of support. However, because of the potential to use resources more efficiently and align support to address the common co-occurrence of reading and behavior difficulties, there is a need to conduct rigorous research on truly integrated practices within an MTSS framework. To address this need, the current project will examine the impacts of integrating reading and behavior support at Tiers 1, 2 and 3 of an MTSS framework on students' reading and behavior outcomes as well as teachers' practice.

Project Activities: The research team will conduct three studies to evaluate the impact of integrated behavior and reading practices within MTSS in Grades K-2 across 25 schools. In Year 1, the research team will work with schools to build their capacity to implement school-wide MTSS. In Study 1 (Year 2), the research team will investigate the impact of integrated Tier 1 behavior and reading instruction compared to behavior or reading support only using a cluster randomized controlled trial. In Study 2 (Year 3), the team will investigate the impact of supplemental Tier 2 integrated support on students who were not responsive to Tier 1 (or were identified for Tier 2 based on reading and behavior assessments) using a regression discontinuity design. In Study 3 (Year 4), the team will investigate the effects of individualized, integrated Tier 3 intervention for students who demonstrated a lack of adequate response to both Tiers 1 and 2 (or were identified for Tier 3 based on reading and behavior assessments) using single-case design studies. In Year 5, the team will follow up on the previous studies by examining whether teacher and school-wide practices and student impacts can be sustained over time. The team will also conduct additional analyses to examine whether there are school, teacher/classroom, or student factors that moderate the outcomes of Tiers 1 and 2; to evaluate the impact of multiple years of MTSS; and to determine its cost-effectiveness.

Products: The products of this project will include evidence of the impact of integrated behavior and reading practices within an MTSS framework in early elementary school. Products will also include peer-reviewed publications, presentations, reports, and other products for a wide range of audiences, including policymakers, practitioners, and researchers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in elementary schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Sample: Participants will be drawn from 25 elementary schools. Schools will be committed to implementing integrated MTSS as part of their State initiative, but will not have implemented the initiative yet. For Study 1, participants will include 225 K-2 teachers (approximately three teachers per grade in each school) and approximately 4,500 K-2 students (20 per classroom). For Study 2, participants will include approximately 900 students (36 per school) not responsive to Tier 1 or otherwise identified as at risk for both reading and behavioral challenges, as well as approximately 88 school-based interventionists (3-4 per school) to implement the intervention with small groups of students. For Study 3, participants will include approximately 25-30 students (1-2 per school) identified as having the lowest responses to Tier 2 and most likely to benefit from individualized support. In addition, there will be 25 school-based specialists (1 per school) to implement the intervention with individual students. Across all years of the study, there will be approximately 25-50 school-based coaches (1-2 per school) trained to support teachers in both behavior and reading practices as well as approximately 5-7 external coaches to mentor the school-based coaches.

Intervention: The intervention uses a school-wide MTSS framework that includes team decision making, coaching, targeted training, and professional development. In Tier 1, all children in the classroom will receive both reading and behavior support. For reading, teachers will receive support in implementing the school's core curriculum in addition to an evidence-based supplement, Enhanced Core Reading Instruction. For behavior, teachers will be provided with training and coaching to implement foundational, preventative, and reactive positive classroom behavior support practices. Importantly, these components will be integrated so that behavior strategies are incorporated directly into reading practices. Students identified for Tier 2 instruction will receive supplemental intervention delivered by school-based personnel in small groups of 3-5 children. For reading, the research team will help schools identify an evidence-based reading intervention that aligns with their core program, implement it with fidelity, and collect regular progress monitoring data to make instructional adjustments. For behavior, the empirically based Check-In/Check-Out intervention—which teaches expected behavior and uses prompts for expected behavior and group contingency for appropriate behavior—will be implemented throughout the day and integrated into the Tier 2 reading intervention. Students identified for Tier 3 will receive individualized intervention in behavior and reading. For this tier, highly trained school-based specialists will use data-based individualization, an evidence-based process for using continual progress monitoring to systematically intensify and individualize reading and behavior support.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will evaluate Tiers 1, 2, and 3 of an MTSS framework as each new additional tier is implemented in the schools. In the initial year, the team will help prepare the participating schools to strengthen and align the systems for implementing a school-wide integrated MTSS framework. For Study 1 (Year 2), the schools will implement Tier 1 and the research team will conduct a multi-site cluster randomized controlled trial, with randomization at the classroom level within each school. Intervention classrooms will implement integrated practices to improve both reading and behavior, whereas the comparison classrooms will be assigned to either implement reading practices only or behavior practices only. For Study 2 (Year 3), schools will add Tier 2 to their MTSS framework and the research team will conduct a regression discontinuity design to evaluate this tier. After establishing a cut score on a composite measure of both reading and behavior skills, those above the cut score will receive the Tier 2 intervention whereas those below the cut score will continue receiving Tier 1 instruction. For Study 3 (Year 4), schools will implement Tier 3 and the research team will evaluate this tier through a series of multiple baseline single-case design studies. For each of these evaluation studies, the research team will monitor teacher, interventionist, and specialist fidelity of implementation and collect data the following year to determine whether any student or teacher effects are maintained into subsequent years when researcher support is removed. In addition, the team will conduct cost-effectiveness analyses of each tier, comparing the incremental costs of each intervention to examine whether an integrated model will cost less than the comparison while being at least as efficacious. The team will also examine whether school, teacher/classroom, and/or student factors moderate the effects of each of the tiers; the effects of students receiving multiple years of fully integrated reading and behavior support; and whether participation in the project will have an impact on the school's overall level of school-wide MTSS implementation.

