Review of the Research On School-Based Interventions: Using Evidence to Guide Policy and Practice
Research shows that one in five children may have an emotional or behavioral disorder, and schools have become a primary setting through which necessary intervention has been received. Ensuring appropriate intervention has become a national and international priority (e.g., No Child Left Behind Act), because, left untreated, these youth become at-risk for tumultuous trajectories (e.g., truancy, delinquency, substance use). These untreated consequences have also been subsequently related to severe public health costs as well. Although substantial advancement has been made towards investigating and offering efficacious school-based interventions, questions remain unanswered regarding service delivery and the extent to which these interventions are effective with particular issues. Therefore, in an effort to suggest best practices and assist in guiding future research, practice, and policy, this symposium aims to present the results of three systematic reviews that investigated current research on school-based interventions with vulnerable youths both in the U.S. and internationally.
The first study identified school-based interventions that involved social workers around the globe and examined the extent to which the interventions were efficacious with school-based youth. Recently the acceptance and implementation of efficacious school-based child-centered approaches has occurred in several countries around the world, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Israel, and Sweden. In the recent decade, school-based social workers around the world have recognized the ethical need to offer school-based practitioners ways in which they can critically appraise the research evidence, and, therefore, offer youth the most effective and evidence-based services to meet their needs.
The second study investigates the efficacy of U.S. school mental health services within a Response to Intervention framework, specifically focusing on understanding the extent to which teachers are involved in intervention service delivery. A recent national survey reported that three million youths received services for emotional or behavioral problems in a school-based setting. Teachers, however, have become increasingly involved in classroom interventions and various learning supports with school social workers, yet little is known about their roles and corresponding efficacy with mental health outcomes and their relation to professional service providers.
The final study is a meta-analysis that examines overall effects of truancy programs on school attendance and explores differences in treatment modalities in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada. Previous research has highlighted that truant youth are at risk of severe outcomes (e.g., delinquency, expulsion, substance use). Neglecting to prevent truancy can also result in higher costs for communities due to criminal activity and spending associated with social services. Despite widespread attention to this problem and the increase in interventions designed to reduce truancy, little is known about the overall efficacy of school-based truancy programs.
Addressing student’s mental and behavioral health problems has been a major concern and challenge for school social workers and administrators both in the U.S. and abroad. These systematic reviews offer school-based social work researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers pertinent evidence to guide future development and work with at-risk youth in both the U.S. and internationally.