Program

Nov 22, 2017

OVERVIEW

Positive Action (PA) is a school-based program that focuses on social and character development, supporting skills, and the attitudes of children and adolescents from grades K – 12.  The program’s goal is to promote positive action (intellectual, physical, emotional development), prevent substance abuse and problematic behavior, and enhance school performance, through teachers’ and parents’ reinforcement in children’s communities. Results from two evaluations showed significant reductions in violent behavior, substance use, and bullying.  An evaluation also reported significant increases in math and reading standardized test scores, and a reduction in suspensions and absenteeism.  Another evaluation reported statistically significant positive impacts on students in PA schools, compared with those in control schools, for student-reported positive affect, life satisfaction, depression, and disaffection with learning, as well as teacher-rated academic ability and motivation and school-level absenteeism.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Targeted Population: Students in grades K – 12

Lesson Content: PA consists of a K-12 classroom curriculum, drug education and conflict resolution supplements, self-training kits for school preparation and teacher training, school-wide climate development, counselors for students, and family classes for parents. Program components are organized around six core concepts: self-concept, positive actions for body and mind, positive actions focusing on getting along with others, and managing, being honest with, and continually improving oneself.  Lessons are taught by classroom teachers in 15- to 20-minute sessions. For students in kindergarten through grade six, the curriculum is delivered in over 140 sessions during four days per week, while students in grades seven and eight receive the curriculum in 70 sessions during two days per week. The total time students are exposed to the program during the academic year is approximately 35 hours.

Materials: Teachers and students are both given the “Thought-Action-Feelings about Self” poster to help them understand the theory of self concept: that thoughts lead to actions, actions lead to feelings, and feelings lead to thoughts. Teachers are also given a kit to plan 15-minute activities and lessons for their students for four days of the week. The kit includes scripted lessons, suggested activities (e.g., role-playing, plays, games, music stories, question-and-answer, etc.), and teaching methods (e.g. role-modeling positive behaviors, and reinforcement of positive behaviors).

School principals are given the Climate Development Kit to learn about promoting a positive school climate and are responsible for appointing the school’s PA Committee, coordinating training, and monitoring the progress of each grade level, to make sure the rates of teaching and learning concepts are the same.

A counselor and family component are also included.  The family and counselor both receive lesson kits, consisting of 36 lessons to correspond with the number of weeks in a school year; the family’s kit for parents is parallel to those used at by teachers at school, whereas the counselor’s kit primarily focuses on education, mentoring, and peer tutoring.

The PA program is administered for three years by a program developer, who trains teachers/staff for three to four hours before the first year, and then one to two hours in each of the subsequent years. They also visit schools at least once per year to provide an in-service training session, and hold a mini-conference each February to train a small representative group of teachers from each school.  As of June, 2011, training cost $3,000 for one day, plus travel and expenses. Workshops are available and cost $250 per person plus the cost of materials.  Self-training is available, and the materials start at a cost of $200.  Training is available through internet or phone, for a cost of $250 per hour.

Information about training:

http://www.positiveaction.net/services/index.asp?ID1=2&ID2=232

Information about ordering materials:

http://www.positiveaction.net/catalog/index.asp?ID1=4&ID2=400

EVALUATIONS OF PROGRAM

Study 1:

Beets, M. W., Flay, B., Vuchinich, R. A., Snyder, F., Acock, A. C., Li, K., Burns, K., Washburn, I., & Durlak, J. A. (2009). Use of a social and character development program to prevent substance use, violent behaviors, and sexual activity among elementary-school students in Hawaii. American Journal of Public Health, 99(8), 1438-1445.

Snyder, F., Vuchinich, R. A., Acock, A. C., Beets, M. W., Li, K., Washburn, I., & Flay, B. (2010). Impact of the Positive Action program on school-level indicators of academic achievement, absenteeism, and disciplinary outcomes: A matched-pair, cluster randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 3(1).

Evaluated population: First- and second-grade students from 20 elementary schools on three Hawaiian islands (n = 1,714), participated in the study.  Fifty percent of the population was female.  The self-identified ethnicities of the population were approximately 26 percent Hawaiian or part Hawaiian, 25 percent Asian, 23 percent multiple ethnic backgrounds, 9 percent White, 5 percent other Pacific Islander, and 2 percent African American.  Approximately 50 percent of the students were eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Approach: Schools were randomly assigned to receive the PA program (n = 10) or a control condition (n = 10).   During fifth grade, students were assessed on self reported substance abuse, violent behaviors and voluntary sexual activity.  Teacher reports were also used to assess substance use and violent behavior.  Students were also assessed on Grade 5 math and reading standardized tests, Grade 4 math and reading Hawaii Content and Performance Standards (HCPS II), absenteeism, suspensions, and retentions.

