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Background: Improving the implementation of evidence-based interventions is important for population-level impacts. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is effective for improving school climate and students’ behavioral outcomes, but rural schools often lag behind urban and suburban schools in implementing such initiatives.

Methods/Design: This paper describes a Type 3 hybrid implementation-effectiveness trial of Rural School Support Strategies (RS3), a bundle of implementation support strategies selected to improve implementation outcomes in rural schools. In this two-arm parallel group trial, 40 rural public schools are randomized to receive: 1) a series of trainings about PBIS; or 2) an enhanced condition with training plus RS3. The trial was planned for two years, but due to the pandemic has been extended another year. RS3 draws from the Interactive Systems Framework, with a university-based team (support system) that works with a team at each school (school-based delivery system), increasing engagement through strategies such as: providing technical assistance, facilitating school team functioning, and educating implementers. The primary organizational-level outcome is fidelity of implementation, with additional implementation outcomes of feasibility, acceptability, appropriateness, and cost. Staff-level outcomes include perceived climate and self-reported adoption of PBIS core components. Student-level outcomes include disciplinary referrals, academic achievement, and perceived climate. Mediators being evaluated include organizational readiness, school team functioning, and psychological safety.

Discussion: The study tests implementation strategies, with strengths including a theory-based design, mixed methods data collection, and consideration of mediational mechanisms. Results will yield knowledge about how to improve implementation of universal prevention initiatives in rural schools.