Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Special Education

Major Professor

Albert J. Duchnowski, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Krista B. Kutash, Ph.D.


Evidence-based, Fidelity, Implementation, Research-to-practice, Violence prevention


As school districts integrate evidence-based prevention programs into their daily regime, they may struggle with implementing these programs with fidelity. This is a multi-method, multi-source, retrospective explanatory study of the implementation factors associated with program installation and partial implementation of an evidence-based violence prevention program, Second Step, in six elementary schools within a large urban school district. The goals of this study were to provide a better understanding of (a) the factors that support implementation of evidence-based programs in K-12 public schools, (b) the factors that constrain implementation, and (c) how developers and researchers might facilitate the application of research to practice. Schools that identified as implementing Second Step school-wide (Level 1) were matched to schools that identified as implementing in individual classes or grades (Level 2).

Matching of paired schools was done through statistical peer grouping using statistical cluster analysis to identify groups of similar schools to help support the internal validity of the study by controlling for external variables that might affect implementation factors associated with program installation and partial implementation differently between the schools (Dunavin, 2005). This present study used a variety of data collection methods, including principal, counselor, and teacher interviews, school staff focus groups, an implementation checklist, and document reviews. Propositions and their indicators were proposed. Data were collected to determine the extent schools were implementing two of the stages identified by Fixsen et al. (2005), program installation and initial implementation.

Raters were trained to rate the responses of the interviewees and focus group participants to test whether responses supported the propositions proposed, were against the proposition, or showed no evidence either way. Those scores were averaged and comparisons were made between matching Level 1 schools that identified using the program school-wide, and Level 2 schools that identified as using in individual classrooms and grades. T-tests were completed to examine the interview and focus group ratings and the checklist. There were no significant differences between schools implementing school-wide and those implementing in particular classrooms or grades accept for two proposition indicators. There was evidence that school staff received training on the Second Step curriculum and there was evidence that Second Step was delivered school-wide. However, the t-test results were opposite of what was predicted.

Whether a school implemented school-wide or in individual classes or grades, schools were challenged by their competing priorities. Conditions that lead to fidelity in prevention program were often adapted to better meet the everyday life of the schools. School staff understood the importance of fidelity, but no school provided the program as designed. Staff suggests that with programs designed with flexibility and clear recognition of school culture, they might better be able to implement programs as designed.