The small group Challenging Horizons Program (CHP) was implemented in two racially and economically diverse urban schools in Columbia, South Carolina. The intervention occurred after school in regular classrooms within the school.
The students examined are from two racially and economically diverse urban schools in South Carolina. All students had scored as "below basic" on the recent PACT test. There were 32 boys and 16 girls in the study.
Intervention group: 62% African American and 38% Caucasian.
Comparison group: 70% African American and 30% Caucasian.
Intervention group: socioeconomic status 3.45
Comparison group: socioeconomic status 3.22
The small group Challenging Horizons Program (CHP) operated 4 days per week for 2 hours each day after school in regular classrooms from September through December. The school district paid for all program and transportation costs.
The intervention had a behavioral level system with four levels where students were placed weekly depending on progress toward targeted behaviors such as binder, bookbag, and locker organization; percentage of homework assignments accurately recorded; and behavior during the program. Students on higher levels were allowed certain privileges (e.g., choice of snacks, choice of where they sat in the classroom, eligibility to be team captains during recreation time) while students on lower levels had to work on homework during recreation time, be in sight of a counselor at all times, and did not get choice of snack.
Classrooms were assigned by grade level (6th or 7th) with no more than 12 students per room. Upon arrival, there was a check-in, snack, and homework time. Then all students participated in two 35-minute groups. All students participated in an academic remediation group plus one of four manualized skills groups (1) individual goals group targeting specific academic and behavioral problem areas , 2) organization group where students were taught an organization system for bookbags, binders, and locker organization, 3) homework/time management group designed to teach students to plan ahead for tests and long-term assignments, and 4) academic interventions group designed to teach note-taking, written language, and study skills. The final 35 minutes of the program were devoted to a recreational activity (kickball, board games, computer time), which was determined given the individual students' behavioral level.
All parents received weekly or daily report cards, depending on the behavioral level of the student.
85% of the students in the comparison group participated in the district-run after-school program, which was run by certified middle-school teachers after school 3 days per week for 2 hours each day. The curriculum was the same curriculum delivered in the CHP academic remediation group and was designed to prepare students for PACT testing. Students in the comparison group attended an average of 2 days per week receiving a total of 4 hours of the curriculum weekly. Classes, which were taught in group format, included 15 students or fewer per classroom. Students attended subject sessions according to the subject areas they scored “below basic” on the previous year’s PACT test (e.g., Language Arts, Science, or Math). The program was free and transportation was provided.
In the limitations section of the article, the authors stated, "CHP was compared with a community control rather than a multifaceted intervention of equal duration and intensity...we can make no inferences about the relative efficacy of the small group CHP as compared with similar evidence-based interventions." The authors note the difference in respect to service hours provided.
Support for implementation
The program was implemented primarily by university junior and senior psychology majors who attended one hour of group supervision once a week. They also participated in a week of training sessions prior to the start of the intervention and received a grade and three credit hours for participation. The program implementers were required to read a manual describing the program and pass a test on the rules and procedures before they were able to implement the intervention. If they did not earn a 90% or above on the test, they were required to retake the test until they earned that score.