BOX 8-3
First Step to Success

The First Step to Success program targets at-risk kindergartners who show the soft, early signs of an antisocial pattern of behavior (e.g., aggression, oppositional-defiant behavior, severe tantrums, victimization of others). First Step to Success consists of three interconnected modules: (a) proactive, universal screening of all kindergartners; (b) school intervention involving the teacher, peers, and the target child; and (c) parent/caregiver training and involvement to support the child’s school adjustment. The major goal of the program is to divert at-risk kindergartners from an antisocial path in their subsequent school careers.

Multiple waitlist control studies (Golly et al., 1998; Walker et al., 1998) have documented the effects of First Step to Success. Effects include observed reductions in classroom problem behavior and increases in on-task behaviors. Teacher and parent ratings indicate:

decreased disruptive behavior (teacher report),

decreased withdrawn behaviors,

improved classroom atmosphere (assessed by independent observers), and

improved ratio of positive to negative interactions with the student.

and bullying often occur at very high levels (Olweus, 1991; Walker et al., 1995; Stoolmiller et al., 2000).

Interventions and Referral Decisions

It is the responsibility of teachers in the regular classroom to engage in multiple educational interventions and to note the effects of such interventions on a child experiencing academic failure before referring the child for special education assessment. It is the responsibility of school boards and administrators to ensure that needed alternative instructional resources are available (NRC, 1982:94).

Improved universal screening, prevention, and early intervention processes such as those described above should, in the committee’s view, be essential prerequisites to any consideration of student referral to special education. The current literature indicates, however, that some students do not respond to even the best early interventions in reading and other achievement areas (Torgesen, 2000; Wagner, 2000). The proportion of a general population that does not respond adequately is unknown because universal screening followed by early intervention procedures has not been applied broadly in any general population. Research with relatively small groups of students suggests that the nonresponse rate may be as high as 4 percent of

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