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How Effective are Most Commonly Adopted Reading Programs?

December 17, 2021

One of the most important decisions educators make is what reading curriculum to adopt.  The consequences of that decision can have profound implications for students.  Adopting a curriculum not based on the science of reading is likely to produce a generation of poor readers.  Education Week recently reviewed a report from EDReports that reported two of the most commonly adopted reading curricula failed to meet their new review standards.  The review covered both K-2 and grades 3-8 for Fountas and Pinnell Classroom and Units of Study from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  Neither program met expectations for text quality or alignment to standards.  In 2019, EdWeek Research Center reported that 44% of K-2 early reading and special education teachers used Fountas and Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention, a companion intervention to Fountas and Pinnell Classroom.

Additionally, it was reported that 16% of teachers used Units of Study for Teaching Reading.  Approximately 60% of K-2 and special education students are taught reading with curricula that do not meet standards for reading instruction.  This is distressing given the importance of early reading on the educational trajectory for students.

Link for Ed Week article:


Kurtz, H., Lloyd, S., Harwin, A., Chen, V., & Furuya, Y. (2020). Early Reading Instruction: Results of a National Survey. Editorial Projects in Education.



What Do Teachers Think about Praise?

November 5, 2021

Praise is generally recognized as an empirically-supported approach to improving student behavior (Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers, & Sugai, 2008); however, in spite of the research evidence, praise is often under-utilized in classrooms (Floress & Jenkins, 2015; Gable, Hendrickson, Shores, & Young, 1983; Sutherland, Wehby, & Copeland, 2000) highlighting the research to practice gap.  Why don’t teachers implement praise more often and more consistently?  Shernoff and colleagues (2020) attempted to answer this question.  In this study, they recruited 41 teachers who identified praise as a professional development goal to participate in a coaching program with the goal of increasing praise.  After the study was completed, the teachers were asked about facilitators (helpful factors) and barriers (obstacles) to using praise.  During the study, the teachers slowly increased the frequency and quality of praise over a three-month period.  This suggests that it takes time to make practice changes and it may be more complex to implement praise than is generally considered.  The teachers identified a number of facilitators to using praise including feedback to students without having to criticize them, positive student reactions, and deliberate planning and reminders (planning how to use praise in the context of a specific lesson).  Teachers also identified barriers to using praise including it interferes with instruction, conflicts with education, training and beliefs, and the context dependent nature of praise.  Using praise in classrooms is an innovation when there is initially a very low level.  From an implementation science perspective, the process leading to adoption can be complex and influenced by factors that are unrelated to the intervention.  For example, if an innovation conflicts with a teacher’s education, training, and beliefs, then the innovation will likely be met with resistance.  One way to reduce the resistance to the innovation is to have someone that is credible to the teacher champion the intervention rather than outside consultants, trainers, or researchers.  Often the most credible person to a teacher is another teacher.  This highlights that introducing interventions that are seemingly simple is not a simple process.

Citation: Shernoff, E. S., Lekwa, A. L., Reddy, L. A., & Davis, W. (2020). Teachers’ use and beliefs about praise: A mixed-methods study. School Psychology Review, 49(3), 256-274.



  • Floress, M. T., & Jenkins, L. N. (2015). A preliminary investigation of kindergarten teachers’ use of praise in general education classrooms. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 59(4), 253–262. doi:10.1177/0198742917709472.
  • Gable, R. A., Hendrickson, J. M., Shores, R. E., & Young, C. C. (1983). Teacher-handicapped child classroom interactions. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 6(2), 88–95. doi:10.1177/019874299301800405.
  • Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D., & Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based practices in classroom management: Considerations for research to practice. Education and Treatment of Children, 3, 351–380. doi:10.1353/etc.0.0007.
  • Sutherland, K. S., Wehby, J. H., & Copeland, S. R. (2000). Effect of varying rates of behavior-specific praise on the ontask behavior of students with EBD. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8(1), 2–8. doi:10.1177/ 106342660000800101.



