Collaborative Capacity Building in Rural Nebraska Schools via Technology

Special Project, 2016


There are long-standing barriers to services in rural communities including insufficient mental health services, cultural differences and stigma that make access to treatment options for mental and behavioral issues a challenge for students in rural areas. The long term goal of this project is to significantly reduce mental health disparities for rural children in Nebraska and increase rural schools’ capacity for delivering research-based family-school partnership programs to address mental and behavioral health problems among their students. The immediate goal is to develop and evaluate highly accessible, effective and sustainable solutions for rural schools and families to increase access to mental health supports, address rural students’ mental and behavioral health challenges, and bolster academic success.


A TAPP online training website was created, allowing the project to be available to schools across the state and beyond.

This study collaborated with rural Nebraska schools to help rural teachers and families work together in a collaborative problem-solving process known as Teachers and Parents as Partners (TAPP).  School specialists from three rural communities in Nebraska were trained to implement the TAPP process and recruited family-teacher dyads surrounding children with behavioral concerns to participate. Specialists implemented TAPP with these dyads, and received coaching via distance technology from the PI throughout the project. Systematic data collection on the acceptability and feasibility of TAPP were collected throughout the project. As well, following completion of the TAPP process, participants completed semi-structured interviews wherein they detailed their impressions of TAPP, and the impact on family-school partnership in their schools.

The TAPP process was tailored to the unique needs of rural Nebraska communities and TAPP training and coaching was adapted for distance technology (Web platforms for training and coaching) delivery. Local school specialists (e.g., school psychologists, school counselors) received the training and worked with a coach as they implemented TAPP in their schools.

The project was executed over two phases, with each objective achieved in collaboration with community partners. Phase 1 involved the establishment of new partnerships between the university and local rural education partners around the state of Nebraska. Phase 2 involved implementing TAPP in the rural partner schools to establish a proof of concept for moving forward.

Project Team


  • Timothy Nelson, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Department of Psychology
  • Paul Springer, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies
  • Richard Bischoff, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies
  • Istiaque Ali, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools
  • Tanya Ihlo, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Department of Educational Psychology
  • Rural schools and educators
  • Nebraska Department of Education



  • Nebraska Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support Leadership Development Institute
    Collaborative Capacity Building in Rural Nebraska Schools via Technology (TAPP)
    June, 2018 | Lincoln, NE
  • International Conference on Positive Behavior Support
    Family-school Partnerships: Evidence-based Foundations and Practice
    March 28-31, 2018 | San Diego, CA
  • National Association of School Psychologists Annual Convention
    Teachers and Parents as Partners: Translating an Intervention for Practice
    February 13-16, 2018 | Chicago, IL
  • American Psychological Association Annual Convention
    Teachers and Parents as Partners
    August 3-5, 2017 | Washington, DC
  • Rural Futures Institute Regional Forum
    Collaborative Capacity Building in Rural Nebraska Schools via Technology: TAPP
    September 27, 2016 | North Platte, NE

Media Coverage

Project trains rural educators, encourages sustainability | UNL Newsroom


Contact: Amanda Witte,