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IES Grant

Title: Positive Action for Social and Character Development
Center: NCER Year: 2003
Principal Investigator: Flay, Brian Awardee: Oregon State University
Program: Social and Character Development      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $1,928,084
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305L030004

Previous Award Number: R305L030072
Previous Awardee: University of Illinois, Chicago

Co-Principal Investigator(s): DuBois, David; Allred, Carol

Purpose: In this project, the researchers aimed to evaluate Positive Action, a program intended to promote students' social skills and self-concept and reduce anti-social behavior by providing a comprehensive approach that includes grade-specific curricula, school-wide climate change, and parental involvement. Positive Action included content to help with social and emotional learning and school climate. The researchers proposed to determine whether Positive Action impacted such factors and student academic outcomes.

Structured Abstract


Researchers are evaluating the program in urban public schools located in high-poverty neighborhoods in Illinois.

Classroom curricula for every grade, a principal's school climate kit, a family kit, teacher and staff training, and a community involvement program are integral components of the Positive Action program.

In a complementary study, the researchers are examining the process by which the Positive Action program impacts student outcomes. Opportunities provided by the program for children and adults to learn social and emotional skills and develop character at school, at home, and in the community are predicted to improve administrator-staff relations, school-wide reinforcement of positive behavior, parent-school relations, parent-child relations, family involvement, classroom management, teacher-student relations, students' peer relations, student engagement with the community, and the community's involvement with the school. These effects are predicted to, in turn, relate to improvements in students' self-efficacy, attitudes toward antisocial and prosocial behavior, problem behavior, and academic achievement. The researchers are also studying the impact of the Positive Action program on a second cohort of students starting in the second grade at the beginning of the study.

Related IES Projects: The Chicago Social and Character Development Trial: Extension to Grade 8 (R305A080253), Whom the Positive Action Social-Emotional and Character Development Program has its Effects on Student Behavior and Academic Achievement (R305A180259)

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here and here.

WWC Reviews:

Duncan, R., Washburn, I. J., Lewis, K. M., Bavarian, N., DuBois, D. L., Acock, A. C., ... & Flay, B. R. (2017). Can universal SEL programs benefit universally? Effects of the positive action program on multiple trajectories of social-emotional and misconduct behaviors. Prevention science, 18(2), 214-224. [WWC Review]

Flay, B. R. (2014). Replication of Effects of the" Positive Action" Program in Randomized Trials in Hawai'i and Chicago Schools. Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness. [WWC Review]

Lewis, K. M., Vuchinich, S., Ji, P., DuBois, D. L., Acock, A., Bavarian, N., ... & Flay, B. R. (2016). Effects of the Positive Action program on indicators of positive youth development among urban youth. Applied Developmental Science, 20(1), 16-28. [WWC Review]

Silverthorn, N., DuBois, D. L., Lewis, K. M., Reed, A., Bavarian, N., Day, J., ... & Flay, B. R. (2017). Effects of a school-based social-emotional and character development program on self-esteem levels and processes: A cluster-randomized controlled trial. Sage Open, 7(3), 2158244017713238. [WWC Review]

Select Publications:

Book chapters

Flay, B.R., and Allred, C.G. (2010). The Positive Action Program: Improving Academics, Behavior, and Character by Teaching Comprehensive Skills for Successful Learning and Living. In T. Lovat, and R. Toomey (Eds.), International Research Handbook on Values Education and Student Wellbeing (pp. 471–501). Dirtrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Journal articles

Bavarian, N., Lewis, K.M., Acock, A., DuBois, D.L., Yan, Z., Vuchinich, S., ... and Flay, B.R. (2016). Effects of a School-Based Social–Emotional and Character Development Program on Health Behaviors: A Matched-Pair, Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 37(1), 87–105.

Bavarian, N., Lewis, K.M., DuBois, D.L., Acock, A., Vuchinich, S., Silverthorn, N., ... and 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.

Bickman, L., Riemer, M., Brown, J.L., Jones, S.M., Flay, B.R., Li, K.-K., DuBois, D., Pelham, W. Jr., and Massetti, G.M. (2009). Approaches to Measuring Implementation Fidelity in School-Based Program Evaluations. Journal of Research in Character Education, 7(2): 75–101.

