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Improving School Safety in the District of Columbia: Evaluating the Safe School Certification Program

Award Information

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

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $3,837,189)

Statement of the Problem: Concerns about school safety continue to rise. Faced with increased budget constraints and pressure to address student behavioral issues, school officials often reach for the newest, best marketed program without consideration of program fit, feasibility, or efficacy. The majority of US schools implement several prevention programs, but few are either evidence-based or implemented with fidelity. Without careful assessments of site readiness and needs, even the most efficacious programs may fail. Although frameworks designed to help communities develop capacity exist, few focus on developing that capacity within schools. The Safe School Certification Program, a three year technical assistance model, is designed to help schools develop the capacity needed to select, implement, and sustain evidence based programs and strategies that fit their communities' needs. Originally implemented in 18 schools under Iowa's US DoED Safe and Supportive Schools grant, SSCP has had promising results, but has yet to be systematically evaluated. Partnerships: This proposal is a partnership between Child Trends, Safe School Certification, the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and the DC Office of Human Rights to implement and rigorously evaluate SSCP using a matched-pair cluster randomized design and a mixed-methods implementation evaluation involving 36 public and public charter middle schools in Washington, DC. Research Design, Methods, and Analyses: The project will address three primary questions: (1) Do schools implementing SSCP improve capacity to address school safety; (2) Do schools implementing SSCP see improvements in safety and climate outcomes, and; (3) What are the facilitators and barriers to successful implementation of SSCP. Each spring, students, parents, and staff will take the forthcoming National School Climate Survey (NCLS). Classrooms at each school will also be observed using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System-Secondary (CLASS-S) to provide objective ratings of emotional support, instructional support, and classroom organization. Implementation data will be collected through annual observations of school SSCP teams, baseline and follow-up interviews with team members, regular interviews with technical support staff, and document reviews. Analyses for questions 1 and 2 will be conducted using multilevel structural equation models in MPius, which take into account the clustering of data and provide robust estimation for missing data. Analyses for question 3 will be conducted using coding systems developed in NVivo. Products, Reports, and Data Archiving : Products include scholarly journal articles, presentations at academic and practitioner conferences, and a web-based best practices database. Archived data files will be remitted to NIJ.

This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 30, 2015