Category/Theme: Development and Testing of Interventions & Innovative Methods and Statistics
Introduction: School-Wide Positive Behavior Supports (SWPBS) is an intervention model that aims at addressing social and behavioral concerns in schools, and has been implemented in more than 25,000 schools in the US and internationally. Previous studies have found that SWPBS successfully addresses short-term social and behavioral problems. However, it is important to also study the intervention’s scope for preventing long-term academic failure and marginalization, and thereby reduce the likelihood of chronic and more intense problems. The present study examines short- and long-term effects of SWPBS on academic outcomes, behavioral outcomes, and criminal activity in Norway. It also examines whether intervention effects are stronger for high-risk students.
Data: This study uses unique population-wide register data. The data includes all Norwegian students born between 1984 and 2002 and all Norwegian primary schools, allowing us to investigate intervention effects in all 244 SWPBS schools in Norway. The treatment variable is number of years exposed to the intervention between 4th and 7th grade. The outcome variables are standardized national test scores (8th grade), examination grades (10th grade), school dropout (11th grade), school behavior (10th grade), school absence/truancy (8th-10th grade), and criminal charges (11th grade).
Methods: We use a difference-in-difference (DiD) design to estimate intervention effects. DiD compares changes in outcomes within schools following implementation of SWPBS with corresponding changes in other schools. An advantage of DiD is that it accounts for all time-invariant differences between schools, such as stable school traits, teacher characteristics, and student characteristics, irrespective of proxies for these differences. We identify students at risk of academic failure and behavioral problems using a prediction model that includes standard background variables, such as parental education, and whether older siblings have experienced marginalization.
Results: Preliminary analyses suggest no significant intervention effects for any of the outcome variables. The effects are insignificant both when studying all students exposed to SWPBS and when studying students at risk of academic failure and behavioral problems.
Conclusion: While non-significant results for academic outcomes are in accordance with previous quasi-experimental and experimental research, the results on behavior outcomes contradict previous shorter-term research. Our results suggest that positive shorter-term effects of SWPBS do not necessarily translate into longer-term effects on policy relevant youth outcomes such as criminal charges and dropout.