Field Initiated Evaluations of Education Innovations Research Grant Program

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University of Maryland College Park Project Abstract
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Name of Institution: University of Maryland College Park
Principal Investigator: Dr. Sylvia Rosenfield
Title: An Experimental Study of the Effectiveness of Instructional Consultation Teams

Purpose: A growing number of K-12 students, including a disproportionate share of minority students, are being referred for and receive special education services. Many believe that team-based services could reduce overall special education referrals and placements. The purpose of this project is to assess Instructional Consultation (IC) Teams, a team-based service delivered to all elementary children. IC Teams are problem-solving teams with special training who consult with teachers on instructional content and discipline issues. The program aims to reduce the need for special education evaluation and placement by supporting classroom teachers’ application of evidence-based instruction and assessment to support struggling learners. At the end of the project, the results will show whether instructional consultation teams in one large district improve elementary school students’ achievement in mathematics and reading, reduce problem behavior, reduce the assignment of students to special education, and reduce retention in grade.

Setting: 34 elementary schools (grades K-5) in the Prince William County, Virginia Public Schools, an urban-suburban-rural county system of diverse ethnicity and socioeconomic composition, are participating in the evaluation.

Populations: Each of the 22,000 grade K-5 students and 1,000 teachers in the elementary schools is asked to participate in the study. As many as an additional 200 other adult participants who are part of IC teams, including school psychologists, counselors, and administrators, are asked to participate.

Intervention: IC Teams is an intervention designed to improve the success of children in general education environments, reduce special services referrals, and increase the appropriateness of referrals for special services. The intervention is a complex package characterized by an interdisciplinary team that assists teachers through a collaborative problem-solving process. The team members receive a four-day training in critical skills and evidence-based practices to enhance teacher competence in addressing academic and behavior concerns in struggling learners; with additional training through extensive on-line coaching that will review tapes of each case. IC Teams have been implemented in 175 schools in 7 states, and have shown some preliminary evidence of promise.

Research Design and Methods: The study includes 34 elementary schools (grades K-5) that are randomly assigned to the treatment and control conditions. Schools are matched on demographic characteristics prior to random assignment.

Control Condition: The control schools continue their usual teacher support structures.

Key Measures: The primary student outcomes will include the state standardized achievement test in grades 3-5 (Virginia State Standards of Learning), the district’s Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening for grades K-3, special education referral and placement rates from school records, grade promotion, and measures of student psychosocial development based on teacher ratings.

The teacher survey will include self-reported changes in teacher classroom behavior, instruction, management, and well-developed measures of efficacy, job-related stress, and job-related satisfaction.

Implementation fidelity in treatment schools will use measures developed previously, including interviews with teachers and team members, documentation of cases handled by the team, and teacher surveys.

Data Analytic Strategy:The statistical analysis will involve multilevel structural equation modeling to examine the impact of IC teams on student outcomes including achievement in mathematics and reading, special education status, retention in grade, and psycho-social adjustment. In addition, the analysis will examine the impact of the IC teams on teacher efficacy, teacher stress, and teacher job satisfaction. The researchers will also examine whether program impacts vary with program implementation, student characteristics, teachers’ sense of efficacy, and teachers’ commitment to the intervention.

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Last Modified: 10/06/2005