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Sept. 19, 2016

MSU project helps school officials find most effective programs

One-third of Michigan’s public school administrators have nowhere to go for information about programs to help students deal with bullying, manage their emotions or build healthy relationships.

That’s according to a recent study by the Michigan School Program Information Project, a new initiative under the direction of Zachary Neal and Jennifer Watling Neal, associate professors in Michigan State University’s Department of Psychology.

As schools face mounting pressure to address student needs with evidence-based solutions, the project – funded by the William T. Grant Foundation and the National Institutes of Health – aims to understand the challenges principals and superintendents face in trying to find the most effective instructional and social skills programs.

The long-term goal: Help school administrators make better informed decisions by increasing access to resources and bridging the gap between schools and researchers.

“If we can find strategies that are working in some school districts, then we hope to share these strategies with the districts that are having trouble,” said Zachary Neal.

One potential solution for increasing access is the support of intermediate school districts, or ISDs, which exist at the county level throughout the state and act as facilitators for local school districts. According to the MSU study, 79 percent of statewide respondents identified their ISD as a helpful resource for programming needs.

The report will be distributed to more than 800 people, including superintendents and principals who participated in the study, ISD superintendents, Michigan senators and representatives, the Michigan Association of School Administrators and the State Board of Education.

Moving forward, Zachary Neal and Jennifer Watling Neal, along with their team of MSU graduate students, will focus on administrator success stories and further explore what strategies and solutions are available.

Watch a short video on the project here.