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Efficacy of RENEW for High School Students with Emotional and Behavioral Challenges

Year: 2015
Name of Institution:
University of Vermont and State Agricultural College
Goal: Efficacy and Replication
Principal Investigator:
Suter, Jesse C.
Award Amount: $3,499,501
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2019)
Award Number: R305A150438

Description:

Co-Principal Investigator: JoAnne Malloy (University of New Hampshire)

Purpose: This study tests whether the RENEW (Rehabilitation, Empowerment, Natural supports, Education and Work) program can improve academic performance for the estimated 5-10% of high school students at risk for school failure due to emotional and behavioral challenges (EBC). Students with EBC have one of the highest dropout rates (nearly 45 percent), yet they rarely receive the individualized supports needed to help them succeed and graduate from high school. RENEW promotes student engagement, self-determination, and social support as protective factors hypothesized to support the unique needs of students with EBC to keep them connected with school and on a path to high school graduation.

Project Activities: The study takes place in high schools with Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) in place. In each of three school years, eligible students within each participating school will be randomly assigned to receive RENEW or to serve as controls. Researchers will assess the impact of RENEW on engagement in school, self-determination skills (e.g., problem-solving, planning, help-seeking), and perceived social support as well as academic and behavioral functioning throughout the 12-month intervention period and for as long as they remain in the study schools.

Products: The research team will generate evidence of the efficacy of RENEW to improve the engagement, motivation, behavior and academic achievement of high school students with EBC who have not responded to universal and targeted supports within SWPBIS high schools. Researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Participating high schools (approximately 10) are located in Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont and are situated in urban, suburban, town and rural regions with total enrollments ranging from fewer than 400 students to over 3000 students.

Sample: Approximately 380 high school students will participate. Eligible high school students are those who are in the ninth or tenth grade, at risk for school failure because of academic challenges or being disengaged from school, and have emotional or behavioral challenges that have not responded to universal (Tier 1) or targeted (Tier 2) SWPBIS supports.

Intervention: RENEW (Rehabilitation, Empowerment, Natural supports, Education and Work) is an individualized intervention designed for high school students with emotional and behavioral challenges (EBC). RENEW, a Tier 3 SWPBIS intervention, is designed to leverage the unique resources in the local school and community context to match individual student needs with available resources. Existing school personnel become RENEW facilitators who design individualized plans and strategies that are feasible given available resources. RENEW implementation proceeds in four distinct phases: student-specific planning; development of an individualized team based on the student's interests, needs, and relationships; implementation of each student's plan using local resources to support progress toward high school graduation and post-high school opportunities; and based on individual progress, transition to less intensive supports. Each school is supported by a RENEW coach who provides ongoing support to the RENEW facilitator and school personnel.

Research Design and Methods: Eligible students are randomly assigned to receive RENEW or to serve as controls within each school for an 18-month period (12 months of intervention with 6 months of follow-up data collection). Eligible students are identified at the beginning of three consecutive school years and monitored during the 12-month intervention period and beyond for the duration of the study.

Control Condition: In the control condition, students are randomly assigned to standard classroom practices in place at the schools.

Key Measures: Researchers will assess student outcomes through school records (e.g., grades, office discipline referrals, and attendance) and student and teacher questionnaires (e.g., student engagement, social support, self-determination, emotional functioning, and behavioral functioning). Service utilization for both RENEW and control students is measured using school records (e.g., SWPBIS practices, special education and related services). Fidelity of implementation is measured using surveys, checklists, and observational rating forms.

Data Analytic Strategy: In this study, researchers will use four-level, longitudinal, partially clustered hierarchical generalized models (HGMs) to assess primary outcomes. The research team will also use HGMs to explore the hypothesized mediational chain: RENEW strategies improve proximal outcomes (e.g., student engagement, self-determination), which in turn improve more distal outcomes (e.g., fewer discipline problems, progress toward graduation). The researchers will investigate likely moderators (e.g., type and intensity of EBC, family support, concurrent trauma) by including interaction variables in the HGMs. Researchers will also explore potential associations between RENEW implementation fidelity and improved outcomes.