Control Condition: For Study 1 (Tier 1), the two comparison groups will consist of teachers and students in classrooms implementing either reading support only or behavior support only. For analyses related to reading outcomes, the effects of integrated Tier 1 will be examined relative to the reading only support comparison group and the same type of comparison will be made for the behavior outcomes. In Study 2 (Tier 2), the comparison group will continue receiving the classroom-wide Tier 1. In Study 3 (Tier 3), the participants will serve as their own control through the use of a baseline phase within a single-case research design.

Key Measures: The comprehensive assessment battery for this project will measure variables at the school level, teacher/classroom level, and student level. For school-level fidelity, the research team will use the SWPBIS Tiered Fidelity Inventory to measure the extent to which school personnel are implementing core features of school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports and the Reading Tiered Fidelity Inventory to assess implementation fidelity of school-wide MTSS in reading. At the classroom level, overall fidelity will be assessed with researcher-developed tools aimed at measuring adherence (observation checklist for critical intervention components), quality (observation of teacher behavior and instructional delivery), and dosage (teacher and interventionist implementation logs). In addition, for observations of adherence and quality, the team will use the Classroom Observations of Student-Teacher Interactions and the process of Systematic Direct Observations (SDO). At the end of each observation period, a researcher-developed observational measure of classroom management will also be used. Reading outcomes will be measured using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (phoneme segmentation, nonsense word, and oral reading fluency subtests), Stanford Achievement Test Tenth Edition, and Woodcock Reading Mastery Test (decoding and word identification). Behavior outcomes will be assessed using the Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener (behavioral risk and overall behavior); observations using SDO (on- or off-task behavior for all students, student-specific target behaviors for students in the Tier 3 study); and Direct Behavior Ratings of Student Behavior (teacher ratings of behavior during literacy or targeted skill instruction). Social validity data will be collected using the Intervention Rating Profile-15 and Usage Rating Profile–Intervention, Revised. Finally, costs will be measured using a researcher-developed tool and the online CostOut tool for the cost-effectiveness analysis.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will analyze the results of Study 1 using a multi-level model, with students nested within teachers/classes, which are nested within schools. Covariates will include student- (special education status, free lunch status, English Learner status, pre-intervention scores) and school-level (percent eligible for free and reduced-price meals) factors. The team will conduct follow-up multi-level analyses to examine the impact of receiving multiple years of MTSS. In addition, analyses will test whether school, teacher/classroom, and/or student factors, as well as fidelity implementation, moderate the impact of the intervention. For Study 2, the team will conduct a series of regression discontinuity analyses using both parametric and non-parametric techniques. For Study 3, the team will use multi-level modeling (in addition to visual analyses) of single-case data to synthesize evidence across all participants, as well as estimate effect sizes. Similar analyses will be used to determine maintenance effects the year after each study. Finally, to examine the impact of multiple years of integrated support, the team will conduct a series of piecewise latent growth curve models, taking into account the nesting of students within schools. Finally, the team will conduct cost-effectiveness analyses using the on-line CostOut tool to estimate cost-effectiveness of each tier as well as the overall integrated MTSS approach.

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