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IES Grant

Title: Project ReSpECT: Revealing Special Educators' Conditions for Teaching
Center: NCSER Year: 2023
Principal Investigator: Bettini, Elizabeth Awardee: Boston University
Program: Educators and School-Based Service Providers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2023 – 06/30/2027) Award Amount: $2,000,000
Type: Measurement Award Number: R324A230164

Co-Principal Investigators: Brunsting; Nelson; Cumming, Michelle; Huggins-Manley, Corinne; O'Brien, Kristen

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop the Revealing Special Educators' Conditions for Teaching (ReSpECT) measure to evaluate special education teachers' working conditions. Working conditions include teachers' job demands as well as the available social, informational, and logistical resources to meet those demands. Working conditions are a crucial lever by which leaders may be able to improve teacher effectiveness, retention, and well-being and, as such, there is increased interest in researching and improving them. However, research on working conditions and practical efforts to improve them require well-validated measures, of which there are few. Therefore, the goal of this project is to develop a valid self-report measure of special education teacher working conditions that could be used for research purposes (such as evaluating how working conditions relate to teacher outcomes and how interventions affect working conditions) and for school and district leaders to identify strengths and weaknesses in how special education teachers are supported, which can inform how they allocate resources.

Project Activities: The research team will develop and gather validity evidence on ReSpECT across 4 years through the following activities: (1) develop and refine content, create new items and scoring procedures, assess respondents' understanding of items, and create an initial version of the measure; (2) field test ReSpECT to examine its psychometric properties and assess construct validity; (3) administer ReSpECT at three time points over the course of a year to examine criterion-related validity; and (4) develop a user manual and conduct a cost analysis.

Products: The products from this project include the ReSpECT measure, which will be made freely available along with the user manual. The project will also 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: Initial development and criterion validity research activities will take place in public elementary, middle, and high schools in Virginia, Massachusetts, Florida, and North Carolina. The field test in year 2 will be conducted with a nationally representative sample across the United States.

Sample: Participants will include 30 K–12 special education teachers for the initial development activities in year 1, at least 800 special education teachers for the field test in year 2, and at least 250 teachers and their students and 50 administrators to assess criterion validity in year 3. In addition, four school/district leaders, four special education teachers, and nine researchers with expertise in this area will participate in focus groups during all years.

Instrument: This project will develop ReSpECT, a self-report measure of special education teachers' working conditions. It will assess (a) demands (such as instructional responsibilities, paperwork, and extra responsibilities), (b) social resources (such as administrative support, collegial support, and school culture), (c) informational resources (such as professional development), and (d) logistical resources (such as curricular resources and planning time). The user manual will outline information and procedures for administration, scoring, and interpretation.

Research Design and Methods: In year 1, the researchers will develop and iteratively revise ReSpECT through expert review, focus groups with intended users, and cognitive interviews with special education teachers. In the remaining years, the research team will gather evidence to test the following claims: (1) test scores reflect four constructs of special education teachers' working conditions, (2) test scores are reliable (3) test scores reflect special education teachers' working conditions in their schools, (4) test scores can be used to conduct research exploring special education teachers' working conditions in relation to other relevant variables, and (5) test scores can be used by school and district leaders to identify strengths and weaknesses in how special education teachers are supported. In year 2, to test claims 1 and 2, researchers will administer ReSpECT through the American Educator Panel with a nationally representative sample and use Rasch models to examine psychometric properties. Revisions will be made based on results. In year 3, researchers will focus on examining criterion-related validity. They will test claims 3 and 4 by administering ReSpECT at three time points to examine associations with other measures of working conditions, the same measure at a later time point, expected outcomes (workload manageability, burnout, intent to leave, attrition, instructional quality, and student outcomes), and others' ratings of working conditions. Teachers will also complete questions about the extent to which they believe the measure has utility and relevance in support of claim 5. The research team will also conduct interviews with a subset of teachers whose ratings of their working conditions were in the top, middle, and lowest third to gather additional criterion-related validity evidence for ReSpECT. In year 4, to inform how ReSpECT scores can be used for both research and practice, researchers will develop a user manual (with information on administration, scoring, and interpretation) and conduct a cost analysis in alignment with claims 4 and 5. The manual will be co-developed with practitioners to ensure feasibility of use. Focus groups from year 1 will be reconvened each year of the project to provide feedback on the measure and user manual and on how the measure may be interpreted by end users.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: In addition to the ReSpECT measure, the research team will assess working conditions with the Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education survey and a researcher-created survey of administrators. Expected outcomes of working conditions will also be assessed, including workload manageability (using a researcher-created self-report survey), teacher burnout (using the Maslach's Burnout Inventory, Educator's Survey), and intent to leave (researcher-developed items and district employment data on attrition). Items from a researcher-created survey will be used to assess teachers' self-reported use of effective instructional practices for students with disabilities. Instructional quality will be assessed through observations that are scored using the Preservice Observation Instrument for Special Education (POISE). Student outcomes will be assessed using the Student Teacher Relationship Scale and interval ratings of student on-task behavior from the POISE.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use Rasch models to evaluate the measure's psychometric properties. Structural equation modeling will be used to evaluate criterion-related validity, examining divergent, convergent, and predictive relationships. Focus group data will be reviewed to inform revisions to the measure and user manual. Interview data will be analyzed concurrent with descriptive statistics on ReSpECT responses using a convergent explanatory design.

Cost Analysis: The research team will calculate the total cost of using ReSpECT based on special education teacher time to complete the measure, district personnel time to collate and distribute reports, school team meeting time to discuss reports, and administrator time to make decisions based on reports. They will then create a school and district cost calculator (with fields to input the number of schools, number of special education teachers, and average local salaries for each user) so districts and schools can accurately calculate expected costs.

Related IES Projects: Exploring How Special Educators' Working Conditions Contribute to their Engagement of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in Effective Reading Instruction (R324B170017)