Ecological Approach to Family Intervention and Treatment (EcoFIT) Integrated with PBS: An Effectiveness Trial in Middle Schools
Current funding period: March 1, 2009–February 28, 2012
Principal Investigator: Dr. John Seeley, Oregon Research Institute
Principal Investigator: Dr. Thomas Dishion, Child and Family Center
Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Keith Smolkowski, Oregon Research Institute
Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Elizabeth Stormshak, Child and Family Center
Funded by: Institute of Education Sciences

This study is testing the effectiveness of the Ecological Approach to Family Intervention and Treatment (EcoFIT) intervention in 44 Oregon public middle schools. Effectiveness of the model is being assessed using multiple measured outcomes, including improved student attendance, improved grades of high-risk students, decreased expulsions, decreased use of suspensions, and decreased critical incidents of student problem behavior. ] In Level 1, schools create a family resource center, provide parents with specific information about the school’s expectations, and provide parents with specific information about their student’s social, emotional, and academic adjustment to the school context. In the Level 2 home–school partnership parents are provided with day-to-day and/or week-by-week data on their child’s attendance, completion of academic tasks, and behavior. When students may need more support than is provided at Level 2, a more comprehensive assessment of support needs at Level 3 is achieved using the Family Check-Up (FCU), which has been revised to focus more exclusively on parental monitoring of their student’s adjustment at school and of their peer group, and specific parenting practices relevant to those outcomes. For each school, a network of more intensive services is being identified to complement the FCU intervention in terms of support services for families. Each school will participate in an annual review of their data on student behavior, and consultants will work with school staff to determine how to improve effectiveness of behavioral supports. Maintenance systems will be designed to eliminate involvement of the research team and to empower the development of district-wide family support systems.


2011-2012: During Year 3 of the project, 68 additional public middle schools were contacted for inclusion in the study, and an additional 16 schools agreed to participate, for a total of 41 schools involved in the project (21 randomly assigned to immediate EcoFIT training; 20 randomized to delayed training). There is good variability in the schools’ characteristics with respect to size, percentage of children receiving free or reduced lunch, diverse populations percentage, and percent of English language learners, and schools were found to be comparable across the two study conditions on these baseline characteristics. Participant schools are located in various regions of Oregon: Willamette Valley, Portland metropolitan, coastal, and central.
Three sets of trainings for the schools included (a) universal PFS training in effective strategies for engaging parents at the entire school level, including establishing a family resource room and providing feedback to parents about positive aspects of their student’s involvement in school, training school personnel in the use of screening instruments for parents and teachers, and administering the Parent Readiness Screener to parents; (b) selected/secondary PFS training, during which parents were integrated into the Check In/Check Out protocol, which emphasizes positive communication with parents when there is a concern and engagement of parents in a positive behavior support plan; and (c) individualized/indicated PFS training, whichfocuses on staff who will help implement the Family Check-Up and follow-up services for parents. In addition, teachers, educational assistants, administrators, and support staff in schools randomized to the intervention condition were trained in the use of effective communication strategies with parents/guardians.

2010: Administrators in 132 Oregon public middle schools qualified to be invited to participate in the study. By early 2011, 25 schools had agreed to participate in Waves A and B. In spring 2010 workshops were held in participating schools to mobilize interest among school staff. Two-day intensive workshops were held in late summer to train school principals in the positive family support model. Implementation of the study was accomplished with the Wave A schools randomized to the intervention; seven had implemented tertiary-level FCUs by early 2011. Data were collected in Wave A schools from students, parents, and teachers, as were School-wide Evaluation Tool assessments and a family-support version of the assessment. EcoFIT assessments were revised and condensed to focus on student adjustment at school and parenting practices that support that adjustment. Training manuals, informational brochures, school-readiness screeners, family feedback forms, and family intervention materials were developed or adapted.