Prevention of Violence and Substance Abuse in Urban Schools: Do Evidence-Based Programs Make a Difference?

Knowlton Johnson, Pacific Inst. for Research & Evaluation
William Neace, Pacific Inst. for Research & Evaluation
Stephen Shamblen, Pacific Inst. for Research & Evaluation

This paper presents an evaluation of a Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) initiative in the Midwest. This federal initiative provided $9 million over three years to implement research-based and best practices interventions to address violence and substance use. Sixteen programs were implemented in varying combinations in 18 elementary, middle, and high schools in one urban school district. Thse programs provided education, mental health, and social services that promote healthy childhood development and prevent violence, as well as alcohol and other drug abuse. We used a quasi-experimental matched-control group design with four middle and two high schools that implemented the SS/HS initiative while three matched schools served as controls. Repeated cross-sectional student survey data were collected annually from 1999 to 2002 in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 that included violence-related risk and protective factors as well as school violence and safety outcomes. A structural equation modeling strategy was employed to address research questions concerning direct effects on risk and protective factors, school violence and safety, and the mediating effects of risk and protective factors on school violence and safety. Preliminary results show that there are small direct intervention effects on selected risk factors and school violence and substance use outcomes.

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Updated 05/20/2006