Results: Students in the PA program had significantly lower rates of self-reported substance use (a large effect-size of 1.23), violent behavior (a large effect-size of 2.22) and sexual activity (a moderate effect-size of 0.76), when compared with control group students.  Teacher-reported violent behavior (with a moderate effect-size of 0.71) was also significantly lower for PA program students, compared with control group students.  At post-test, the PA group had a significant increase in grade-4 math (a moderate effect size of 0.69) and reading (moderate effect size of 0.72) HCPS II, and a significant decrease in absenteeism (moderate effect size of 0.63) when.  There were no significant impacts at post-test on grade-5 math and reading standardized tests, suspensions, or retentions.  There was no significant different between the groups for teacher-reported student substance use.

At the one-year follow-up, the PA group had significant increases in grade-4 math (large effect size of 1.1) and reading (moderate effect size of 0.65) HCPS II, and grade-5 reading standardized test (moderate effect size of 0.54).  There were also significant reductions in absenteeism (moderate effect size of 0.65) and suspensions (moderate effect size of 0.87).  There were no significant impacts at follow-up on the grade-5 math standardized test or retentions.

Analyses were performed to control for clustering of students within schools and schools within pairs.

Study 2:

Li, K., Washburn, I., DuBois, D. L., Vuchinich, S., Ji, P., Brechling, V., Day, J., Beets, M. W., Acock, A. C., Berbaum, M., Snyder, F., & Flay, B. (2011). Effects of the Positive Action program on problem behaviors in elementary school students: A matched-pair randomized control trial in Chicago. Psychology and Health, 26(2), 187-204

Evaluated population: Approximately 510 third-grade students from 14 Chicago Public Schools elementary schools participated in this evaluation.  Approximately 46 percent of the students identified themselves as African American, 27 percent identified as Hispanic, 17 percent identified as other or mixed, 7 percent identified as White, and 3 percent as Asian.

Approach: Schools were randomly assigned to receive the PA program (n = 7) or a control condition (n = 7).   Schools in the PA group received a K-8 curriculum, training, and materials.  Through survey questions, students were assessed on lifetime substance use and serious violence perpetration.  Bullying and disruptive behavior were measured using the Aggression Scale and the Frequency of Delinquency Scale.  Students were assessed at baseline, end of year 1 (end of 3rd grade), beginning of year 2, end of year 2 (end of 4th grade), and end of year 3 (5th grade).

Results: At the end of year 3 (at the completion of the program), students in the PA group had significantly fewer endorsements of items relating to substance use (31 percent reduction), serious violence (37 percent reduction), and bullying behaviors (41 percent reduction), when compared with the control group.  There was no significant difference between groups on engagement in disruptive behavior.

Analyses were performed to control for clustering of students within schools and schools within pairs.

Study 3:

Bavarian, N., Lewis, K. M., DuBois, D. L., Acock, A., Vuchinich, S., Silverthorn, N., Snyder, F. J., Day, J., Ji, P., Flay, B. R. (2013). Using social-emotional and character development to improve academic outcomes: A matched-pair, cluster-randomized controlled trial in low-income, urban schools. Journal of School Health, 83(11), 771–779. doi: 10.1111/josh.12093

Lewis, M.K., DuBois, D.L., Bavarian, N., Acock, A., Silverthorn, N., Day, J., Ji, P., Vuchinich, S., Flay, B.R. (2013). Effects of Positive Action on the emotional health of urban youth: A cluster-randomized trial. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53, 706-711.

Evaluated Population:  A total of 1,170 students from 14 Chicago public schools were enrolled. Of these, 53 percent were female, 48 percent were African-American, and 27 percent were Hispanic.

Approach:  Schools were eligible to participate if they were community schools (as opposed to charter or magnet schools, for example), had never implemented an intervention like Positive Action, enrolled 50 to 140 students per grade, had less than 40 percent annual student mobility, had pass rates below 50 percent on the Illinois State Achievement Test, and had more than 50 percent of students who received free lunch. Of 483 Chicago public schools, 68 met eligibility criteria, and 18 of these agreed to participate.  Funding constraints limited the number to 14, and these were randomly assigned to receive the PA program (n = 7) or a control condition (n = 7). Treatment and control schools did not differ significantly on any of the matching variables at baseline. All 14 schools were retained across the six-year study.

