LAWRENCE — As no two students learn the same way, educators are relying more on systems with a variety of methods to improve students’ educational opportunities. To that end, University of Kansas researchers will test a systems-level framework known as the Comprehensive, Integrated, Three-Tiered (Ci3T) Model of Prevention, designed to provide customized academic, behavioral and social supports to students.
A five-year, $3.9 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences will allow researchers to conduct a randomized control trial of schools using Ci3T to improve student outcomes. The project will also develop and refine structural processes and resources to enhance scaling up of the Ci3T model, specifically for supporting leadership skills, building the capacity of Ci3T Leadership Teams to support implementation and creating efficient data systems for behavior screening.
The grant, administered by KU’s Life Span Institute, will partner Kathleen Lynne Lane, principal investigator, and KU researchers with co-principal investigators Wendy Peia Oakes of Arizona State University, Sandra Chafouleas of the University of Connecticut, Amy Briesch of Northeastern University, David Royer of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Eric Common, University of Michigan-Flint.
Researchers have conducted descriptive studies of Ci3T since its inception in the mid-‘90s, but this will be the first randomized control trial to both test the system’s efficacy and simultaneously provide tools for sustained implementation in schools, said Lane, professor of special education and interim associate vice chancellor for research at KU.
“We decided we were going to write the dream project. This grant is about providing the empirical evidence to bring this system, introduced in 1996, to scale and providing schools and districts the tools they need to fully sustain Ci3T practices over time,” Lane said. “Our belief is you can’t do only one piece of the educational experience and provide what our young people need. We want to empower educators and school leaders to support students’ academic, social and behavioral needs in a coordinated system.”
Ci3T systems, in use in schools across the country, have as a core practice screening for students who may need additional support in academic, behavioral and social areas. The system can provide supports for students from preschool through high school by screening students to determine who may need additional help and giving educators data-driven methods to provide interventions. Educators design their Ci3T plan to match the school and community’s unique characteristics and priorities. While the academic and social skills components are guided by district standards and curricula decisions, the behavioral component is based on the expectations all adults working in the school have for student success in academic and nonacademic settings and are directly taught to each student.
“This is all woven into the instruction,” Lane said. “To give one example, we could practice showing empathy for others during academic lessons in a number of ways.”
The project will help determine exactly what kind of resources schools need to implement Ci3T with integrity, build capacity of school site teams to implement the supports and improve training to help educators provide screenings to connect students to supports they may need. Project Enhance materials will be available online along with information about the Ci3T model of prevention, research-informing practices, resources for building Ci3T models, screening and more.
Previous research on Ci3T has shown students’ educational risk shifts over time and student scores on behavioral screenings are predictive of how they will fare over time, Lane said. Also, Tier 2 supports, those not delivered to all students but to some who show need, can be effective in improving students’ performance. Project Enhance will provide evidence for schools adopting Ci3T and allow teachers and administrators to leverage a systems approach.
“We are former educators, and we’d never ask teachers to do something we wouldn’t have done in our own classrooms,” Lane said of the project’s investigators.
Ultimately, in addition to enhancing Ci3T with new structural processes and providing tools for its use, the project’s goal is to make the materials available to any school in the nation.
“We’ll test what we know now and bring enhanced Ci3T materials to the schools,” Lane said. “It’s an ongoing refinement of the process. We’re learning with our school and district partners what they need to best implement and continue Ci3T. We’re working not only to empower the schools but the next generation of learners as well.”