What are Effective Behavior Management Strategies for Disruptive Behavior?

November 5, 2021

Disruptive behavior is one of the biggest challenges facing classroom teachers today.  Many of the students with the most disruptive behavior are classified as having emotional and behavioral disorders or at risk of developing them.  These students take up a disproportionate amount of classroom time, reducing time spent of instruction.  Generally, these students have not been responsive to class-wide behavior management approaches and require more individualized and intensive intervention.  This raises the question what are the effective practices that will benefit the student?   A recent review by Riden and colleagues attempted to answer this question through a systematic review of the literature.  They identified eight practices that met critieria to be considered evidence-based: (check in/check out (2) functional assessment-based intervention (3) group contingencies (4) peer- mediated interventions (5) self-management (6) self-regulated strategy development for writing (7) token economies (8) video modeling.  Another eleven practices were identified as promising and include: (1) praise (2) opportunities to respond (3) behavior contracting (4) cooperative learning (5) goal setting (6) good behavior game (7) high probability requests (8) instructional choice (9) self-determination (10) social skills (11) time out.  It is important to recognize that practices described as promising may well be effective but the empirical data base is not yet strong enough to warrant inclusion as evidence-based.  These practices should be considered when selecting approaches for addressing significant behavior problems.

These data are important because they can guide educators about which practices to adopt when addressing the behavior problems posed by disruptive students.

Citation: Riden, B. S., Kumm, S., & Maggin, D. M. (2021). Evidence-Based Behavior Management Strategies for Students With or At Risk of EBD: A Mega Review of the Literature. Remedial and Special Education, 07419325211047947.




Can We Make Coaching More Cost-Effective?

November 5, 2021

One of the great challenges in education is training all staff to implement interventions.  There is considerable reliance on para-professionals, especially in special education, to support students.  Many of the para-professionals have minimal training in educational practices.  In many cases, the training that does occur is the traditional didactic model and there is little evidence that it produces the outcomes it is supposed to yield.  An alternative model of training that holds great promise is coaching; however, there are limitations to it because it often relies on outside coaches which makes it cost-prohibited for many districts.  A recent report by Sallese and Vannest (2021) offers an alternative that may make coaching more cost-effective.  In their research, they utilized classroom teachers to coach the para-professionals working in the classroom to increase the use of behavior specific praise.  Many teachers report that they have little or no pre-service or in-service training focused on paraprofessional training and support (Douglas, Chapin & Nolan, 2016).  To address this issue, the teachers were provided a manual to guide their coaching efforts.  The components of the coaching package included self-monitoring, performance feedback, goal setting, modeling, and action planning.  In surveys of paraprofessionals one of the most cited concerns is lack of training and support in behavior management (Mason, et al., 2021).  Behavior specific praise has been identified as an evidence-based component of classroom behavior management (Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers, & Sugai (2008); however, it has often been a challenge to increase behavior specific praise and maintain it over time.  In this study, all four of the para-professionals that received coaching increased their rate of behavior specific praise.  In addition, 100% of the participants agreed that the procedures were appropriate and feasible in terms of time and effort required to implement.

This was a small-scale study but it holds promise as a method for coaching implementers to carry out effective practices.  From an implementation perspective, this provides a cost-effective approach to increase the internal capacity of a system to implement adopted practices.  Building internal capacity is critical if effective interventions are to be sustained over generations of implementers. 

Citation: Sallese, M. R., & Vannest, K. J. (2021). Effects of a Manualized Teacher-Led Coaching Intervention on Paraprofessional Use of Behavior-Specific Praise. Remedial and Special Education, 07419325211017298.



