Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Merging Research and Practice Agendas to Address Reading and Behavior School-Wide

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Merging Research and Practice Agendas to Address Reading and Behavior School-Wide

Article excerpt

Abstract. This paper describes a 4-year project that partnered psychologists based in universities and those in educational service districts to support development and implementation of school-wide academic and behavioral support systems in four elementary schools across four districts, representing different communities with varying demographic characteristics within one state in the north central region of the United States. We describe the methods for capacity building and sustainability embedded within the project, its course, and preliminary evaluation data, with discussion of successes, indicators of increased capacity and sustainability, lessons learned, and future directions for practice and research. Implications for the potential role for school- and university-based child-serving professionals in facilitating organizational change efforts, and subsequent implications for training and professional development of these professionals, are considered.

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"Research into practice" is a mantra in interrelated challenges amplify this urgency: educational reform (e.g., Carnine, 1999). Three (a) the call to reform schools to produce a competent citizenry, (b) the difficult task of effectively and efficiently addressing students' behavioral challenges, and (c) the decreasing availability of resources (Greenberg et al., 2003). These concerns have led to policies and mandates charging educators to be accountable for student performance (e.g., Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004; No Child Left Behind Act of 2002).

Longitudinal data suggest referral for special education when problems become pronounced is often neither efficient nor effective: By late elementary school, behavior and learning difficulties are often chronic, associated with negative educational, occupational, and societal outcomes (Snow, Bums, & Griffin, 1998; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). With early intervention, the prognosis for academic and behavioral difficulties is more promising (Snow et al., 1998; Walker et al., 1995), and preventive interventions that target both domains show promising results (Ialongo, Poduska, Werthamer, & Kellam, 2001). The early academic years appear to be a sensitive period for developing literacy (Coyne, Kame'enui, & Simmons, 2004) and self-regulation (Ialongo et al., 2001), pivotal skills for academic competence.

To address the high incidence of reading and behavior problems, researchers have imported best practice models into schools (e.g., Fuchs, Fuchs, Harris, & Roberts, 1996). Despite the initial adoption of evidenced-based interventions (EBIs) resulting in improved student outcome, failure to sustain changes when external supports are removed (e.g., McDougal, Clonan, & Martens, 2000) has pointed to the consideration of systems (Curtis & Stollar, 2002). Educational reforms are shifting focus from simply promoting EBIs toward working with systems and important stakeholders to adopt practices and facilitate lasting change (e.g., Fullan, 2000; Grimes & Tilly, 1996). School-wide approaches to addressing behavior (e.g., Homer, Sugai, Todd, & Lewis-Palmer, 2005) and literacy (e.g., Simmons, Kame'enui, Good, Ham, Cole, & Braun, 2002) reflect sensitivity to systems and differ from previous efforts because they consider EBIs and contextual fit to promote and sustain effective practice. They conceptualize alignment of outcome goals, systemic issues, and local performance data as interrelated with selection and adaptation of EBIs (Sugai, Horner, & Gresham, 2002).

This article describes the activities, systems change, and preliminary results from a project partnering county school district consultants and university faculty with schools to implement EBIs and decision making at the universal (school-wide), targeted (selected groups), and individually referenced (i. …

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