Program

Jan 07, 2013

OVERVIEW

The Teen Outreach Program is designed to prevent adolescent problem behaviors by enhancing normative processes of social development. The program seeks to engage young people in a high level of structured, volunteer community service that is closely linked to classroom-based discussions of future life options, such as those surrounding future career and relationship decisions. A large-scale random assignment study of the program’s effectiveness compared students assigned to participate in the Teen Outreach Program with students assigned to a control group. By the end of the one-year intervention period, Teen Outreach students were significantly less likely than control students to have failed a course, been suspended from school, or gotten pregnant. A second, smaller experimental evaluation attained similar results.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: High school students

Students involved with the Teen Outreach Program participate in supervised community service combined with classroom curriculum related to their service and adolescent social-developmental tasks.

With oversight by trained staff and adult volunteers, participants select volunteer activities that meet their and the local community’s needs and capacities. These activities provide participants with opportunities to be viewed in a positive role by adults and peers and with the chance to develop feelings competence and autonomy. Participants must complete a minimum of 20 hours of service a year.

The Teen Outreach curriculum is designed to engage students via structured discussions, group exercises, role plays, guest speakers, and informational presentations. Discussions and activities focus on maximizing learning from the service experiences and on helping teens cope with important developmental tasks (including understanding themselves and their personal values, life skills, dealing with family stress, human growth and development, and issues related to social and emotional transitions from adolescence to adulthood). The classroom portion of the program is led by trained facilitators, who are typically teachers or guidance personnel.

Though the Teen Outreach Program seeks to prevent problem behaviors, notably teen pregnancy and school failure, the program places very little direct emphasis on these two behaviors. Material about sexuality comprises less than 15 percent of the Teen Outreach curriculum, and this potion of the curriculum is often not used when it overlaps with material being offered in local schools or conflicts with prevailing community values.

The Teen Outreach Program can be offered for a full academic year to a class of 18-25 students for approximately $500-$700 per student, according to a 1997 paper.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Allen, J. P., Philliber, S., Herrling, S., & Kuperminc, G. P. (1997). Preventing Teen Pregnancy and Academic Failure: Experimental Evaluation of a Developmentally Based Approach.  Child Development, 64(4), 729-742.

Evaluated population: The study sample was made up of 695 high school students from 25 sites nationwide that implemented TOP between the years of 1991 and 1995. The majority of subjects (85 percent) were female. Sixty-seven percent of subjects were black, 19 percent were white, 11 percent were Hispanic, and 3 percent were of other ethnicities. Less than half of the subjects lived in a two-parent household.

Approach: All sites known to be running the Teen Outreach Program were contacted and asked to participate in an experimental study of the program’s effectiveness.  Approximately 10 percent of extant sites agreed to take part in the evaluation.

At most sites, random assignment to either the Teen Outreach group or the control group was at the level of the student. At some sites, assignment was at the level of the classroom. Students assigned to the control group did not receive any intervention.

Teen Outreach sessions met at least once weekly for the duration of an academic year. On average, students assigned to the Teen Outreach group took part in 45.8 hours of volunteer service over the course of the intervention.

All subjects completed questionnaires at the beginning of the intervention period, typically in late August or early September. Subjects completed follow-up questionnaires at the end of the intervention period, typically in May or June. Questionnaires assessed subjects’ problem behaviors, including teenage pregnancy and school failure.

In spite of the fact that treatment and control groups were formed via random assignment, significant differences were found between the two groups at baseline. Specifically, control students reported higher levels of prior course failure, school suspension, and teen pregnancy than did Teen Outreach students. In an attempt to prevent these baseline differences from creating misleading results, one program site was dropped from analyses. This site was dropped because its control subjects were significantly more problematic than its treatment subjects. In addition, two sites were dropped because they had made insufficient efforts to attain follow-up data from their control subjects, leaving 22 sites in the study. Multiple analyses, including analyses that examined all sites, gave no indication that results were related to the fact that control students were more problematic than treatment students at baseline.

Results:  During the intervention period, Teen Outreach students were significantly less likely than control students to have failed a course, been suspended from school, or gotten pregnant. After accounting for baseline variables, the risk of school suspension in the Teen Outreach group was found to be 42 percent of the size of the risk of school suspension in the control group. Further, the risk of course failure for Teen Outreach students was only 39 percent of the risk for control students. Among female students, the risk of teen pregnancy for Teen Outreach participants was only 41 percent of the risk for control students.

Philliber, S. & Allen, J. P. (1992). Life Options and Community Service: Teen Outreach Program. In B. C. Miller, J. J. Card, L. Paikoff, & J. L. Peterson (Eds.), Preventing adolescent pregnancy: Model programs and evaluation (pp. 139-155).  Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Evaluated population: The study sample was made up of 168 middle school and high school students. Subjects were drawn from five sites nationwide during the 1988-89 school year.

Approach: Subjects were randomly assigned to the Teen Outreach group or the control group. Students assigned to the Teen Outreach group were offered the Teen Outreach Program. Students assigned to the control group were not.

All subjects completed questionnaires at the beginning of the intervention period, typically in late August or early September. Subjects completed follow-up questionnaires at the end of the intervention period, typically in May or June. Questionnaires assessed subjects’ problem behaviors as well as their positive behaviors.

Results: During the intervention period, Teen Outreach students were significantly less likely than control students to have failed a course or to have been suspended from school. Fewer Teen Outreach students than control students dropped out of school or became pregnant; however, the study sample was too small to permit analyses on these outcomes.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References:

Allen, J. P., Philliber, S., Herrling, S., & Kuperminc, G. P. (1997). Preventing Teen Pregnancy and Academic Failure: Experimental Evaluation of a Developmentally Based Approach.  Child Development, 64(4), 729-742.

Philliber, S. & Allen, J. P. (1992). Life Options and Community Service: Teen Outreach Program.  In B. C. Miller, J. J. Card, L. Paikoff, & J. L. Peterson (Eds.), Preventing adolescent pregnancy: Model programs and evaluation (pp. 139-155).  Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Teen Outreach curriculum materials and technical assistance available from:

http://wymancenter.org/nationalnetwork/top/

Contact Information

Claire L. Wyneken
Senior Vice President, Wyman Institute for Teen Development

600 Kiwanis Drive

Eureka, MO  63025

(636) 549-1236
Claire.Wyneken@wymancenter.org

KEYWORDS: Adolescence (12-17), Youth (16+), High School, Middle School, School-Based, Black or African American, White or Caucasian, Hispanic or Latino, Cost Information is Available, Manual is Available, Mentoring, Service Learning, Reproductive Health – Teen Pregnancy, Behavioral Problems – Delinquency, Education – Academic Achievement/Grades, Education – Other.

Program information last updated on 1/7/13.

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