Program

Heritage Keepers Life Skills Education

OVERVIEW

Heritage Keepers is
a multiyear, multi-component abstinence education program. The program includes
an abstinence curriculum, a community education program, and a life skills
education curriculum. A random assignment study compared students assigned to
take part in all aspects of the program with students assigned not to
receive the life skills education curriculum. Thus, under evaluation was the added impact of the life skills education curriculum to the other aspects of
the program. At the four-year follow-up, no significant differences were found
between students assigned to receive the life skills education curriculum and
students assigned not to receive this curriculum on measures of abstinence rate,
age of sexual onset, number of sexual partners, pregnancy rate, STD acquisition,
birth control use, or condom use.

DESCRIPTION
OF PROGRAM

Target
population: 
6th-12th grade students

Heritage Keepers is
a multi-year abstinence education program, funded by Title V, Section 510 of the
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. All
such programs have as their exclusive purpose “teaching the social,
psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual
activity.” Heritage Keepers promotes sexual abstinence until marriage though
three main components: a mandatory core abstinence education curriculum, a
community education program, and a voluntary life skills education curriculum.

The abstinence
education component includes 7.5 hours of curriculum to be delivered each year
from 6th grade through 12th grade. This curriculum
focuses on increasing awareness of pregnancy and STD risks and on empowering
students to abstain from sexual activity. Classes are delivered by Heritage
Community Services staff to single-sex groups of 10-20 students.

The community
education program includes education for parents, religious leaders, and media
personnel. Parents are encouraged to form networks to discourage risky
behaviors and support abstinence until marriage. Religious leaders are provided
with education materials to distribute throughout their community. Media
personnel are encouraged to promote abstinence among students and the public.

The life skills
education component is a multi-year, character-based program intended to enhance
life skills believed to support abstinence. Participating students are taught
to develop personal responsibility and character. The program seeks to create a
positive peer culture within the school and, over time, change the overall
school and peer culture to be more supportive of abstinence.

EVALUATION(S)
OF PROGRAM

Clark, M. A.,
Trenholm, C., Devaney, B., Wheeler, J., & Quay, L. (2007). Impacts of the
Heritage Keepers Life Skills Education Component
. Princeton, NJ:
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Evaluated
population:
A total of 604 students from Edgefield, South Carolina served as the study
sample for this investigation. Subjects were recruited in three cohorts: a
group of students who were in 6th grade in 2001, a group of students
who were in 6th grade in 2003, and a group of students who were in 9th
grade in 2001. 59% of subjects were black, 37% were white, and 5% were
Hispanic. 50% of subjects had parents who were married.

Approach:
Students were randomly assigned to the treatment group or the control group. In
Edgefield, the Heritage Keepers abstinence education curriculum is mandatory for
all students in middle school and high school. Thus, all students received the
Heritage Keepers abstinence education curriculum and the entire Edgefield
community was exposed to the Heritage Keepers community education program. Only
students assigned to the treatment group were given the opportunity to
participate in the Heritage Keepers life skills education program, however.

Middle school
treatment students could attend weekly life skills meetings after school, and
high school treatment students could attend weekly lunchtime meetings. Meetings
generally lasted at least 45 minutes. Meeting attendance was strictly
voluntary, though the majority of treatment students (>90%) attended at least
one meeting. 68% of middle school students from the 2001 treatment cohort
attended over 20 meetings; 58% of middle school students from the 2003 treatment
cohort attended over 20 meetings; and 50% of high school students from the 2001
treatment cohort attended over 20 meetings.

The life skills
education curriculum underwent substantive modifications in 2003 to strengthen
the curriculum. Treatment students from the 2003 middle school cohort received
the revised curriculum for the entirety of their participation in the study;
however, this was not the case for treatment students from the 2001 cohorts.

All students
completed baseline surveys at entry into the study. Follow-up surveys were
completed between the spring and fall of 2005. (This constituted two-year
follow-up data for students from the 2003 cohort and four-year follow-up data
for students in the 2001 cohorts. Behavior data for the 2003 cohort was not
analyzed.)

Results: The
Heritage Keepers life skills education program had no impact on students’ sexual
behaviors. At the 2005 follow-up, students assigned to the treatment group were
no more likely to be abstinent than were students assigned to the control
group. Further, treatment students were no more likely to have abstained over
the past year. Life skills education students were significantly less
supportive of teen sex than were control students, though. They were also
significantly more likely than control students to report intent to remain
abstinent until marriage and intent to abstain through high school, but were not
significantly more likely to intend to remain abstinent during their teenage
years.

Compared with
control students, life skills education students were not significantly less
likely to have had multiple sexual partners and they did not report having
waited significantly longer to start having sex. They did not report using
condoms any more frequently and were marginally less likely to use birth
control. Treatment students were just as likely as control students to have
acquired an STD and treatment females were just as likely as control females to
have become pregnant. Treatment females were significantly more likely than
control females to have had a baby.

The program had no
impact on other risk behaviors. Students assigned to the life skills education
program and students assigned to the control group were equally likely to smoke
cigarettes, drink alcohol, and use marijuana.

The life skills
education program did not lead to greater knowledge of the risks and
consequences associated with STDs, nor did it lead to greater understanding of
the preventative power of condoms. Life skills education students were better
able to recognize the names of STDs, however.

SOURCES FOR
MORE INFORMATION

Curriculum
materials available for purchase at:

http://www.heritageservices.org/curriculum/heritage-keepers-life-skills-education/

References:

Clark, M. A.,
Trenholm, C., Devaney, B., Wheeler, J., & Quay, L. (2007). Impacts of the
Heritage Keepers Life Skills Education Component
. Princeton, NJ:
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

KEYWORDS: Adolescents, Youth, Children, School-Based, Middle School, High School, Teen Pregnancy, Alcohol Use, Condom Use and Contraception, Marijuana/Illicit/Prescription Drugs, Sexual Activity, Social Skills/Life Skills, STD/HIV/AIDS, Tobacco Use

Program
information last updated on 9/11/08.


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