  • Douglas, S. N., Chapin, S. E., & Nolan, J. F. (2016). Special education teachers’ experiences supporting and supervising paraeducators: Implications for special and general education settings. Teacher Education and Special Education, 39(1), 60–74.
  • Mason, R. A., Gunersel, A. B., Irvin, D. W., Wills, H. P., Gregori, E., An, Z. G., & Ingram, P. B. (2021). From the frontlines: Perceptions of paraprofessionals’ roles and responsibilities. Teacher Education and Special Education, 44(2), 97–116.
  • Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D., & Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based practices in classroom management: Considerations for research to practice. Education and treatment of children, 351-380.



Can We Close the Research to Practice Gap?

November 5, 2021

One of the persistent problems in education is the gap between what we know about effective educational practices and the practices that are frequently used in public schools.  Many of these practices do not have empirical support.  The challenge for all educators is how do we close the gap?  The flow of research to practice is often perceived as being a one way flow from researchers that develop effective interventions and disseminate them to practitioners who are expected to adopt them (Ringeisen, Henderson, & Hoagwood, 2003).  Ringeisen et al., argue that this is not likely to result in widespread adoption of effective practices.  McLaughlin and colleagues (1997) have made the argument that having an array of effective practices is not sufficient for closing the research to practice gap.  In many instances, the practices developed by researchers are not a good contextual fit for the school settings because training and experience requirements for implementers are unreasonable within the school setting, the resources necessary for implementation are not present, and the time demands to implement are unrealistic.  If the dominant model of disseminating empirically-supported interventions is not impacting the research to practice gap, what should we do?  The goal is important but we need effective alternatives to the common approach.  Recently a report from the William T. Grant Foundation, (Farrell, Penuel, Coburn, Daniel, Steup (2021) entitled, Research-Practice Partnerships in Education: The State of the Field.  In this report, the authors define research-practice partnerships as “intentionally organized to connect diverse forms of expertise and shift power relations in the research endeavor to ensure that all partners have a say in the joint work.”  This is a significant shift from usual practice in the development and dissemination of effective practices.  There are five principles associated with these partnerships: (1) they are long term collaborations (2) they work toward educational improvement or equitable transformation (3) they feature engagement with research as a leading activity (4) they are intentionally organized to bring together a diversity of expertise (5) they employ strategies to shift power relations in research endeavors to ensure that all participants have a say.  This is an important shift.  Practitioners are now partners with researchers.  It is a movement away from the researcher as expert model to a model in which practitioners are equally expert as researchers.  Each is an expert in different domains of improving educational practices.

If practitioners are involved from the beginning in guiding research then the practices are more likely to be seen as usable by educators when considering interventions to adopt. The development of research-practice partnerships has the potential to increase the adoption of empirically-supported practices.

Citation: Farrell, C.C., Penuel, W.R., Coburn, C., Daniel, J., & Steup, L. (2021). Research-practice partnerships in education: The state of the field. William T. Grant Foundation.


References: McLaughlin, M. J., & Leone, P. E., Meisel, S., & Henderson, K. (1997). Strengthen school and community capacity. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 5(1), 15-24.
Ringeisen, H., Henderson, K., & Hoagwood, K. (2003). Context matters: Schools and the “research to practice gap” in children’s mental health. School Psychology Review, 32(2), 153-168.



Can Real Time Performance Feedback Improve Instructional Practice?

October 5, 2021

A review of the evidence for real-time performance feedback to improve instructional practice. Performance feedback, including real time performance feedback, has been implemented across many contexts including educational settings.  Sinclair, Gesel, LeJeune, and Lemons (2020) evaluated 32 studies that met their inclusion criteria to determine the effectiveness of real-time performance feedback in improving the instructional practices of educators. Interestingly, all but two of the studies utilized bug-in-the-ear technology in which the teacher wore an ear piece and a coach provided immediate feedback to the teacher as implementation of an intervention was occurring.  In this review, teachers implementing both academic instruction and behavior management interventions were considered.  Based on this review, the authors concluded that real time performance feedback was an evidence-based practice and could be used as a method for improving the performance of pre-service teachers, teachers, and paraprofessionals.  The bug-in-the-ear technology offers several advantages.  First, it is less intrusive than other methods for providing real time feedback.  With current technology, the coach can view implementation in the classroom without being in the classroom.  Technologies such as Go Pro and Swivl have sufficient flexibility for the coach to get a good sample of what is happening in the classroom.  A second advantage is that because the feedback is immediate it is more likely to be effective compared to when the feedback is delayed.  Finally, the bug-in-the-ear technology is time saving because the feedback is delivered in real-time.  Brief follow-up meetings to discuss issues related to the intervention can be scheduled.  Interestingly, bug-in-the-ear technology has been around for decades but has been under-utilized in educational settings.  An analysis of the barriers to utilizing this technology more broadly is warranted.  The potential for impact on implementation of an intervention is significant.

