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Development of an Intervention to Improve Academic Outcomes for Low-Income Urban Youth through Instruction in Effective Coping Supported by Mentoring Relationships

Year: 2008
Name of Institution:
DePaul University
Goal: Development and Innovation
Principal Investigator:
Grant, Kathryn
Award Amount: $1,152,935
Award Period: 3 years
Award Number: R305A080562

Description:

Purpose: The middle school years are a critical period for preventing academic disengagement, school failure, and dropout for low-income urban youth, and for preventing increases in delinquency, substance use, and depression that further contribute to academic problems. The purpose of this project is to develop and pilot a coping curriculum that supports low-income urban adolescents through mentoring relationships and through connections that link them and their school to community partners. The goals of the intervention are to promote effective and contextually-relevant coping for engaging and succeeding in school, and managing the severe and chronic stressors in these low-income urban areas that impede learning.

Project Activities: In the first phase of the project, the research team will develop a new coping curriculum focused on strategies for coping with urban stressors with the support of mentors. The intervention will include three primary components: (a) training in contextually relevant coping strategies; (b) procedures and infrastructure for supporting mentoring relationships in which much of the coping learning is expected to take place; and (c) protocols for maximizing mentoring-school connections and for sustaining viable school-community agency relationships to support the coping/ mentoring program and facilitate youth involvement in beneficial activities and supportive resources outside of school. In the second phase of the project, the intervention will be piloted in staggered sequence with a series of three cohorts of five adolescents each (and their mentors). In the final phase of the project, the full intervention will be pilot tested in real time with a larger group of students.

Products: Products from this project include a coping curriculum designed to support low-income urban eighth graders through the transition to high school.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research is being conducted in a large urban center in Illinois.

Population: Study participants are predominantly African American eighth graders, teachers, and administrators from a low-income, urban public school, and mentors from two community partners.

Intervention: The intervention will include three primary components: (a) training in contextually relevant coping strategies; (b) procedures and infrastructure for supporting mentoring relationships in which much of the coping learning is expected to take place; and (c) protocols for maximizing mentoring-school connections and for sustaining viable school-community agency relationships to support the coping/mentoring program and facilitate youth involvement in beneficial activities and supportive resources outside of school.

Research Designs and Methods: In the first phase of the project, the research team will develop a new coping curriculum focused on strategies for coping with specific types of urban stressors with the support of mentors. The development phase will occur iteratively in consultation with an advisory board consisting of teachers, students, staff members, parents, mentors, and partner agencies. In the second phase of the project, the intervention will be piloted in staggered sequence with a series of three cohorts of five adolescents each (and their mentors) to permit some indication across multiple users of feasibility, acceptability, and possible impact. In the final phase of the project, the full intervention will be pilot tested in real time with a larger cohort of students and a matched control group. Pre and post data on proximal (e.g., coping, support, emotional and behavioral problems) and distal (e.g., academic achievement) outcomes will be collected for both groups to determine the promise of the intervention for improving school-based outcomes for these youth.

Control Condition: A matched control group of adolescents and their parents will complete the measures that will be included in the built-in assessment component. Teachers will also complete measures on these youth. As this is a development study, control group data will be analyzed for trends only.

Key Measures: The research team is developing measures and procedures for assessing fidelity to the intervention protocol and procedures for administering and analyzing measures as part of a built-in assessment component. Quantitative measurement of proximal outcomes (in addition to fidelity assessments) will be undertaken to guide intervention development, evaluate practical utility of measures for the built-in assessment component, and assess promise of the intervention. Coping will be measured with the Children's Coping Strategies Checklist, Response to Stress Questionnaire, emotional and behavioral problems will be measured with the Behavioral Assessment System for Children (BASC), academic competence: engagement and school bonding with the Intrinsic Motivation Scale, BASC, and academic competence: efficacy with the Academic Efficacy Scale on the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales (PALS). Distal outcomes, e.g., academic achievement, will be gathered from school records. For the latter purpose, measures will be obtained for both pilot and control participants.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will strategically employ focus groups, classroom-based group discussions, open-ended survey questions, and observations to obtain the specific types of data from multiple sources that will be used to facilitate the intervention development process. Quantitative data will be analyzed for trends only. For testing of the full pilot for pre to post trends the team will use ANCOVA analyses to gain understanding of the relation between intervention involvement and key variables assessed through the built-in assessment component.

Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Farahmand, F.K, Duffy, S.N., Tailor, M., DuBois, D.L., Lyon, A.R., Grant, K.E., Czarlinski, J., Masini, O., Zander, K.J., and Nathanson, A.M. (2012). Community-Based Mental Health and Behavioral Programs for Low-Income Urban Youth: A Meta-Analytic Review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 19(2): 195–215.

Farahmand, F.K., Grant, K.E., Polo, A., Duffy, S.N., and Dubois, D.L. (2011). School-Based Mental Health and Behavioral Programs for Low-Income Urban Youth: A Systematic and Meta-Analytic Review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 18: 372–390.

Grant, K.E., Farahmand, F., Meyerson, D.A., Dubois, D.L., Tolan, P.H., Gaylord-Harden, N.K., ... and Harrison, A. (2014). Development of Cities Mentor Project: An Intervention to Improve Academic Outcomes for Low-Income Urban Youth Through Instruction in Effective Coping Supported by Mentoring Relationships and Protective Settings. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 42(3), 221–242.