What works for transition age youth with EBD

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JoAnne Malloy, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire

In 2013, the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education released a review of over 10,000 studies of transition programs for students with disabilities and concluded, “Our review of transition research studies from the past two decades indicates that relatively few studies meet the WWC  {What Works Clearinghouse} standards for credible evidence of effectiveness” (p.viii). The report cites one study of a model for youth with emotional or behavior disorders (EBD)- the Steps-to-Success model- that meets the WWC criteria for effectiveness.  Further, there are no empirically validated interventions anchored in public high schools that address both the educational development and social support needs of youth with EBD.

We know that 12-13% of all youth in the United States have serious emotional and behavioral challenges, that 40-60% of youth with EBD dropout of high school each year, and that there are significant costs-over $240 billion per year- of not addressing their needs.

Beginning in July 2015, a new study funded by IES will give us better information about what works for transition age youth with EBD.  The RENEW model (Rehabilitation for Empowerment, Natural Supports, Education and Work), first developed by staff at the Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire in 1995, is a transition intervention specifically designed to meet the needs of youth with serious emotional and behavioral challenges by providing them with 1) one-on-one youth-driven planning using graphic facilitation, with a focus on empowering each youth to develop his or her career goals, self-advocacy skills, and problem-solving abilities, and, 2) individualized team development that intentionally builds social support networks and leads to enhancement of the youth’s social capital. Staff at UNH have prepared the RENEW model for replication and research, including a manual and set of tools for training and supporting RENEW facilitators, coaches, and supervisors. Four controlled, pre-post intervention studies have shown that youth who receive RENEW experience improved academic and behavioral outcomes in high school and increased employment.

The demand for RENEW has grown (it is being implemented statewide through NH’s community mental health system, high schools throughout NH, and in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Missouri and Maryland), the model has not been tested using rigorous clinical trials.   The University of Vermont has received a $3.5 million grant from the U.S Department of Education, National Center for Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences, to test RENEW using a multisite randomized controlled trial.

The trial will involve approximately 380 ninth and tenth grade high school students from high schools across four states (Illinois, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maryland) who are considered at risk for school failure because of academic problems and/or being disengaged from school. The study sites are 10 high schools that implement the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework.

The Principal Investigator is Jesse Suter, Research Assistant professor in the Center on Disability & Community Inclusion (CDCI) at the University of Vermont, and  JoAnne Malloy, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. The research team also includes Eric Bruns, Associate Professor, and Michael Pullman, Research Assistant Professor, University of Washington School of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, and Mason Haber, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of north Carolina, Charlotte.


  1. JoAnne Malloy's avatar
    JoAnne Malloy
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    Hi Laura:
    Thank you for reading the post. There may be more recent studies underway, but on page 16 of the IES (2013) report the authors state, "Karpur et al. repeatedly state that their program was based on an earlier Transition to Independence Process (TIP) model, and list seven guiding principles of this model in their description of their Steps-to-Success program model. No evaluations of the TIP model met the WWC evidence standards used for our review, however."
    I think there is widespread agreement on the elements and principles of effective transition supports, however, consistent with those of the TIP model and RENEW. I also think that the TIP approach has significantly contributed to work in the area of transition for youth with emotional and behavior disorders.
  2. Laura's avatar
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    Thank you - I appreciate the article and information about upcoming research.

    I am curious as to the reasons the Transition to Indepence Process (TIP) by Rusty Clark did not meet the WWC standards for supporting youth-in-transition with EBD in high school.
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