Citation: Sinclair, A. C., Gesel, S. A., LeJeune, L. M., & Lemons, C. J. (2020).  A review of the evidence for real-time performance feedback to improve instructional practice. The Journal of Special Education54(2), 90-100.




Can Technology Improve the Fidelity of Implementation?

October 4, 2021

Electronically Delivered Support to Promote Intervention Implementation Fidelity: A Research Synthesis. Fundamental to any intervention outcome is the fidelity of implementation of the intervention.  The ultimate goal of implementation science is to assure that innovations are implemented well enough for students to benefit.  Failure to implement well can minimize the effectiveness of even the most powerful intervention.  One of the challenges involved in insuring high quality implementation is that most approaches are resource intensive and often are not seen as feasible in school settings even though failure to achieve adequate implementation fidelity may result in a very poor benefit to cost ratio.  One possible alternative is to utilize technology to reduce the resource demands.  Fallon and colleagues (2021) conducted a systematic review to evaluate the effectiveness of technology-based supports to promote implementation fidelity.  For the purposes of this review, “electronically delivered implementation supports (EDIS) was support delivered to an implementer electronically (e.g., via email, social media, video conferencing) for the purpose of improving educators’ implementation fidelity of a student intervention.”  Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria and were judged to be of sufficient methodological rigor to warrant further analysis.  The electronically delivered implementation supports ranged from video modeling, electronically delivered performance feedback, emailed intervention prompts, coaching via video conference, and online training modules.  All of the studies were based on single participant designs.  Since there are no agreed upon methods for calculating effect sizes for single participant designs, the authors calculated several different effect sizes (Tau-U, Standard Mean Difference, Hedges’ g, and a variation of Hedges’ g.  In most of the studies, the effect sizes ranged from moderate to large regardless of the calculation method used.  After completing the review, the authors provided guidance to educators about when to use the various methods of electronically delivered implementation supports.  This article is a valuable resource to any educator considering implementing an intervention but is concerned about the resource requirements required for insuring high quality implementation.  This article suggests that technology-based alternatives can be effective in supporting implementation and may reduce the overall demands on resources.

Citation: Fallon, L. M., Collier-Meek, M. A., Famolare, G. M., DeFouw, E. R., & Gould, K. M. (2020). Electronically Delivered Support to Promote Intervention Implementation Fidelity: A Research Synthesis. School Psychology Review, 1-16.




What are Effective Classroom Behavior Management Practices to Reduce Disruptive Behavior of Middle School Students?

