Practices of educational exclusion and criminalization of students are still widespread in the United States despite consistent research showing the negative effects of this approach. Experts have written about the value of nonpunitive approaches as alternatives to zero tolerance policies. Aligned with these approaches, the Safe Public Spaces in Schools Program (SPSSP) aims to create school cultures in which every adult in the building contributes to the goals of promoting safety, respect, courtesy, and friendliness. The program includes data-informed planning, initial professional development, and ongoing coaching supplemented with follow-up training sessions. Planning with schools will take 5 months, followed by 2 full school years of implementation. Program content includes a set of promotion, prevention, and intervention practices and protocols for building a safe and supportive school climate.
The effects of SPSSP on students will be examined in a cluster randomized controlled trial with 24 public middle schools in New York City (NYC). This project is conducted in collaboration with the Mayor's office, Department of Education, and New York City Police Department (NYPD) and focuses on schools considered least safe based on the determination of these agencies. Process data will be collected through site visits, which will include interviews and observations. For the impact analysis, the evaluation will rely on existing administrative records of student demographic characteristics; absenteeism; office disciplinary referrals, student safety-related incidents, as well as student and teacher self-reports on school safety from the annual NYC School Survey. Additional de-identified records of crime incidents at and around schools will be obtained from NYPD.
The evaluation team will examine implementation fidelity, coordination with existing programs and policies, challenges to implementation, and implementation costs. Using hierarchical linear modeling, the evaluation team will assess the extent to which SPSSP schools provide a safer environment to their students compared with control schools and affect other student outcomes that are linked to problem behavior, such as absenteeism. Using a time series analysis of historical data, the evaluation will also examine potential effects on the nearby community. Findings will expand on the existing scientific knowledge and can support replication and scaling up in New York City and other districts around the nation. The project will yield multiple deliverables including two interim reports and one final technical report, a research brief, manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals, and a conference presentation.
This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf