National Effectiveness Study of First Step to Success | SRI International

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National Effectiveness Study of First Step to Success

SRI and partners examined the effectiveness of a program designed to help at-risk children get off to the best possible start in school.

In partnership with developers at the Oregon Research Institute, SRI conducted a large-scale study of the effectiveness of an early intervention program intended to help children in grades 1–3 who are at risk for developing, or who demonstrate, antisocial or aggressive behaviors.

The program included class-wide screening, a classroom curriculum, and a module involving families. In addition, behavior coaches worked with each participating student, classmates, the teacher, and parents for 50-60 hours over three months.

The National Effectiveness Study of First Step to Success involved 48 elementary schools in five diverse school districts in Chicago, Illinois; San Jose, California; Huntington, West Virginia; Eugene, Oregon; and Tampa, Florida. Half the schools in each district were randomly assigned to implement the program; the other half were offered the program on completion of the study. In each school, a subset of teachers in first-, second-, and third-grade classrooms were chosen to be in the study. Teachers who implemented First Step in the first year were asked to repeat it with a new student the next year (one student in each of two consecutive years). This enabled SRI to compare the outcomes of students with teachers who had experience implementing First Step with the outcomes of students whose teachers had no experience with First Step. 

This large-scale randomized controlled trial assessed the effectiveness of First Step to Success with a diverse set of children under natural implementation conditions.

Compared with similar students in the comparison schools, students who received First Step to Success

  • Decreased their problem/maladaptive behaviors as rated by parents and teachers
  • Increased their prosocial/adaptive behaviors as rated by parents and teachers
  • Improved their academic competence
  • Increased their ability to stay engaged and on task during classroom instruction time
  • Increased their oral reading fluency.

Parents (97%) and teachers (85%) stated they would recommend the program to other parents and teachers.