Project STAY - Supporting Teachers of Autism in Years 1-3

Project STAY is currently recruiting!

To get started, please contact Dr. Kristi Morin (Project Director) or our Project Coordinator at or 610-758-3248.

About Project STAY

PROJECT STAY: Supporting Teachers of Autism in Years 1-3

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES Award # R324B210017)

Special education teachers working in high-needs schools or districts are more likely to leave their positions than teachers in adequately resourced schools. This high rate of turnover is costly, both in terms of fiscal resources lost and the impact it has on student achievement. Teachers of students with autism are at an especially high risk of leaving due to the unique needs of this population. Fortunately, high quality induction programs based on research-based practices have been shown to positively impact teacher retention and student outcomes.


This project aims to develop an induction program that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of beginning teachers of students with autism working in high-needs schools or districts.

Study Design

The induction program will be developed iteratively over four years based on multiple rounds of feedback from stakeholders to ensure it is acceptable and feasible. Years 1-2 will consist of classroom observations, focus groups, and feedback from an advisory board. Information from these sources will be used to develop the first iteration of the induction program. Year 3 will consist of small-scale implementation of the program with feedback from teachers and administrators. We will use the data from Year 3 to make needed revisions and implement the program a final time in Year 4 to test its effectiveness with a larger pool of teachers and students.


Project STAY starts in the  2021-2022 school year and concludes in the 2024-2025 school year.

Alignment with Policy

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) recognizes the value of high-quality induction programs and the impact they have on retention and student outcomes. As such, PDE has renewed their commitment to support the development and implementation of high-quality induction programs to retain teachers, especially among teachers working in high-needs schools or districts, by dedicating funding to the implementation of such programs (PDE, 2019). 

What are we looking for?

Teachers who...

  • Are in their first three years of teaching elementary special education

  • Teach at least one student with autism

  • Work in a high-needs school or district

What are the expectations?

Expectations for participation differ depending on the year of the project. See links to each year of the project for a description of the resources or time that would be needed from different participant groups.

What are the benefits?


  • We will be collecting data from multiple sources in Years 1-2 on the needs of beginning teachers of students with autism. We will share study results with school and district administrators to inform the provision of professional development for this population. 

  • In Years 3-4, we will be providing in-depth induction and mentoring support to beginning teachers at no cost to the district. Given the results of prior research, it is possible that this support will result in increased teaching effectiveness, decreased burnout, and an increased commitment to stay in teaching. 


  • Teachers who participate in classroom observations in Year 1 will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.

  • Teachers, administrators, and specialists who participate in focus groups in Year 1 will receive a $150 stipend and will be reimbursed mileage for travel.

  • Teachers who participate in the STAY induction program in Year 3 or 4 of the study will receive a $1,000 stipend.

  • In addition to financial compensation, teachers may improve their classroom management and instructional skills as a result of participating in subsequent years of Project STAY.


  • Students with autism in participating classrooms may experience increased academic engagement and IEP goal attainment as a result of the targeted training and support provided to their teachers in Years 3-4 of the study

For More Information

For more information, please contact Dr. Kristi Morin (Project Director) or our Project Coordinator at or 610-758-3248.


Pennsylvania Department of Education. (2019, May). Every Student Succeeds Act: Pennsylvania consolidated state plan. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Department of Education.