Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $729,545)
In the United States, the prevalence of school violence presents various challenges for school administrators. School dynamics play a significant role in promoting (or preventing) school violence. In recent research, a positive school climate has been identified as an important protective factor to enhance school safety and reduce school violence. McKinley Elementary School is located in Long Beach, California, and has an enrollment of primarily students of color. These students experience unique challenges, such as economic disadvantage, language barriers, disabilities, homelessness, foster care, among others. In recent years, McKinley Elementary School has experienced growing issues of student disengagement, chronic absenteeism, student misconduct, and school violence. In order to address these issues, the current project aims to develop and implement a multitiered systems of support (MTSS), focusing on positive school climate, to improve overall school safety and reduce violence at McKinley Elementary School. MTSS refers to school-based interventions that aim to encourage positive student behavior through differentiated attention for children based on the level of supports needed to address a student’s specific learning, mental health, and emotional-behavioral concerns.
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of this MTSS program, this research project will conduct process and outcome evaluations. The process evaluation will utilize semi-structured focus groups with teachers and one-on-one interviews with administrators and social-support staff to provide contextual information of program implementation. The outcome evaluation will assess levels of student engagement, chronic absenteeism, student misconduct, school violence, and school safety over the five-year period at McKinley Elementary School to examine what, if any, effects can be attributed to the MTSS, and their influence on overall school safety over time. This research will be conducted through an annual school safety survey (given to students and staff), data tracking on chronic absenteeism, school engagement, and school violence. Given its diverse population of underserved students experiencing various unique challenges (economic disadvantage, homelessness, foster care, etc.), McKinley Elementary School is uniquely positioned to make widespread and lasting positive impacts on school safety in the city of Long Beach. Furthermore, this evaluation can inform subsequent implementations of MTSS at other sites and best practices for improving school safety and reducing school violence.