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Special Education Research and Development Centers





Principal Investigator:

Kern, Lee


Lehigh University


Special Education Research and Development Centers [Program Details]

Award Period:

07/01/2008 - 06/30/2013

Award Amount:



R&D Center

National Research and Development Center on Serious Behavior Disorders at the Secondary Level

Study Purposes: The primary objective of this project is to develop and evaluate the efficacy of a package of intervention strategies designed to reduce the significant behavioral and academic challenges experienced by high school students with behavior disorders. In addition, the research team will conduct supplementary studies to address key issues in special education and are responsive to the needs of policymakers and secondary-level special education practitioners; broadly disseminate their findings; and provide national leadership on services for high school students with behavior disorders. The Center’s long-term goal is to improve the behavior, social, and academic outcomes of secondary students with serious behavior disorders.

Interventions: The Center will develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive set of intervention strategies across three core intervention components: Enhancing school and teacher capacity, building youth competence, and increasing family and community supports. The intervention package will include multiple components addressing academics and behavior (e.g., classroom structure, teacher-student interactions, evidence-based academic instruction), youth competence in social skills, mental health, and general living skills (e.g., making healthy choices, organization and study skills, mentoring, securing effective therapy), and increasing family and community supports (e.g., parent guidance, homework guidance, and linking schools to community therapy and supports).

Design: During the initial project years, the research team will examine the strategies within each core component to identify those strategies that are the most efficient and have the best potential to improve student outcomes. The strategies will be incorporated into the intervention “package” to be further refined and developed. At the end of the development phase, the team will have a fully developed intervention package with evidence of acceptability and feasibility in secondary school settings. An experimental, random assignment test of efficacy of the intervention package will be conducted in years 3-5. The goal of the trial is to determine whether the intervention package improves student outcomes compared to business-as-usual control conditions. The trial will also include an examination of the variables that mediate student-level outcomes or moderate the effect of treatment on student outcomes.

Outcome Measures: A set of measures is planned to examine student behavior, social, and academic outcomes. In addition, fidelity of intervention, amount of student exposure to the intervention strategies, intervention acceptability, and social validity will be measured.

Key Personnel: Lee Kern, Steve Evans, Tim Lewis, Debra Kamps, Carl Paternite, Terry Scott, Mark Weist, Paras Mehta, Zewelanji Serpell, Howard Stevenson, Charlayne Hayling, Allison Cloth, Lori Newcomer.

Center Website:

IES Program Contact: Dr. Jacquelyn Buckley
Telephone: (202) 219-2130

Publications from this project:

Serpell, Z., Hayling, C. C., Stevenson, H., & Kern, L. (2009). Cultural considerations in the development of school-based interventions for African American adolescent boys with emotional and behavioral disorders. Journal of Negro Education, 78 (3),321–332.

Walker, J., Geddes, A., Lever, N., Andrews, C., & Weist, M. D. (2010). Reconsidering the term “emotional disturbance”: A report from Maryland. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 3, 46–52.

Becker, S. P., Paternite, C. E., Evans, S. W., Andrews, C., Christensen, O. A., Kraan, E. M., & Weist, M. D. (2011). Eligibility, assessment, and educational placement issues for students classified with emotional disturbance: Federal and state-level analyses. School Mental Health, 3, 24–34. doi: 10.1007/s12310–010–9045–2

Kern, L., Evans, S., & Lewis, T. J. (2011). Description of an iterative process for intervention development. Education and Treatment of Children, 34 (4), 593–617.

Brady, C. E., Evans, S. W., Berlin, K. S., Bunford, N., & Kern, L. (2012). Evaluating school impairment with adolescents: A psychometric evaluation of the Classroom Performance Survey. School Psychology Review, 14 (4), 429–446.

Deloach, K., Dvorsky, M., George, M., Miller, E., Weist, M., & Kern, L. (2012) Interdisciplinary collaboration in launching a large-scale research study in schools. NASP Communique, 6–11.

Evans, S. W., Brady, C. E., Harrison, J. R., Bunford, N., Kern, L., State, T. & Andrews, C. (2013). Measuring ADHD and ODD symptoms and impairment using high school teachers' ratings. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 42 (2), 197–207.

Cloth, A. H., Evans, S. W., Becker, S. P. & Paternite, C. E. (2013). Social maladjustment and special education: State regulations and continued controversy. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders.

Harrison, J., Bunford, N., Evans, S. W. & Owens, J. S. (2013). Educational accommodations for students with behavioral challenges: A systematic review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 83, 551–597.

Becker, S. P., Paternite, C. E., & Evans, S. W. (2014). Special educators' conceptualizations of emotional disturbance and educational placement decision making for middle and high school students. School Mental Health.