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IES Grant

Title: Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) for Special Educators: Supporting Educator Capacity and Well-Being to Promote Positive Student Outcomes
Center: NCSER Year: 2021
Principal Investigator: Frank, Jennifer Awardee: Pennsylvania State University
Program: Research Grants Focused on Systematic Replication in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (7/1/2021 – 6/30/2026) Award Amount: $3,966,426
Type: Replication Efficacy Award Number: R324R210020

Co-Principal Investigator: Roach, Andrew

Purpose: The goal of this project is to replicate the efficacy of Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE), a fully developed and commercially distributed program with demonstrated efficacy in reducing teacher burnout and improving the quality of the instructional environment and student outcomes in general education settings. Although CARE has been implemented in a large number of schools and has a growing network of certified trainers, the evidence for CARE in special education contexts is absent. Given research demonstrating that special education teachers are at heightened risk for burnout and that burnout negatively impacts teacher effectiveness, the goal of the current study is to replicate CARE and determine whether the beneficial effects from prior evaluations hold true for special education teachers and their students with disabilities.

Project Activities: The research team will conduct a randomized controlled trial to examine the impacts of CARE on special education teachers, classrooms, and students with disabilities. Teachers within schools will be randomized to the intervention or wait-list control. Teachers and classrooms will be assessed three times, in the fall (pre-intervention) and spring (post-intervention) of the implementation year and in the fall of the following year (follow-up). Student data collection will occur in the fall and spring of the implementation year. Analyses will examine the direct effects of CARE on teacher, classroom, and student outcomes as well as moderators and mediators. An implementation study will be conducted to better understand how implementation quality influences teacher, classroom, and student outcomes. The research team will also examine the cost and cost-effectiveness of CARE.

Products: The primary product of this project will be evidence of the impact of CARE on outcomes for special education teachers, their classrooms, and their students with disabilities. The project will also result in a final dataset to be shared, peer-reviewed publications and presentations, and additional dissemination products that reach education stakeholders, such as practitioners and policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in elementary schools within three large and diverse public-school districts in Georgia.

Sample: The sample will include approximately 57 elementary schools, 228 special education teachers (4 per school), and 2,736 students with disabilities (12 per teacher and 48 per school).

Intervention: CARE is designed to support teachers' social and emotional competencies and well-being, ultimately improving the quality of their instruction and interactions with students. CARE involves 24 hours of group instruction, presented as a series of three 6-hour trainings with six 1-hour virtual follow-up sessions each month for 6 months. Following best practices in adult learning, CARE introduces content sequentially, utilizing a blend of didactic, experiential, and interactive learning processes. The content covers (1) emotion skills instruction; (2) mindfulness/stress reduction practices to promote self-regulation of attention and non-judgmental awareness; and (3) caring and listening practices to promote empathy and compassion. Materials include a CARE facilitator's manual, participant workbook (including presented information, exercises, and homework activities), participant CD-ROM with activities for home practice, coaching manual, and trainer materials.

Research Design and Methods: During Year 1, the research team will conduct focus groups with state- and district-level directors and supervisors of special education services to assess the acceptability of CARE for special education teachers and recruit Cohort 1 teachers. In Year 2, the research team will recruit students with disabilities who receive at least one daily period/session of literacy instruction (in resource rooms, self-contained classrooms, or inclusive classrooms) from participating teachers. Baseline assessments will be completed and Cohort 1 teachers will be randomly assigned to CARE or a waitlist control group within schools. Following the intervention, post-intervention assessments will be implemented and Cohort 2 teachers will be recruited. In Year 3, the research team will conduct follow-up assessments in the fall with Cohort 1 teachers, implement the intervention and assessment activities with Cohort 2, and recruit Cohort 3 teachers. In Year 4, follow-up assessments will be conducted with Cohort 2 and intervention and assessment activities will be conducted with Cohort 3. Across Years 2–4, fidelity and dosage will be assessed and closely monitored in the intervention group and the receipt of professional development and/or participation in self-directed activities will be documented for teachers in the control condition. In Year 5, the research team will conduct follow-up assessments with Cohort 3, analyze all data, and disseminate findings. The research team will also conduct an implementation study by first examining the effects of CARE for high- vs. low-implementation fidelity teachers. Second, the research team will conduct a mixed methods study with a subset of teachers across Years 2-5 to answer questions about how and why change occurred and to examine perceptions of CARE's acceptability and social validity, factors affecting fidelity, potential for scalability, and unanticipated outcomes.

Control Condition: Teachers in the waitlist control group will engage in business-as-usual professional development and instruction.

Key Measures: Teacher measures will include those used in prior trials and will assess the following outcomes: mindfulness (Interpersonal Mindfulness in Teaching Scale), self-efficacy (Teachers' Sense of Efficacy Scale), burnout (The Maslach Burnout Inventory-Educator), physical and psychological health (Daily Physical Symptoms Checklist; Positive and Negative Affect Schedule; Generalized Anxiety Disorder Item Scale; Patient Health Questionnaire; Depression Scale; Perceived Stress Scale; PROMIS Sleep Disturbance Questionnaire; and Distress Tolerance Scale), and interpersonal relationships (The Principal Trust Scale; Teacher Trust Scale; and Student-Teacher Relationship Scale). Additional measures will also be used to assess outcomes relevant for special education teachers, including role conflict and ambiguity (Role Conflict and Role Ambiguity Questionnaire) and time urgency (Time Urgency Scale). Consistent with past trials, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System will be used to evaluate the quality of the instructional environment, and new observational measures from the Assessing School Settings: Interactions of Students & Teachers will be used to capture teachers' use of positive-behavioral support strategies and other teacher and student behaviors particularly relevant for special education environments. A variety of measures and data sources will be used to assess student outcomes. Consistent with past trials, students' academic and behavior outcomes will be assessed through the Social Skills Intervention System Rating Scale and Academic Competence Evaluation Scales (teacher and student report), statewide English/Language Arts and Math summative assessments, and school records on the number/type of office discipline referrals and in- and out-of-school suspensions. Goal attainment scaling will also be used to assess students' progress toward meeting individualized education program goals.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use multilevel modeling to estimate the impact of CARE on teacher-, classroom-, and student-level outcomes. They will also test whether intervention outcomes are moderated by student, teacher, classroom, or other contextual factors and whether teacher outcomes mediate the effect of the intervention on students.

Cost Analysis: The ingredients methods will be used to determine the costs of CARE and its implementation. In addition, the research team will conduct cost-effectiveness analyses, using cost-effectiveness ratios, to provide information about the costs to achieve the impacts on teacher and student outcomes.

Related IES Projects: Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) (R305A090179); Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): A Cluster Randomized Controlled Efficacy Trial (R305A140692)