With the aid of a $9.6 million, five-year award from the U.S. Department of Education, Lehigh University's Lee Kern, PhD, and six other researchers aim to study interventions for high school students with intensive behavioral disorders. The money will also enable the researchers to establish the National Research and Development Center on Serious Behavior Disorders at the Secondary Level.

The researchers will be working with special-needs students who have both externalizing problems, such as aggression and disruption, and internalizing problems, such as depression and anxiety.

Outcomes for high school students with such emotional and behavioral needs are very poor, says Kern. About 50 percent of those with behavioral disorders drop out of high school; 80 percent are arrested within a few years after dropping out.

"Unfortunately, little has changed over the past 20 years, suggesting there are few interventions that seem to be effective," Kern says. "We are optimistic that we can identify existing interventions and develop new ones that can be combined to address the unmet needs of this group of students in a comprehensive manner."

For the first two years, the researchers will study the impact of a wide range of interventions on small groups of high school students with serious behavioral disorders. The final three years will package the most successful of those interventions and offer them to 500 students representing 40 high schools in six states.

Kern will be joined by researchers Steve Evans, PhD, James Madison University; Tim Lewis, PhD, University of Missouri; Mark Weist, PhD, University of Maryland; Deborah Kamps, PhD, University of Kansas; Terry Scott, PhD, University of Louisville; and Carl Paternite, PhD, Miami University.

—D. Schwartz