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IES Grant

Title: Addressing Emergency Certification in Rural Education Settings (Project ACRES)
Center: NCSER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Wilkerson, Kimber Awardee: University of Wisconsin, Madison
Program: Educators and School-Based Service Providers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (08/01/2020 – 07/31/2024) Award Amount: $1,400,000
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A200038

Co-Principal Investigators: Leko, Melinda; Doren, Bonnie; Ruppar, Andrea

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop and pilot test a professional development intervention focused on evidence-based and high-leverage practices (EBPs and HLPs) to enhance the behavior management capabilities and self-efficacy of emergency certified special educators working in rural school districts. Special education personnel shortages are chronic and widespread, particularly in rural schools. Schools rely on new, emergency certified teachers to address this shortage. Emergency credentials allow for a provisional license while a teacher works towards certification, but that means that these teachers begin teaching with minimal, if any, training. Research over the past four decades has indicated classroom discipline or behavior management ranks among beginning special educators' top concerns, particularly for novice teachers. This is true for well-trained novice teachers, and the need is even greater for teachers with emergency credentials. This project will fill this gap by developing and preliminarily testing professional development that includes individualized virtual coaching combined with participation in an online community of practice. The research team anticipates the professional development will improve teachers' behavior management skills, self-efficacy and intention to stay in the field which will in turn lead to improvements in student behavioral outcomes, including engagement.

Project Activities: The research team will iteratively develop the professional development intervention over the first three years of the project. In Year 4, the final version of the intervention will be tested in a randomized controlled trial to determine its promise for improving teachers' behavioral management capabilities and student behavior outcomes.

Products: This project will result in a fully developed professional development program to improve emergency certified special educators' behavior management capabilities and self-efficacy. The project will result in peer-reviewed publications and presentations as well as additional dissemination products that reach education stakeholders such as practitioners and policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in rural elementary, middle, and high schools in Wisconsin.

Sample: During phase 1, an 8-member advisory board of comprised of a national expert on rural special education and key stakeholders who represent Wisconsin rural schools will provide input to inform intervention development. During this phase the research team will also work with and receive feedback from a total of 10 special educators who are working under emergency certification in a rural district in Wisconsin and who provide instruction to students with disabilities in any of Grades K12: two teachers in Year 1, three in Year 2, and five in Year 3 for a feasibility trial. For the Phase 2 pilot study, the sample includes 50 special education teachers, and up to three learners with disabilities on each teacher's caseload.

Intervention: The professional development intervention will consist of two integrated components designed specifically for emergency certified special educators in rural settings delivered over an 8-month period. The first component is (a) ongoing individualized instructional coaching to complement and enhance teachers' adoption of EBPs and HLPs. The individualized coaching plans will be developed using teacher self-video of their use of EBPs and HLPs, which will be accompanied by ongoing assessment and coaching in areas of need. Coaching may include teacher reflection, exemplar video-based models, evaluation of lesson plans, and/or suggestions for strengthening behavior management. The second component is (b) an online community of practice comprising other teachers who also participate in the professional development intervention, which is designed to support teachers as they adopt EBPs and HLPs. Facilitated by project staff, the online community of practice will include small groups of emergency certified teachers who all participate in the intervention.

Control Condition: Teachers randomly assigned to the business-as-usual control condition will receive whatever professional development or other services are typically offered by their school districts.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will use an iterative development process to develop the professional development intervention. During Phase 1, the research team will carry out ongoing assessment of the utility, effectiveness, feasibility, and efficiency of the professional development intervention through observations of instruction, interviews with teachers, collection of intervention fidelity data, assessment of teachers' self-efficacy and intent to stay in the profession, and surveys of participant satisfaction. During the Phase 2 pilot study a randomized control trial will be used where teachers will be randomly assigned with their students to one of two conditions: business-as-usual or the full PD intervention. In addition to continued assessment of the intervention's utility, effectiveness, and feasibility, the research team will also analyze student engagement and behavior data during the pilot study.

Key Measures: Key teacher measures include: Maslach Burnout Inventory, teacher report of intent to stay in the profession, teacher report of self-efficacy, and scores on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System observation instrument. The key student outcome will be frequency counts and durational measures of engagement and behavior collected via direct observation using MOOSES.

Data Analytic Strategy: ANCOVA analyses will be the primary means to gauge the relationship of the professional development intervention to teacher practices. These analyses will test the main effect of the treatment on the dependent measures targeting teacher outcomes controlling for baseline group differences (pretest scores). Further analyses will examine relationships between fidelity measures and outcomes for teachers participating in the treatment. Multiple regression analyses will be conducted wherein each outcome is regressed on data pertaining to dosage, adherence, implementation quality, and student responsiveness in sessions to determine the relationship between implementation fidelity and each outcome. Results that elucidate the conditions under which deviations in program implementation enhance or degrade treatment outcomes will provide further qualification of program effects. The research team will use qualitative data analysis to validate, interpret, clarify, and illustrate findings, as well as assess teachers' perceptions of the social validity of the intervention. Systematic content and inductive analysis will be used to analyze the qualitative interviews. The results will be a hierarchical schema that describes and explains major themes and their interrelationships.

Cost Analysis: Using an "ingredients approach," the research team will identify all intervention costs and their respective market values. Once the total cost of the intervention is determined, cost per participant will be calculated.