College of Education receives $1.2 million grant to support graduate education

Kent McIntosh and Chris Murray, associate professors in the UO’s College of Education, have received a new Doctoral Leadership Training Award worth $1.2 million from the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, to support a new cohort of doctoral students starting in September 2014.

The project, known as ENLIST (Engaging New Leaders in Implementation Science Training), will provide six new doctoral students with specialized training in implementation science, or the study of how research-based solutions can be implemented and sustained in schools under challenging, real world conditions.

Although there is a large and growing body of research-based practices to support behavioral intervention in schools, these solutions are often dropped within 1-2 years of a school or district adopting them. The reasons why a program is dropped can vary, but some common causes include pressure to meet well-intentioned local, state or federal initiatives; frequent personnel changes, especially at the administrative level; lack of resources to continue supporting the programs; and “implementation fatigue,” or the effect on staff morale when systems are constantly being changed.

The new funding from the U.S. Department of Education will provide much needed training in implementation practices to help the new cohort of doctoral students become national leaders in special education research, training, policymaking and advocacy.

The new grant stemmed from research currently being conducted by Kent McIntosh into the School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) approach. This approach, which is an umbrella framework designed to support a variety of teaching and intervention strategies, is currently used in over 20,000 schools across the United States.

McIntosh is tracking over 850 schools across the country and identifying the factors that lead to successful implementations of the program. The SWPBIS research project is supported by a 4-year, $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and implementation of SWPBIS is supported by an $8.8 million National Technical Assistance Center grant awarded to the University of Oregon.

In addition to their coursework, the new doctoral students will participate in applied research projects throughout their studies. One research opportunity includes fieldwork as part of McIntosh’s research into the SWPBIS system. Additional opportunities include research and fieldwork with the Effective Behavioral and Instructional Support Systems (EBISS) program at the UO’s Center for Teaching and Learning, the Oregon Response to Intervention (RTI) program, and the State Implementation and Scaling-Up of Evidence-based Practices (SISEP) center.

“We are very excited about the new award from the U.S Department of Education,” said Kent McIntosh. “The new program will be a unique opportunity for several doctoral students to become leaders in translating research into real-world solutions that support our students and teachers.”