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school-age children. The remaining $231 million provided for grants to the trust territories, grants for teacher training, and various national programs authorized by the act and carried out by the Department of Education.
The law requires each state to allocate its Drug-Free Schools funds
Before the Drug-Free Schools program was established, the six school districts we reviewed provided drug education through health classes and/or other nonfederally funded drug education programs. Drug-Free Schools funds were used to expand these efforts or start new programs. The programs implemented with federal and other sources of funds at the elementary, junior (or middle), and senior high school level in the six districts are discussed in appendix II.
Most Funds Used for
The six districts spent Drug-Free Schools money on three basic drug education approaches-student assistance programs, training programs for school personnel, and curriculum and other classroom materials—or some combination of these. Over half (52 percent) of the Drug-Free Schools funds was spent on student assistance programs, as shown in figure 1.
Expenditures most often took the form of salaries. Overall, the districts reviewed used 80 percent of their Drug-Free Schools funds to pay salaries of school personnel, including program administrators, drug
3A portion of any future increase in appropriations over the school year 1989-90 level will be allo cated to school districts partially on the basis of the number of school-age children in poverty. This change is intended to give districts with high concentrations of poor children a higher level of funding
“Districts could not identify the amount of nonfederal funds spent on drug education.
counselors, and coordinators. Also funded were stipends for teachers attending training courses and pay for substitute teachers while regular teachers attend substance abuse training. In contrast, districts spent only a small amount of Drug-Free Schools funds on curricula or classroom materials. Of the six districts reviewed, Detroit spent the most on materials. However, the district will need fewer materials in the future, a district official said, and will spend more funds on stipends for teachers attending curricula training.
Although the districts generally appeared to be making progress in implementing their programs, several were unable to reach as many students as they intended. They attributed this to insufficient time to implement programs districtwide since the Drug-Free Schools program started or too few school personnel volunteering to take on the added responsibilities of the drug education programs.
In all the school districts we reviewed, programs funded by the DrugFree Schools grant covered alcohol as well as drug abuse. Officials in these districts believe alcohol is a significant problem in our society among both youth and adults. Programs in five of the six districts conveyed the message that use of alcohol is wrong and harmful and alcohol should not be used—a "no use" message. Only Cleveland's program conveyed a "responsible use" message regarding alcohol.
The Cleveland program's implicit message is that abuse of alcohol is
In contrast to Cleveland's approach, officials in the other five districts, which teach a “no use” message, called use of alcohol by anyone under the legal drinking age illicit, regardless of social norms. They said that schools should not convey a responsible use message to students for a substance they cannot legally use.
The potential effectiveness of alcohol education appears to be influenced by the social acceptability of alcohol use among adults. Although most students to whom we spoke were in programs with a “no use” message, they had mixed views about the use of alcohol. Most generally agreed with school officials that alcohol is a big problem among students and adults, but most also said alcohol was socially acceptable. Many students had the misconception that alcohol is less harmful than illicit drugs, such as cocaine or marijuana.
Little Known About
Little is known about the effectiveness of the various drug education programs or curricula in preventing or reducing drug and alcohol abuse among students. Program evaluations have provided little useful information on what actually reduces student drug or alcohol use. The 1989 amendments to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act strengthened requirements for state and local program evaluation. The Department is developing guidance for states and school districts to use in evaluating their drug education programs and plans studies to identify effective programs.
With few exceptions, evaluations of drug abuse education and prevention programs over the past 15 years have been of limited usefulness in determining what works, a review of research shows. Criticisms include flaws in concept and design, evaluations that were premature or relied too much on self-reporting, and lack of proper documentation.
Evaluations that specifically link changes in student drug use to prevention programs are vital for ensuring that programs achieve their desired results. But such studies generally are costly and require a long time to complete. For example, to evaluate the impact on reduced drug use of Project ALERT, a drug education curriculum for seventh and eighth grades, the Rand Corporation performed longitudinal studies. These involved 30 schools, 58 health educators, and 75 teen leaders. The effort, including development of the curriculum, took about 7 years and reportedly cost $8.9 million.
Project ALERT is one of several programs with a social skills component that recent studies have reported as having promise in reducing and preventing drug use. Emphasizing peer resistance and assertiveness training, social skills programs address the pressures young people face from peers, the media, and adults to use drugs and alcohol. The Project ALERT curriculum is designed to help students identify peer pressures, give them facts to counter prodrug arguments, and equip them with a repertoire of drug resistance skills. The Rand Corporation reported that Project ALERT prevented or reduced cigarette and marijuana use among young adolescents in urban, suburban, and rural communities in California and Oregon. While social skills programs have shown initial success, it is not known how effective they will be in the long run.
The social skills model has been less effective in reducing and preventing adolescent use of alcohol, according to research data. The Rand study cites as the reason the prevalence and social acceptance of alcohol, including signals from the media and most adults that directly contradict program messages on alcohol's harmful effects. As long as this is the case, drug education programs are unlikely to realize their potential for curbing adolescent use of this substance, Rand researchers said.
Nor do changes in students' knowledge and attitudes about drugs necessarily result, research suggests, in corresponding changes in drugrelated behavior. Further, a single program or approach will not succeed, research and experts in drug education indicate. A comprehensive approach—including parent and community involvement as well as classroom instruction and counseling programs—has been found to be more likely to achieve desired changes. Most of the six districts visited
5At the request of the Subcommittee on Select Education of the House Committee on Education and Labor, we are reviewing such programs and will report in 1991.
were attempting or planned to implement more comprehensive prevention programs.
School-level evaluations can be useful in collecting baseline datathrough student self-reports of drug and alcohol use, for example—and providing feedback on program implementation. At the six school districts visited, district-level program evaluations have focused on how districts implemented the program or on changes in students' knowledge and attitudes about drugs. However, the difficulty in measuring program impact on student drug use makes it unlikely that school-level evaluations can definitively answer, on a broad scale, what works in drug education. The six districts we visited had not determined their programs' effectiveness in producing changes in student behavior. (See app. III for further discussion of program evaluations.)
Evaluation requirements for states and school districts were changed in the 1989 amendments to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. States, as part of their mandated biennial report to the Department of 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. The Department is preparing guidance for states and local school districts to use in evaluating programs. Also, the Department plans two comprehensive studies to identify effective drug education programs and will provide states and school districts with the results.
Nearly all students we asked about the effectiveness of the drug educa-