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Overall, state and local education officials were satisfied with the program direction provided by the Department of Education. Its efforts include:
1. Nonregulatory guidelines issued in February 1987 to help state and local educational agencies understand and interpret the law;
2. Drug education and curriculum selection booklets published in 1987 and 1988 and a parent's guide to prevention and a curriculum model, both published in 1990, for use by schools and communities in designing and developing their programs; and
3. A series of 10 drug abuse education and prevention video tapes.
The Department distributed these materials free to the nation's school districts. In addition, Department officials have visited 33 states and the District of Columbia as part of their efforts to monitor program implementation and compliance with legislative requirements.
In the states we visited, state and local program officials generally expressed satisfaction with federal help under the Drug-Free Schools Act. State drug education officials found the Department's published guidelines helpful in implementing programs and said Department officials were available to answer questions. At the school district level, officials generally found the Department's booklets and videos to be available and of good quality.
In July 1990, the Department distributed a curriculum model to all school districts and many private schools. The curriculum, which provides examples of techniques and suggestions for classroom activities for kindergarten through 12th grade, encourages teachers to infuse drug education into core academic subjects. Based on the latest drug education research, the model provides the basics for starting or expanding a drug education program, according to department officials. It includes information about drugs, background for teachers on child growth and development, and sample lesson plans and activities. The model also provides guidance and suggestions on involving parents and the community.
The curriculum has not been tested for its effectiveness in reducing or preventing student abuse of drugs and alcohol, a Department official told us. The reason was that such testing would have delayed distribution to schools for several years. Instead, the Department had experts in the drug education and prevention field review the curriculum model before it was published.
Observations on Drug- Judging from the experience of the six districts reviewed and views
expressed by school officials and students alike, Drug-Free Schools Free Schools Program funds are making a difference in terms of spreading the antidrug use
message. The difficulty comes in trying to measure the extent to which district programs reduce student drug use. Districts and states should be held accountable for conducting the most effective programs possible. Through their own evaluations, school districts can produce systematic information that is useful in managing and improving their programs. However, determining the effectiveness of drug education programs in preventing or reducing student use of drugs and alcohol is a costly, longterm effort. The Department of Education, through scientifically valid effectiveness evaluations, is undertaking this task on a broad scale. It plans to publish information on the kinds of programs that are effective in reducing or preventing drug use.
We discussed the contents of a draft of this report with Department of Education officials and officials of the school districts visited and incorporated their changes where appropriate.
We plan to send copies of this report to the Secretary of Education and other interested parties. Please call me on (202) 275-1793 if you or your staff have any questions. The major contributors to this report are listed in appendix V.
Scope and Methodology
To address the questions raised by the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs regarding programs under the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986, we performed work at the largest school district in each of five states (California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas) and the District of Columbia. These locations were selected because they were among the top eight states in receipt of Drug-Free Schools funds; provided good geographic coverage, including border states where drugs are more likely to come into the country; and included areas with nationally recognized drug problems.
We visited the six school districts—Los Angeles, Dade County (Miami), Detroit, Cleveland, Houston, and Washington, D.C.—to obtain general background information. We gathered such data as the number and grade levels of schools, the size of the student population, and the amount of Drug-Free Schools funding. In addition, we obtained data on the characteristics of the drug education program, including curriculum used; the nature of the courses in which the Drug-Free Schools program was taught; the amount of funds used for curricula, staff development, and materials; and the extent of focus on alcohol abuse.
To obtain student views on drug education programs, we conducted 36 focus group discussions with students in the six school districts. These groups, ranging from 4 to 10 students each, totaled 284 students (sixthto ninth-graders) at 18 schools. Students participating in the focus groups were randomly selected. In each district, we selected two schools for review and allowed school district officials to select a third that they considered to be conducting the district's best drug education program. While at the schools, we also discussed the impact of the Drug-Free Schools program with counselors, teachers, and principals.
At the Department of Education, we determined the Department's role in approving and monitoring state and local Drug-Free Schools programs. We also ascertained how it allocates Drug-Free Schools funds to the states and what it does to assess the programs' effectiveness.
To determine what works in drug education, we searched the literature published since 1984. This included materials retrieved from data bases searched by the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information. Among the materials were meta-analyses (where results from different studies are systematically aggregated); evaluations of individual