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IES Grant

Title: Development of an Implementation Support Package to Install, Implement, and Sustain MTSS in Early Childhood Settings
Center: NCER Year: 2023
Principal Investigator: Spencer, Trina Awardee: University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc.
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2023 – 06/30/2027) Award Amount: $1,999,914
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A230405

Previous Award Number: R305A230394
Previous Awardee: University of South Florida

Co-Principal Investigators: Goldstein, Howard

Purpose: It is widely recognized that early childhood education plays a significant role in children's development. Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) offers a dynamic and equitable early intervention and prevention approach based on a teaching philosophy that all children should receive the intensity of instruction needed to achieve. Early childhood researchers have developed individual interventions and assessments intended for use in MTSS. The research team developed some components of the intervention and implementation model in a series of IES-funded Development & Innovation projects. Previous projects include the iterative development and pilot testing of a Tier 2 oral language intervention, a Tier 2 and 3 early literacy intervention, a multi-tiered bilingual Spanish/English academic language curriculum, a Spanish/English Tier 2 and 3 early literacy intervention; the validation of a suite of Spanish and English oral language and literacy assessment tools; and the creation of six eLearning modules, a digital data management platform for early literacy MTSS, and a number of implementation support tools. These existing interventions and assessment tools will be merged with Pyramid Modelpractices and social emotional screening and progress monitoring tools to create a blended MTSS model. In this project, the researchers will create six additional eLearning modules to cover social emotional and oral language domains, program the digital data management system for social emotional and oral language data, and compile an MTSS implementation handbook. The long-term goal of this research project is to supply state and district leaders with a scalable, evidence-based, blended MTSS model for early childhood settings. The model include intervention and assessment components and an implementation support package to facilitate the intervention's installation and implementation with fidelity.

Project Activities: The researchers will develop the remaining components of the implementation support package (namely eLearning modules, digital data management platform, and implementation handbook) during Years 1 and 2, through design-based research methods that heavily rely on the input and frequent feedback of end users. In Year 3, the research team will implement screening, progress monitoring, and tiered interventions across social emotional, oral language, and early literacy in classrooms. The team will use implementation support to gradually introduce teachers to the intervention components. In Year 4, the researchers will conduct a pilot study. They will use a cluster randomized study design to implement and investigate the promise of the implementation support package for improving student outcomes after installing and implementing MTSS in early childhood settings.

Products: The items to be produced in this project include six eLearning modules covering social emotional and oral language domains, refining the digital platform to accommodate social emotional and oral language assessments and report functions, and an MTSS implementation handbook with a set of implementation support tools.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place PreK classrooms located in 250 elementary schools in Florida. The public school system is a large school district with demographically diverse students in rural and urban settings. Pre-kindergarten (PreK) classrooms will be recruited from three program types: Head Start, early childhood special education, and volunteer PreK.

Sample: The population includes 36 PreK teachers and their students. The student demographic breakdown is 36 percent White, 33 percent Latino, 21 percent Black, 6 percent Multi-race, and 4 percent Asian. Because of the dynamic nature of MTSS, not all students will require intervention in each domain. All students in the class will be eligible to participate in the research, yielding approximately 545 culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse child participants.

Intervention: This intervention is an implementation support package consisting of several strategies to facilitate the installation, implementation, and sustainment of Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) in early childhood. These strategies include eLearning modules about MTSS generally and then specific to social emotional, oral language, and early literacy domains, a digital platform for managing data and generating expert decisions, practice-based and capacity-building coaching, and a set of implementation tools such as checklists, meeting agendas, resource audits, and flowcharts. There are four implementation support strategies: 1) teacher training via self-directed, eLearning modules, 2) a digital platform that helps teachers manage and use data effectively, 3) coaches who will work with teachers to implement the interventions, and 4) an implementation handbook. The implementation support package will be merged with a MTSS model that includes quality Tier 1 instruction, Tier 2 and 3 interventions, screening, and progress monitoring blended across social emotional, oral language, and early literacy domains.

Research Design and Methods: Development activities will take place in Years 1 and 2 using design-based research methods. The researchers will install the intervention into treatment classrooms in Year 3 and collect child-level data in Year 4 for the pilot study. The researchers will randomly assign 36 classrooms, blocked by program type, to receive the treatment or serve as comparison. They will use a cluster randomized pre/posttest design to examine children's performance in social emotional, oral language, and early literacy.

Control Condition: Teachers in the control classrooms will be given the Tier 2 and 3 interventions and assessment tools, but they will not receive the implementation support package. They will implement the district's MTSS model using the support typically provided to classrooms.

Key Measures: Measures of feasibility and fidelity and child outcomes at pretest and posttest include the Kaufmann Test of Education Achievement (KTEA-3) and the Social Skills Intervention System-Social Emotional Learning(SSIS-SEL).

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will conduct one-way, between-subjects analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) with pretest scores entered as covariates. The data will be hierarchical in nature with children nested within classrooms. The researchers will use multilevel modeling to control for nesting.

Cost Analysis: The researchers will use the ingredients methodology to examine the costs associated with the implementation support components. They will track teachers' and coaches' time via logs and use national prices for single price items (such as printing and license fees).

Related IES Projects: Center for Response to Intervention in Early Childhood (R324C080011), Development of a Dual Language Narrative Curriculum (R305A160407), Efficacy of Story Friends Vocabulary Curriculum Targeting Preschoolers At Risk for Language and Literacy Disabilities (R324A200179), Professional Development of an MTSS Model for Early Childhood Educators to Prevent Reading Disabilities (R324A170073), Research Partnership to Improve a Multi-tiered System of Supports in Early Childhood Programs in a Large Urban District (R305H160034)

*This application was submitted to the FY 2022 Education Research Grants (84.305A) competition and awarded in FY 2023 when funds were available.