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IES Grant

Title: Effects of CIRCLES on the Provision of Transition Services and Resulting Transition Outcomes for Students with Disabilities: A New Efficacy Study
Center: NCSER Year: 2022
Principal Investigator: Mazzotti, Valerie Awardee: University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Program: Transition to Postsecondary Education, Career, and/or Independent Living      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2022 – 06/30/2027) Award Amount: $3,753,314
Type: Initial Efficacy Award Number: R324A220161

Co-Principal Investigators: Rowe, Dawn; Gau, Jeff; Smolkowski, Keith

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of the Communicating Interagency Relationships and Collaborative Linkages for Exceptional Students (CIRCLES) intervention for improving student, teacher, and community agency personnel outcomes. Research indicates that interagency collaboration models are needed to address gaps in the services provided to students with disabilities to ensure a successful transition from high school.The CIRCLES intervention aims to increase positive transition outcomes—student self-determination, knowledge and perspectives of the transition planning process, and secondary and postsecondary engagement—for students with disabilities by improving the interagency collaboration among teachers and community agency personnel. Improving upon the research design of a prior investigation of CIRLCES, the proposed study will use a cluster randomized trial to generate robust evidence of the intervention's impact on proximal student, teacher, and community agency personnel outcomes and distal student outcomes.

Project Activities: The investigators will use a cluster randomized trial to examine the effects of CIRCLES on proximal student, teacher, and community agency personnel outcomes and subsequent distal student outcomes. The research team will also determine the costs and cost-effectiveness of implementing the intervention.

Products: This project will result in evidence of the efficacy of CIRCLES for improving transition outcomes for students with disabilities.Products will also include a final dataset to be shared, with dissemination of results in peer-reviewed publications and presentations, brief reports, the intervention website, and social media to ensure target audiences (including students with disabilities, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers) have access to the project's findings.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will be conducted in high schools located in Arkansas and Tennessee. School districts will represent populations in rural, urban, and suburban settings.

Population/Sample: Approximately 2,380 students with disabilities and 420 teachers and service providers across 70 high schools will participate in this study.

Intervention: CIRCLES is an intervention that aims to increase interagency collaboration to improve transition outcomes for high school students with disabilities.CIRCLES involves three levels of interagency collaboration: the community level team (CLT), the school level team (SLT), and the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. The CLT, which is comprised of district level leadership from schools and agency personnel, provides administrative leadership for the total array of transition services offered and assists in finding solutions for problems that may arise in service delivery. The SLT is comprised of school personnel (such as the transition coordinator and special education teachers) and direct service providers (such as case managers, counselors, and care coordinators from each agency represented on the CLT) and is responsible for developing transition activities and services for students. The IEP team writes the transition components of the IEP based on decisions made by the SLT. These teams work together to address transition planning needs and issues students experience to improve both in-school and post-school outcomes. CIRCLES allows agencies to provide ongoing support services directly to students and families with the greatest need for multiple agency involvement.

Research Design and Methods: A clustered randomized trial will be used to test the efficacy of CIRCLES.  In Year 1, all CIRCLES schools will receive face-to-face training in the intervention and data collection procedures. CIRCLES schools will begin implementing the CIRCLES intervention in fall of Year 2. Ongoing coaching/technical assistance will continue across Years 2 through 5 for CIRCLES schools. Treatment fidelity data will be collected throughout Years 2 through 5 and additional technical assistance, in the form of coaching, will be provided to schools based on their level of implementation. In Year 5, control schools will receive the CIRCLES intervention, online training materials for implementing CIRCLES, and contact information for technical assistance upon completion of the study.

Control Condition: Participants in the control condition will continue with their business-as-usual model related to facilitating interagency collaboration between schools and adult service providers.

Key Measures: The key outcomefor school and community agency personnel, degree of collaboration, will be measured with rating scales. Student outcomes will be assessed using the Self-Determination Inventory, Student Transition Questionnaire, indicators of persistence in secondary school (such as years in school, attendance, and accumulation of course credits), graduation, and a follow-up survey that measures participation in postsecondary education and post-school employment. Treatment fidelity and social validity will be assessed using rating scales. Cost will also be assessed.

Data Analytic Strategy: The efficacy of the CIRCLES intervention will be tested with a nested random coefficient analysis (RCA), within the framework of hierarchical linear models.

Cost Analysis: The ingredients method will be used to identify, measure, and value the resources needed to implement CIRCLES, regardless of whether they require a new expenditure or represent a reallocation of existing resources. A cost-effectiveness analysis will estimate the costs to achieve anticipated improvements in post-school outcomes using CIRCLES.

Related IES Projects: A Study of the Effects of a Three-Tier Model of Interagency Collaboration on Transition Outcomes for Students with Disabilities (R324A110018)