The study was conducted in 20 public elementary (K-5 or K-6) schools (10 matched-pairs) on three Hawai‘ian islands. The schools were located the islands of O‘ahu, Maui, or Moloka‘i. The schools all had low annual mobility, were in the lower 3 quartiles of the state's standardized test scores, and an annual mobility rate less than 20%. The majority of the students were Asian or Pacific Islanders. Schools that were academy, charter or special education schools were excluded from the pool.
The majority of the students in the schools were Asian or Pacific Islanders. Across the 5 study years, between 50 and 60 percent of the students in the schools received free or reduced-price lunch, 11 to 16 percent of the students had limited English proficiency, and 9 to 11 percent of students received special education services.
The Positive Action (PA) program is a school wide social-emotional and character development (SACD) program designed to improve academic achievement and student behaviors. The PA program includes classroom curricula, a school wide climate development component, teacher/staff training, a manual for the principal, a school counselor’s program, a coordinator/committee guide, and family- and community-involvement programs. The curriculum contains 140 lessons per grade, per academic year, which teachers use in 15 to 20 minute lessons. The total time of exposure for students was approximately 35 hours over 35 weeks. The major units are self-concept, physical and intellectual actions, physical activity, social/emotional actions for managing oneself responsibly, being honest with yourself and others, and continuous self-improvement. The study schools reported their level of implementation of PA as between 3.0 and 3.2 on average (depending on the year) on a scale of 1 (never) to 5 (always). The authors considered the implementation adequate for each indicator. Teachers reported spending 55.1 min/week on PA with additional time spent on other SACD programs for a total of 143 minutes per week on SACD-related activities. The intervention schools reported implementing an average of 4.2 SACD programs besides PA.
The comparison condition was business-as-usual. Teachers in comparison schools reported spending an average of 108 minutes per week on activities related to the SACD. Comparison schools reported implementing an average of 10.2 SACD programs. Beginning in 2007, the follow-up year for the study, 3 comparison schools began implementing PA.
Support for implementation
Prior to the start of each school year, administrators, teachers, support staff attended training sessions (3-4 hours in year 1 and 1-2 hours in subsequent years) conducted by the developer. All teachers were trained. The Hawaiian project coordinator also provided annual booster sessions lasting about 30 to 50 minutes and mini-conferences with leaders and staff.