Study measures included student self-report measures, teacher ratings, and school-level archival data. Student self-reported measures included disaffection with learning, academic grades, positive affect, life satisfaction, depression and anxiety, and social-emotional and character development. Teacher-rated measures included academic ability and academic motivation. School-level data included performance on a standardized test and absenteeism. Data were collected at baseline (fall of 2004) and at seven additional times: spring 2005, fall 2005, spring 2006, spring 2007, fall 2008, spring 2009, and spring 2010. School-level data were also obtained for the three years prior to baseline.

Results: For the student-reported measures, favorable program impacts over time were found for disaffection with learning (ES= −0.19), which increased in both the treatment and control groups over time, but the program mitigated this trend in the treatment schools. Moreover, at the end of the study, student-reported symptoms of both depression (ES= −.14) and anxiety (ES = −0.26) were significantly less prevalent among students in treatment schools than their peers in control schools. Significant positive impacts were also found for positive affect (ES= 0.17) and life satisfaction (ES = 0.13). All other student-reported outcomes were non-significant. For the teacher-rated outcomes, significant positive impacts were found for both academic motivation (ES= 0.39) and academic ability (significant positive impacts were found in one but not all models; ES= 0.14). Finally, at the school level, absenteeism was significantly lower at intervention schools than at control schools (ES= −0.78), and marginally significant positive impacts were found for performance on standardized tests in math (ES= 0.38). A value-added analysis examining test scores in reading and math found significant improvement in reading, net of earlier scores and background factors.

Analyses were also conducted to examine outcomes on the standardized academic test for girls, boys, African Americans, and students receiving free or reduced-price lunch. Significant positive impacts were found on reading performance among African American boys (ES= 1.50). Marginally significant impacts were found for reading performance among boys (ES= 0.33) and African American students (ES= 0.50), as well as math performance among girls (ES= 0.41) and students receiving free or reduced-price lunch (ES= 0.42). No other significant impacts were found for these subgroups.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Website: http://www.positiveaction.net/

Bavarian, N., Lewis, K. M., DuBois, D. L., Acock, A., Vuchinich, S., Silverthorn, N., Snyder, F. J., Day, J., Ji, P., Flay, B. R. (2013). Using social-emotional and character development to improve academic outcomes: A matched-pair, cluster-randomized controlled trial in low-income, urban schools. Journal of School Health, 83(11), 771–779. doi: 10.1111/josh.12093

Beets, M. W., Flay, B., Vuchinich, R. A., Snyder, F., Acock, A. C., Li, K., Burns, K., Washburn, I., & Durlak, J. A. (2009). Use of a social and character development program to prevent substance use, violent behaviors, and sexual activity among elementary-school students in Hawaii. American Journal of Public Health, 99(8), 1438-1445.

Lewis, M.K., DuBois, D.L., Bavarian, N., Acock, A., Silverthorn, N., Day, J., Ji, P., Vuchinich, S., Flay, B.R. (2013). Effects of Positive Action on the emotional health of urban youth: a cluster-randomized trial. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53. 706-711.

Li, K., Washburn, I., DuBois, D. L., Vuchinich, S., P., J., Brechling, V., Day, J., Beets, M. W., Acock, A. C., Berbaum, M., Snyder, F., & Flay, B. (2009). Effects of the Positive Action program on problem behaviors in elementary school students: A matched-pair randomized control trial in Chicago. Psychology and Health, Special Issue.

Snyder, F., Vuchinich, R. A., Acock, A. C., Beets, M. W., Li, K., Washburn, I., & Flay, B. (2010). Impact of the Positive Action program on school-level indicators of academic achievement, absenteeism, and disciplinary outcomes: A matched-pair, cluster randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 3(1).

KEYWORDS: Children, Elementary, Middle School, Males and Females (co-ed), High-Risk, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Urban, School-based, Parent/Family Component, Cost information is available, Manual is available, Sexual Activity, Aggression/Violence/Bullying, Tobacco Use, Alcohol Use, Marijuana/Illicit/Prescription Drugs, Reading/Literacy, Mathematics, Attendance, Other Education, Academic Achievement/Grades, Academic Motivation/Self-Concept/Expectations/Engagement.

Program information last updated on 11/22/2017.

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