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Evaluation of a Whole-School Change Intervention: Findings from a Two-Year Cluster-Randomized Trial of the Restorative Practices Intervention


This study fills a gap in research on multi-level school-based approaches to promoting positive youth development and reducing bullying, in particular cyberbullying, among middle school youth. The study evaluates the Restorative Practices Intervention, a novel whole-school intervention designed to build a supportive environment through the use of 11 restorative practices (e.g., communication approaches that aim to build stronger bonds among leadership, staff, and students such as using “I” statements, encouraging students to express their feelings) that had only quasi-experimental evidence prior to this study. Studying multilevel (e.g., individual, peer group, school) approaches like the Restorative Practices Intervention is important because they are hypothesized to address a more complex interaction of risk factors than single level efforts, which are more common. Baseline and two-year post survey data was collected from 2771 students at 13 middle schools evenly split between grades 6 (48 percent) and 7 (52 percent), and primarily ages 11 (38 percent) or 12 (41 percent). Gender was evenly split (51 percent male), and 92 percent of students were white. The intervention did not yield significant changes in the treatment schools. However, student self-reported experience with restorative practices significantly predicted improved school climate and connectedness, peer attachment, and social skills, and reduced cyberbullying victimization. While more work is needed on how interventions can reliably produce restorative experiences, this study suggests that the restorative model can be useful in promoting positive behaviors and addressing bullying.

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Authors’ Contributions:

J.A. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; M.C. and P.E. participated in the design and interpretation of the data; P.M. and A.W. participated in the design of the study and performed the statistical analysis; A.P. participated in the interpretation of data, study coordination and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01# 1HD072235).

Data Sharing and Declaration:

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Correspondence to Joie Acosta.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02155296

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Acosta, J., Chinman, M., Ebener, P. et al. Evaluation of a Whole-School Change Intervention: Findings from a Two-Year Cluster-Randomized Trial of the Restorative Practices Intervention. J Youth Adolescence 48, 876–890 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-01013-2

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