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Drug Education Programs and Activities in
Table II.2: School-Based Drug Education Programs in Six School Districts Reviewed (School Year 1988-89)
Program, by location
(pilot program) program
After School and
School team training
Elementary On Tasc
(DARE)° Junior high
Peer Approach to Science classes
Michigan Model Health classes Second Step
Here's Looking at SMART°
Michigan Models Health and
science classes DARED
Health and related
Note: Bolded entries indicate programs funded by the Drug-Free Schools Program.
The 1989 amendments to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act require evaluation of the effectiveness of state and local drug education and prevention programs. To help the state and local education agencies determine what works in drug education, the Department has planned two studies to identify effective drug education programs. It also is developing guidance for states and districts to use in conducting effectiveness evaluations. At the school districts we visited, drug education evaluations to date have focused on how programs were implemented or the extent to which students' knowledge and attitudes about drugs changed.
Evaluation requirements for states and localities were changed in the
1989 amendments to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. Requirements
States, as part of their mandated biennial report to the Department of Changed by 1989 Law Education, must include “an evaluation of the effectiveness of State and
local drug and alcohol abuse education and prevention programs.” Previously, the law required states only to describe any programs that may have been effective.
Also, districts must submit to the state education agencies annual reports that include the methods used to evaluate program effectiveness and the results of such evaluations. Previously, districts were required only to submit a progress report on their first 2 years of program implementation, including significant accomplishments and the extent to which the program's objectives were met.
District Plans for
While these changes strengthen the evaluation requirements, they stop short of specifying how states and school districts should measure program effectiveness. To help states and localities comply with the new evaluation requirements, the Department is developing a handbook to assist them in designing and conducting program effectiveness evaluations. The draft of the guidebook outline suggests several options for measuring effectiveness. These range from tracking participant characteristics and program activities to conducting controlled impact studies to measure behavioral change. According to the Department of Education, measuring reduction in drug use as a result of the program will be extremely difficult and costly for the states and districts. States are likely to measure reduced student drug use through readily available data on indicators of use, such as the number of drug-related arrests, referrals, or school suspensions, a Department official said.
Drug Education Program Evaluations
The state and local education agencies included in our review generally plan to continue to use the same data as in the past to evaluate their programs, agency representatives told us. These data include the number of students involved in the program and students' and teachers' opinions about program success.
In its effort to evaluate drug education programs, the Department of Education has one study underway and another planned to identify effective programs. In September 1989, the Department awarded a 30month, $1 million contract to gather and disseminate information on programs that the Department identified as successful. The Department defined successful programs as those that included such factors as a needs assessment, school drug policy, staff development, a drug prevention curriculum with a no-use message, and student, parent, and community involvement.
However, the successful programs may not have available the information needed to measure program effectiveness in reducing substance abuse. For example, some school programs in the study may lack randomly assigned control and treatment groups. This makes it more difficult to reach conclusions about whether changes in behavior were caused by the program. Also, if schools have not already collected baseline data on student drug use, it will be difficult for any program to show definitively the relationship between prevention programs and outcomes. At the time of our review, the study design was incomplete.
In September 1990, the Department also began a $2.9 million longitudinal study of the extent to which school and community programs have been effective in reducing or preventing alcohol and drug use by schoolaged youth. The results of this effort will not be available until late 1995 at the earliest.
Programs Evaluated in of the six school districts we visited, four had conducted evaluations.
Two used independent contractors to perform them, and two used their Four Districts Visited
internal research groups. These evaluations were limited to determining whether the programs were implemented according to local plans. For example, Dade County's evaluation for the 1988-89 school year focused on whether program objectives were met and participant attitudes toward the program. To show that the program met its goals, the evaluation report cited several factors:
Student Views on Effectiveness of Drug
Nearly all of the 284 students (sixth- through ninth-graders) who participated in focus groups at the 18 schools we visited considered their drug education programs useful. Without the programs, they said, more students would be using and selling drugs. Our focus groups explored student perceptions of two types of programs: drug counseling for students who are especially at risk for substance abuse and classroom drug education targeted to all students.
The main reasons students gave as to why drug counseling programs work were as follows:
Counseling group leaders are credible, caring adults who share information about drug and alcohol use based on their own experience with
the counselor is confidential.
dents whose parents are alcoholics or drug users.
In general, students viewed their drug counseling and other school drug
Not all students want to stop using drugs, so they ignore help offered by
hard to resist.
tation. This limitation was noted in the other districts as well.
purchased with Drug-Free Schools funds. Yet, students said that they generally do not read them because no new or interesting information is presented.