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IES Grant

Title: Just Discipline and Effective Restorative Practices: Assessing the Potential of Design Innovations and Implementation Science as Catalysts for Sustainable School Transformation
Center: NCER Year: 2021
Principal Investigator: Huguley, James Awardee: University of Pittsburgh
Program: Transformative Research in the Education Sciences Grants Program      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (08/01/2021 07/31/2024) Award Amount: $2,999,981
Type: Initial Efficacy Award Number: R305T210046

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to test an innovative restorative practice model that uses a full-time restorative practitioner and youth leaders in the school to lead restorative method programming and to provide in-house training and expertise for teachers. Alternatives to exclusionary discipline like restorative practices are sorely needed in education, yet rigorous examinations of restorative practice effects have largely been inconclusive. Scholars and practitioners have noted that restorative practices often falter due to a lack of adequate staffing and training mechanisms, yet fully supported models have not been rigorously tested. The current study also advances the field by including a robust implementation study and a cost-benefit analysis, both of which will be the first of their kind in restorative practice research. Through these critical innovations, the current study holds transformative potential for school discipline reform by answering several vexing questions in the field related to viable alternatives to harmful exclusionary discipline.

Project Activities: The study will be conducted over two phases. In phase 1, a preliminary cluster randomized trial will be conducted in over 10 elementary schools serving approximately 3,500 students. An implementation study using the RE-AIM framework will capture key elements of the implementation process that will inform program adjustments for phase 2. The phase 2 study will consist of a fully powered cluster randomized trial across 40 elementary schools, with 20 receiving the restorative practice implementation and 20 under the business-as-usual condition. The researchers will use experimental design and hierarchical analytic methods to assess program outcomes, and they will use implementation science and qualitative approaches to assess and detail programmatic variations that play mediating or moderating roles in program effectiveness.

Products: This study will produce first-of-its-kind information on whether an adequately staffed and supported restorative practice model can impact both disciplinary and academic outcomes. Implementation science and other moderation and mediation analyses will also be the first in the field to provide detailed estimates of intermediate steps between restorative practice implementation and desired outcomes. The cost analysis will provide the most robust evidence yet as to whether fully supported restorative practice programming will require net new investments or a reframing of cost-benefit thinking for communities using the strategy. The project will also produce the first restorative practice manual that is empirically validated through an RCT and an implementation study, as well as a parallel restorative practitioner handbook. Finally, the team will produce research briefs, conference presentations, professional development sessions, and digital media content to advance the practice through effective dissemination to wide ranging audiences, including practitioners, policy makers, and the public.