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IES Grant

Title: Ecological Approach to Family Intervention and Treatment (Eco-FIT) Integrated with PBS: An Effectiveness Trial in Middle School
Center: NCSER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Seeley, John Awardee: Oregon Research Institute
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Competence      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3/1/2009 - 5/28/2014 Award Amount: $6,598,994
Type: Scale-Up Evaluations Award Number: R324A090111

Purpose: Student problem behavior at school represents a challenge for teachers, parents, and students. Youth who engage in problem behavior at school often have a variety of related issues such as low achievement, low attendance or drop out, depression, and substance use. The transition to high school is a risky period for youth, especially for those already showing problem behaviors, because of the potential for increased antisocial behavior including substance use and violence. Early adolescence represents a narrow window of opportunity to intervene with students who are currently displaying behavior problems and set them on a path to more successful educational outcomes in high school.

This research team will test the effectiveness of a family and school intervention, the Ecological Approach to Family Intervention and Treatment (EcoFIT), under scaled-up conditions in middle schools. From numerous studies across diverse settings, the EcoFIT intervention has obtained strong evidence of its efficacy for reducing problem behaviors in the school and home environments and increasing academic achievement and attendance.

Project Activities: This research team will randomly assign middle schools to either the EcoFIT intervention or control condition. School staff identified to receive training in the EcoFIT interventions will be coached during the first year to become proficient in their work with parents and caregivers. Data will be collected on all teachers, staff, and administrators, two successive cohorts of 6th grade students, a sample of parents, and the schools themselves. Project staff will assess teachers, staff, and schools for four years, and they will follow students for three years, from 6th grade through 8th grade.

Products: The products from this study included results of analyses of the randomized trial of EcoFIT. Results of the cost analysis of EcoFIT implementation and sustainability will also be included.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in the state of Oregon in urban, suburban, and rural public middle schools that have implemented school-wide and individual positive behavior support (PBS) systems.

Population: The sample will consist of 44 public schools with approximately 880 teachers, 13,200 middle school students, and 3,300 parents. The intervention is intended to serve students with varying levels of behavioral problems.

Intervention: The EcoFIT model has been developed and repeatedly tested over the course of 20 years following its introduction in 1988. EcoFIT emphasizes efficient service delivery to parents of high-risk students that is integrated into an overall behavior management system in public middle schools. The foundation of the EcoFIT model is the parent management and training model which promotes positive behavior management practices. EcoFIT uses a multiple-gating approach to address the needs of students with varying degrees of risk. Multiple-gating refers to a systemic approach to screening youth for intervention services using a series of empirically validated assessments.

EcoFIT implementation is most successful in public schools that have a well-defined behavior management system such as PBS. PBS involves schoolwide behavior expectations for all students as well as more intensive and targeted interventions for individual students as needed. Within the PBS framework, EcoFIT consists of three components: (a) a Family Resource Center (FRC), housed in schools and staffed by at least one parent consultant (e.g., school counselor, school psychologist, special educator), which provides information on school-wide PBS, parenting skills, and behavior support; (b) the Family Check-Up (FCU), a series of three meetings which target family management and socialization practices to reduce and prevent the onset of student problem behavior and to increase academic success; and (c) further intervention and treatment options, such as family management parent groups, based on assessment results and the motivation and circumstances of the child and family.

Research Design and Methods: This project is designed to test the effectiveness of EcoFIT integration with PBS systems using a cluster-randomized controlled trial with students and staff nested within schools. Project staff will recruit 44 schools in two waves, roughly half in each of the first two years, but all project activities will be identical in both waves. Half of the schools will be assigned to the EcoFIT intervention and half to the control condition. Data will be collected through surveys and observations of all teachers, staff, and administrators, two successive cohorts of 6th grade students, and a sample of parents. Project staff will assess teachers, staff, and schools for four years, and they will follow students for three years, from 6th grade through 8th grade.

The research design is based in the RE-AIM model which suggests that to evaluate an intervention for broad adoption, evidence must be available regarding (a) reach, the proportion and representativeness of individual intervention participants, (b) effectiveness, both intended and unintended impacts on important outcomes, (c) adoption, the number, proportion, and representativeness of settings, organizations, or agents who implement the intervention, (d) implementation, fidelity, timing, and cost of the elements of the intervention protocol and individuals' use of intervention strategies, and (e) maintenance, the intervention's sustained, long-term effects at the individual level and long-term sustainability at the setting level.

Control Condition: Control schools will conduct business as usual, including all PBS practices, and will receive the EcoFIT intervention after the scale-up study is completed.

Key Measures: Measures will assess (a) students' grades, attendance, engagement, and problem behavior; (b) parents' contact with the schools and use of family services; (c) social validity from all program participants; (d) fidelity of implementation; and (e) costs associated with implementing the EcoFIT intervention.

Data Analytic Strategy: To test the effectiveness of the scaled-up EcoFIT intervention while adequately addressing the nested structure of the data, the team will conduct multilevel analyses that account for repeated measurements of individuals across time. Researchers will test hypotheses with mixed-model analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) or nested random coefficients analysis (RCA), both within the framework of hierarchical linear models, multilevel models, or latent growth models. These models provide tests of condition, moderation through interactions between condition and moderators, and mediation. A cost analysis will also be completed of direct and indirect (opportunity) costs, including personnel, facilities, equipment, and materials, in order to adequately reflect necessary expenditures for the implementation of EcoFIT.


Book chapter

Fosco, G.M., Dishion, T.J., and Stormshak, E.A. (2012). A Public Health Approach to Family-Centered Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Addiction: A Middle School Strategy. In H.J. Shaffer, D.A. LaPlante, and S.E. Nelson (Eds.), The American Psychological Association Addiction Syndrome Handbook (pp. 225–245). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/13750–010

Stormshak, E.A., Brown, K.L., Moore, K.M., Dishion, T.J., Seeley, J., and Smolkowski, K. (2016). Going to Scale With Family-Centered, School-Based Interventions: Challenges and Future Directions. In E. Kim, and S. Sheridan (Eds.), Research on Family-School Partnerships: Family-School Partnerships in Context, Vol. 3 (pp. 25–44). New York: Springer. doi:10.1007/978–3–319–19228–4_2

Stormshak, E.A., Margolis, K., Huang, C.Y., and Dishion, T.J. (2012). Implementation of a Family-Centered, School-Based Intervention to Prevent Student Academic and Behavioral Problems. In B. Kelly, and D.F. Perkins (Eds.), Handbook of Implementation Science for Psychology in Education (pp. 264–276). New York: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139013949.020

Book chapter, edition specified

Fosco, G.M., Seeley, J.R., Dishion, T.J., Smolkowski, K., Stormshak, E.A., Downey-McCarthy, R., Falkenstein, C.A., Moore, K.J., and Strycker, L.A. (2012). Lessons Learned From Scaling Up the Ecological Approach to Family Interventions and Treatment (EcoFIT) Program in Middle Schools. In M. Weist, N. Lever, C. Bradshaw, and J. Ownes (Eds.), Handbook of School Mental Health (2nd ed., pp. 237–254). New York: Springer.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Dishion, T.J. (2011). Promoting Academic Competence and Behavioral Health in Public Schools: A Strategy of Systemic Concatenation of Empirically Based Intervention Principles. School Psychology Review, 40(4): 590–597.