National Center for Students With Intensive Social, Behavioral and Emotional Needs (Project REACH)

Project Name

National Center for Students With Intensive Social, Behavioral and Emotional Needs (Project REACH)

Principal Investigator

Dr.Lee Kern


US Department of Education

This proposal responds to the RFA Topic National Research and Development Center on Serious Behavior Disorders at the Secondary Level. Consistent with the RFA specifying Research and Development, we have delineated a five-year process of intervention improvement and refinement, culminating in an efficacy study.

During Year 1, three core intervention components will be evaluated, focused on enhancing School and Teacher Capacity, Building Youth Competence, and Increasing Family and Community Supports. We have identified interventions that are likely to be effective with secondary age students, can be implemented by typical school staff, and have promise for generalization. The intervention components will be evaluated with a small group of 30 high school age students with severe behavior disorders (SBD). Using an established intervention model, we will evaluate, refine, and improve the interventions in response to preliminary outcome data, consumer feedback, Local Development input and cultural responsiveness evaluation. In addition, a preliminary manual will be developed. During Year 2, intervention components will be packaged to be further refined and initially evaluated with a larger group of 60 students, with findings evaluated using a pre-post Ancova. In addition, the preliminary manual will be field tested. Data will be collected in the implementation fidelity, effectiveness and acceptability. At the end of  Year 2, a comprehensive intervention package with a high likelihood of efficacy, along with an accompanying manual, will be ready for an efficacy evaluation Years 3-5. This evaluation will be conducted with 480 students in 40 diverse high schools located across six states and spanning 3 IES regional lab locations. Using a delayed treatment design, half of the schools will be randomly assigned to the receive intervention and half treatment as usual (receiving intervention Year 5). Specific research questions will be addressed using a variety of analytical procedures. The role of a number of mediating and moderating variables also will be examined with respect to outcomes. Also, the manual will be finalized for dissemination.

In addition, a number of supplemental studies directly pertinent to the outcomes of students with SBD studies will be conducted. These studies focus on critical issues in the field, such as placement in restrictive settings, cultural responsiveness of interventions, the role and climate of host environments, and general education accommodations. At the end of the grant funding, we foresee a fully developed intervention with demonstrated efficacy that is acceptable and feasible to implement along with a comprehensive intervention manual that is ready for widespread dissemination. Further, we expect our supplemental research to generate information vital to improving programming for students with SBD at the secondary level.

We have assembled a group of researchers in the fields of Special Education and Mental Health with extensive research and intervention expertise. Given the vital role of those two fields with respect to the outcomes of students with SBD, we will engage in a collaborative effort to identify a joint approach that will fully address student needs, Dr. Lee Kern (Lehigh University, Center for Promoting Research to Practice) will serve as PI. Dr. Steve Evans (James Madison University; Director, Alvin Baird Attention & Learning Disabilities Center) and Tim Lewis (University of Missouri) will serve as Co-PIs ad conduct the major and supplemental research studies. Dr. Mark Weist (University of Kansas, Associate Director of Juniper Gardens Children’s Project), and Terry Scott (University of Louisville) also will conduct the major research and supplemental studies. Dr. Zewelanji Serpell (James Madison University and Carl Patemite (Miami University) will assist with intervention development and conduct supplemental research studies.