Aug 11, 2011


The Boys & Girls Clubs SMART Program is a two-year multi-component substance abuse program designed to reduce risk factors and increase protective factors for high-risk children in the early elementary grades. It includes a youth component (SMART Kids), a school component (SMART Teachers), and a parent component (SMART Parents). An experimental evaluation comparing the SMART Program to regular Boys & Girls Clubs membership found positive impacts for spelling grades, refusal skills, problem solving, and school bonding. There were no impacts on intent to use or perceptions of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, or on any parent outcomes.


Target population: High-risk elementary school students

The Boys & Girls Clubs SMART program is a two-year multi-component substance abuse prevention program that is designed to reduce risk factors and increase protective factors for children. The youth component is called SMART Kids, and it is done three hours a day after school, with 30 minutes of homework assistance four days a week and one hour a week of one-on-one tutoring. There are two enrichment activities a year, such as trips to museums. These activities aim to increase group cohesion, interaction with a positive peer group, and involvement in the program, and to expose children to new experiences. The youth component of the program also involves a small group program that uses a 10-week curriculum once a week for 30 to 45 minutes for each session. The curriculum aims to increase self-esteem, self-responsibility, social skills, critical thinking skills, and decision making skills, and to protect children from substances and other harmful influences. Children also have access to regular Boys & Girls Clubs activities.

The school component is called SMART Teachers, and it is designed to create a partnership between the clubs and schools and to address the academic and social needs of children in the program. Prevention coordinators link parents with the schools, such as by providing parents with transportation to parent-teacher conferences or by attending conferences with the parents. The prevention coordinators also meet monthly with teachers at the schools to assess children’s progress and decide how to address their needs.

The parent component is called SMART Parents, and it involves a five-session program consisting of informal discussion on selected topics: establishing a daily routine, helping your child succeed with homework, having a successful parent-teacher conference, improving your child’s behavior in school, and reading with your child. The sessions are facilitated by the prevention coordinator and the school contact teacher. At each session, parents are given fact sheets and laminated “Tips for Parents” cards. There are also family social activities several times a year.


Evaluated population: Ninety-five students (50 program and 45 control) from three Boys & Girls Clubs and five collaborating elementary schools were evaluated. All clubs and schools were in at-risk neighborhoods with between 66 percent and 98 percent of children qualifying for free or reduced price lunch. The sample was 63 percent Black, 35 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent Caucasian; 47 percent of the children were female and 53 percent were male.

Approach: Children were recruited at the end of first grade. They were rated by teachers on math and language skills, and those ratings were used to block children within schools. Children were then randomly assigned within blocks to the program or the control condition. The control condition consisted of Boys & Girls Clubs membership, but without the additional SMART Program components.

Data were collected at the start of second grade (baseline), the end of second grade, the start of third grade, the end of third grade (end of the program), and the beginning of fourth grade (follow-up). Teacher surveys were used to examine the outcomes of personal and social competence, which includes coping with conflict, decision-making, making conversation, positive attitude toward others and toward self, communications skills, ethical behavior, expressing feelings, refusal skills, self-care, classroom enthusiasm, courteousness, language arts, math, and homework. Child surveys were used to examine the intent to use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs; perceptions of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; school bonding, attitude toward school and toward teachers; family cohesiveness; and use of physical punishment in the family. Parent surveys were used to examine family functioning, parent management practices, parent’s support of child’s school-related activities, and parent’s perception of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Data were collected from academic records on children’s spelling, math, and reading grades. Not all outcomes were assessed at each time point. Only data for children who completed assessments at all time points were analyzed.

Results: Those who completed assessments at all time points had more positive attitudes towards others, were rated as having better conversation skills, and had higher spelling grades at baseline. However, these differences were only marginally significant.

In terms of the outcomes assessed through the teacher surveys, there was a positive impact on refusal skills and problem solving, with the control group getting worse over time, while the program group remained stable. There was also a marginal positive impact on courteousness and ethical behavior. There was no impact on coping with conflict, decision-making, making conversation, positive attitude toward others or self, communication skills, expressing feelings, self care, classroom enthusiasm, language arts, math or homework.

In terms of the child survey, there was a positive impact on school bonding. There was no impact on intent to use tobacco, alcohol, or drugs; perceptions of tobacco, alcohol or drugs; attitude toward teachers or school; family cohesiveness; or use of physical punishment in the family.

In terms of the parent survey, there was no impact on family functioning, parent management practices, parent’s support of the child’s school-related activities, or on parent’s perception of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

In terms of grades, there was a positive impact on spelling grades, but no impact on math or reading grades.



St. Pierre, T.L., Mark, M.M., Kaltreider, D.L., & Campbell, B. (2001). Boys & Girls Clubs and school collaborations: A longitudinal study of a multicomponent substance abuse prevention program for high-risk elementary school children. Journal of Community Psychology, 29,87-106.

KEYWORDS:Children (3-11), Elementary, Males and Females, High-Risk, Parent or Family Component, After-School Program, Tutoring, Skills Training, Reading/Literacy, Mathematics, Academic Achievement/Grades, Academic Motivation/Self-Concept/Expectations/Engagement, Tobacco Use, Marijuana/Illicit/Prescription Drugs, Alcohol Use, Social Skills/Life Skills

Program information last updated on 8/11/11.