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Comprehensive Assessment of School Climate to Improve Safety in Maryland Middle Schools

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $3,616,205)

Statement of the Problem: Many schools struggle to proactively promote a positive climate and safety, especially in middle schools where behavioral concerns increase. A partnership between the University of Virginia (UVA), Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Sheppard Pratt Health System (SPHS), and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) is submitting this proposal to NIJ with the goal of promoting middle school safety through the use of a continuum of evidence-based approaches to school climate improvement, violence prevention, and culturally-responsive classroom management. This proposal examines the efficacy, costs, and benefits of an augmented version of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which provides personnel with safety (e.g., surveys, observations) and climate data, technical assistance, and training in evidence-based interventions. A recent randomized controlled trial (RCT) of the proposed Maryland Safe and Supportive Schools (MDS3) model has demonstrated effects in Maryland high schools. We propose to adapt this model for use in middle schools, thereby preventing the negative sequalae of violence involvement, disengagement from school, and disparities in outcomes for minority students. Subjects: The targeted RCT sample is youth attending 40 middle schools across 3 diverse Maryland counties in the Baltimore metro area. Partnerships: This proposal builds upon a 15-year partnership between UVA, JHU, SPHS, and MSDE which has collaboratively scaled-up PBIS in Maryland and conducted multiple RCTs testing different prevention programs. Research Design and Methods: This study aims to (1) adapt for middle schools and assess the acceptability and feasibility of the MDS3 model in 4 pilot schools; (2) test the efficacy of MDS3 for improving school safety and climate, problem behaviors, engagement, and achievement using a group RCT in 40 middle schools; and (3) measure the programmatic costs and benefits associated with the implementation of MDS3 to inform state-wide dissemination efforts. We hypothesize that MDS3 intervention schools will display decreased behavioral infractions and ethnic disparities, and improved school safety and academic success. Analysis: Aim 1 uses a mixed-methods approach. Aim 2 utilizes multilevel analyses to assess student outcomes over 3 years. Aim 3 will use cost-benefit and return on investment analyses. Products: Products include a comprehensive training series on the use of school safety and climate data to inform the selection and implementation of evidence-based programs; sustainable school climate survey system for use state-wide; administrator walk-through observation tool; professional development materials on culturally-proficient classroom management; peer-reviewed and practitioner oriented research summaries; archived data files (e.g., surveys, observations) submitted to NIJ. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 30, 2014