Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Early, Evidence-Based Intervention For Externalizing Behavior Problems in School: From Efficacy to Effectiveness of the First Step to Success Program
Center: NCSER Year: 2006
Principal Investigator: Wagner, Mary Awardee: SRI International
Program: Social and Behavioral Outcomes to Support Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3/1/2006 to 2/28/2011 Award Amount: $5,857,960
Type: Scale-Up Evaluations Award Number: R324B060003

Purpose: The First Step to Success Program is a school-home intervention with substantial evidence for its efficacy in achieving secondary prevention goals and positive outcomes for behaviorally at-risk children in the primary grades. It is packaged for dissemination, is evidence-based, and has been implemented successfully by a number of districts across the country during the past decade. The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of First Step to Success under scaled-up conditions. Solid evidence is needed that scaled-up interventions can improve the behavior and academic performance of children with serious behavior problems early in their schooling, thereby setting them on a more positive educational trajectory.

Project Activities: The proposed randomized control trial will involve 50 elementary schools in 5 diverse school districts. Randomization will occur at the school level, with 25 schools assigned to the intervention and 25 to the comparison condition. Before randomization, schools will be matched within districts on key variables to improve the likelihood of group equivalence. An average of six first- through third-grade classrooms will participate per school (a total of 288 classrooms; 144 intervention and 144 control). One student will participate in comparison classrooms and two students (one student in each of two consecutive years) in intervention classrooms (i.e., 144 comparison and 288 intervention students). Multiple measures of student behavior and academic performance will be taken at baseline, posttest, and follow-up points 1 and 2 years after intervention to test the sustainability of gains. Student, classroom, and school measures will be used in HLM analyses to identify factors related to variations in First Step effects and their sustainability.

Products: The expected outcomes from this study include:

  1. Published reports on the results of the analyses at baseline and intervention over time and on results associated with implementation-fidelity, social validity and cost; and
  2. Presentations on the factors associated with successful implementation and sustainability of the First Step to Success Program.

Setting: Districts that are diverse in geographic location, urbanicity, size, and student characteristics will be recruited to participate.

Population: The Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders (SSBD) will be used to identify students in participating classrooms who exhibit serious externalizing behaviors in grades 1-3. The three students in each class with the highest externalizing behavior scores will be considered the eligible population. Five school districts will be recruited to participate, with a target of 10 schools participating from each district (5 intervention schools and 5 control schools). Approximately 6 classrooms per school will participate for a total of 288 classrooms (144 intervention classrooms and 144 control group classrooms). A total of 432 students will participate: 2 students per intervention classrooms (n=288) and one student from each control classroom (n=144). There are more intervention students because the program will be implemented with one student in each of two consecutive cohorts.

Intervention: First Step to Success is grounded in a social-ecological conceptual model, which effectively conceptualizes the complex environmental, individual, and environmental-individual factors involved in assessing and intervening effectively with children with behavior problems. It is a manualized intervention appropriate for students who experience moderate to severe behavior problems in the beginning stages of their school careers (i.e., grades 1-3). The program has three linked modular components (i.e., universal proactive screening, school intervention, and parent training) that are designed for use in concert. Throughout the 3-month implementation phase of First Step, these program components are coordinated and delivered in both classroom and home settings by a behavioral coach (e.g., school psychologist, behavior specialist, social worker, resource teacher) who works closely with participating teachers and parents/caregivers.

Research Design and Methods: The proposed randomized control trial will involve approximately 50 elementary schools in 5 diverse school districts. Randomization will occur at the school level, with 24 schools assigned to the intervention and 24 to the comparison condition. Before randomization, schools will be matched within districts on key variables to improve the likelihood of group equivalence. Within each classroom, the three students who receive the highest SSBD scores will randomly numbered from one to three. Written consent will be sought for the first students, proceeding to the second and third student until consent to participate is obtained.

Control Condition: The control group schools/classrooms/students will receive "business as usual."

Key Measures: Determining the effectiveness of First Step on multiple dimensions and its variations with differences in students, classrooms, schools, and implementation conditions requires a variety of measures, and data sources. Researchers will assess a variety of outcomes and collect information from teachers (e.g., classroom characteristics, teacher ratings of behavior, satisfaction), students (direct reading assessments), observations (classroom context, student behavior), behavioral coaches (fidelity) school personnel (school characteristics), parents (student behavior, student service use, social validity), and school records (office disciplinary referrals, absenteeism, special education/504 status, standardized test scores, etc). Most measures of students' behavior and academic outcomes will be administered at baseline, immediately following the intervention, and at 1 year and 2 years post-intervention. Classroom and school context measures will be administered once during the intervention and follow-up years to support analyses that assess potential relationships between classroom and school context and the ability to obtain and sustain behavior and academic effects. School record data for individual participants in the study will be collected one time per year.

Data Analytic Strategy: Analyses associated with effectiveness and moderators of effectiveness will include hierarchical linear modeling (HLM). HLM models appropriate for the level of the dependent variable (continuous, Poisson, or Bernoulli) will be used. Independent variables will include baseline measure of the dependent variable and covariates at the student, classroom, and school levels. Differences between first and second year implementation and outcomes will also be explored. Additional analyses will be performed to determine equivalence of groups (intervention and control), descriptive analyses of characteristics associated with adoption of the program, and descriptive analyses of implementation issues including fidelity, social validity, and costs.

Related IES Projects: National Behavior Research Coordination Center (ED04CO00400001)


Book chapter

Walker, H.M., Severson, H., Seeley, J., Feil, E., Small, J., Golly, A., Frey, A., Lee, J., Sumi, W.C., Woodbridge, M., Wagner, M., and Forness, S. (2014). The Evidence Base of the First Step to Success Early Intervention for Preventing Emerging Antisocial Behavior Patterns. In H.M. Walker, and F.M. Gresham (Eds.), Handbook of Evidence-Based Practices for Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: Applications in Schools (pp. 518–537). New York: Guilford.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Sumi, W.C., Woodbridge, M.W., Javitz, H.S., Thornton, S.P., Wagner, M., Rouspil, K., Yu, J.W., Seeley, J.R., Walker, H.M., Golly, A.M., Small, J.W., Feil, E.G., and Severson, H.H. (2013). Assessing the Effectiveness of First Step to Success: Are Short-Term Results the First Step to Long-Term Behavioral Improvements?. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 21(1): 66–78. doi:10.1177/1063426611429571

Wei, X., Christiano, E., Yu, J., Blackorby, J., Shattuck, P., & Newman, L. (2013). Postsecondary pathways and persistence for STEM versus Non-STEM majors among college students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44: 1159–1167. doi: 10.1007/s10803–013–1978–5.

Wei, X., Wagner, M., Hudson, L., Yu, J. W., & Shattuck, P. (2015). Transition to adulthood: Employment, education, and disengagement in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Emerging Adulthood, 3(1), 37–45.

Woodbridge, M., Sumi, W., Yu, J., Rouispil, K., Javitz, H., Seeley, J., and Walker, H.M. (2014). Implementation and Sustainability of an Evidence-Based Program: Lessons Learned From the Prism Applied to "First Step to Success". Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 22(2): 95–106. doi:10.1177/1063426613520456

Woodbridge, M.W., Sumi, W.C., Wagner, M.M., Javitz, H.S., Seeley, J.R., Walker, H.M., Small, J.W., Golly, A., Feil, E.G., and Severson, H.H. (2014). Does First Step to Success Have Long-Term Impacts on Student Behavior? An Analysis of Efficacy Trial Data.