October 4, 2021

School-Based Interventions for Middle School Students With Disruptive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of Components and Methodology. Middle school students are more likely than elementary or high school students to be disruptive (Erikson & Gresham, 2019).  This presents difficult problems for classroom teachers trying to provide instruction and maintain order in the classroom.  It has been estimated that 2.5 hours per week are lost to disruptive behavior each week (Education Advisory Board, 2019).  This level of disruptive also contributes to teacher turnover with 39% of teachers reporting that disruptive behavior was one of the primary reasons for resigning (Bettini et al., 2020).  To address challenges presented by middle school students, Alperin and colleagues (2021) completed a systematic review to identify programs that had a positive effect on disruptive behavior and the characteristics of those programs.  They identified 51 studies that met their inclusion criteria.  Of those 51 studies, 40 of them specified the function of behavior (gain attention or escape demands) that the program addressed; 16 of the studies included a home-based component with 7 of the studies providing parent training; 22 of the interventions had a manual guiding the implementation of the intervention; and encouragingly, 42 of the studies assessed intervention implementation.  Effect sizes for seven of the studies were computed for intervention that involved class-wide intervention strategies.  The effects ranged from small to large across the studies.  Fourteen of the studies evaluated skill acquisition for small groups or individuals and the effect sizes again ranged from small to large.  Seven of the studies evaluated reinforcement strategies for reinforcement-based interventions for small groups or individuals and reported effect sizes that ranged from small to large.  Two studies evaluated interventions for escape from demands for small groups or individuals.  Both of these studies reported large effect sizes.  The data from this study are important as they can provide guidance to educators seeking to reduce disruptive behavior of middle school students.  Ultimately, the educators will have to consider the contextual fit for each of these interventions for the settings in which they work.  This study narrows the range of options to those that have some demonstrated level of effectiveness rather than leaving the educator to choose from all available options.

Citation: Alperin, A., Reddy, L. A., Glover, T. A., Bronstein, B., Wiggs, N. B., & Dudek, C. M. (2021). School-Based Interventions for Middle School Students With Disruptive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of Components and Methodology. School Psychology Review, 1-26.




How are Effective Programs Disseminated and Scaled?

October 4, 2021

Scaling and Disseminating Brief Bullying Prevention Programming: Strengths, Challenges, and Considerations. One of the persistent problems in education and other human service disciplines is the research to practice gap (some would call it a chasm).  In an effort to disseminate an effective bullying program (Free2B), Leff and colleagues applied the logic of Diffusion of Innovations (Rogers, 2003).  This logic proposes that innovations are more likely to be adopted if the innovation has (1) a relative advantage over current practices, (2) is easy to use, (3) is compatible with the values, beliefs, experiences of the users, (4) can be implemented on a trial basis before large scale implementation, and (5) the opportunity for others to observe implementation and the effects of implementation.  Leff and colleagues followed these recommendations in implementing the Free2B anti-bullying program in 40 middle schools.  The authors concluded that it was an attractive alternative to many anti-bullying programs because the intervention was delivered in a school assembly that schools were already providing, so it required no additional time allocation.  Additionally, the video format made the delivery very easy compared to school-wide programs that are more time and resource intensive.  The students reported that it addressed important topics. Prior to implementation, Leff and colleagues presented pilot data to key stakeholders at the state’s Office of Safe Schools who were able to leverage adoption by schools across the state.  In addition to measuring adoption they also measured the impact on students and founds positive effects across all measures.

Citations: Leff, S. S., Waasdorp, T. E., Paskewich, B. S., & Winston, F. K. (2020). Scaling and Disseminating Brief Bullying Prevention Programming: Strengths, Challenges, and Considerations. School Psychology Review, 1-15.

Rogers, E. M. (1962). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press of Glencoe.




How can educators effectively incorporate Professional Judgment into the decision making process?

October 4, 2021

Overview of Professional Judgment. Educators make many decisions regarding services for students. Even when there is abundant evidence to guide their decisions, educators must use their judgment about what is appropriate in a given situation. Only on rare occasion does the available evidence perfectly match the service context of concern to the educator. To bridge the gap between research and local circumstance, the educator must make a series of judgments such as defining the problem, determining which evidence is relevant, and deciding which features of the local context are likely to require adaptations to the selected evidence-based intervention. Professional judgment is a cornerstone of evidence-based practice, as are best available evidence, stakeholder values, and the context in which services are provided. In this definition of evidence-based practice, the integration of these variables influences decisions. No one cornerstone can be substituted for the others. Judgment must be informed and constrained by the best available evidence, stakeholder values, and context.

Citation: Guinness, K., and Detrich, R. (2021). Overview of Professional Judgment. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.