Duncan, R., Washburn, I. J., Lewis, K. M., Bavarian, N., DuBois, D. L., Acock, A. C., ... & Flay, B. R. (2017). Can Universal SEL Programs Benefit Universally? Effects of the Positive Action Program on Multiple Trajectories of Social-Emotional and Misconduct Behaviors. Prevention Science, 18(2), 214–224.

Flay, B.R., Berkowitz, M., and Bier, M.C. (2009). Elementary School-Based Programs Theorized to Support Social Development, Prevent Violence, and Promote Positive School Climate: Description and Hypothesized Mechanisms of Change. Journal of Research on Character Education, 7(2): 21–49.

Haegerich, T.M., Metz, E., and The Social and Character Development Research Consortium (2009). The Social and Character Development Research Program: Development, Goals, and Opportunities. Journal of Research in Character Education, 7(2): 1–20.

Jarpe-Ratner, E., Fagen, M., Day, J., Gilmet, K., Prudowsky, J., Neiger, B.L., ... and Flay, B.R. (2013). Using the Community Readiness Model as an Approach to Formative Evaluation. Health Promotion Practice, 14(5), 649–655.

Ji, P., DuBois, D.L., and Flay, B.R. (2013). Social-Emotional and Character Development Scale: Development and Initial Validation With Urban Elementary School Students. Journal of Research in Character Education, 9(2): 121–147.

Ji, P., Dubois, D.L., Flay, B.R., and Brechling, V. (2008). Congratulations, You Have Been Randomized Into the Control Group!(?): Issues to Consider When Recruiting Schools for Matched-Pair Randomized Control Trials of Prevention Programs. Journal of School Health, 78(3): 131–139.

Ji, P., Flay, B., Dubois, D.L., Patton, V., Day, J., and Cantillon, D. (2006). Consent Form Return Rates for Third-Grade Urban Elementary Students. American Journal of Health Behavior, 30(5): 467–474.

Lewis, K.M., DuBois, D.L., Bavarian, N., Acock, A., Silverthorn, N., Day, J., ...and Flay, B.R. (2013). Effects of Positive Action on the Emotional Health of Urban Youth: A Cluster-Randomized Trial. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(6), 706–711.

Lewis, K.M., DuBois, D.L., Ji, P., Day, J., Silverthorn, N., Bavarian, N., ... and Flay, B.R. (2017). Meeting the Challenges of Longitudinal Cluster-Based Trials in Schools: Lessons From the Chicago Trial of Positive Action. Evaluation & the health professions, 40(4), 450–482.

Lewis, K.M., Schure, M.B., Bavarian, N., DuBois, D.L., Day, J., Ji, P., Silverthorn, N., Acock, A., Vuchinich, S., and Flay, B.R. (2013). Problem Behavior and Urban, Low-Income Youth: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Positive Action in Chicago. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(6): 622–630.

Malloy, M., Acock, A., DuBois, D.L., Vuchinich, S., Silverthorn, N., Ji, P., and Flay, B.R. (2015). Teachers' Perceptions of School Organizational Climate as Predictors of Dosage and Quality of Implementation of a Social-Emotional and Character Development Program. Prevention Science, 16(8), 1086–1095.

Silverthorn, N., DuBois, D.L., Lewis, K.M., Reed, A., Bavarian, N., Day, J., ... and Flay, B.R. (2017). Effects of a School-Based Social-Emotional and Character Development Program on Self-Esteem Levels and Processes: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial. SAGE Open, 7(3), 2158244017713238.

Snyder, F., Flay, B., Vuchinich, S., Acock, A.C., Washburn, I., Beets, M., Li, K.K. (2010). Impact of a Social-Emotional and Character Development 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): 26–55.

Washburn, I.J., Acock, A.C., Vuchinich, S., Snyder, F.J., Li, K.K., Ji, P., Day, J., DuBois, D.L., and Flay, B.R. (2011). Effects of a Social-Emotional and Character Development Program on the Trajectory of Behaviors Associated With Character Development: Findings From Three Randomized Trials. Prevention Science, 12(3): 314–323.