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Impact Evaluation of a School-Based Violence Prevention Program

Contract Information

Current Status:

This study has been completed.

Duration:

August 2004 – May 2011

Cost:

$9,800,000

Contract Number:

ED-01-CO-0052/0015

Contractor(s):

RTI International
Pacific Institute for Research
Tanglewood Research

The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (SDFSCA) was authorized as part of Title IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The program provided grants to states for the purposes of preventing students' use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit substances as well as to prevent violence in and around schools. SDFSCA was funded at close to $295 million in Fiscal Year 2009. This study sought to inform the SDFSCA by providing rigorous evidence on the impacts of a violence prevention program.

Curriculum-based violence prevention programs have been widely implemented in schools, but research has found that their effects are small and short-lived. Whole-school violence-prevention strategies, which aim to increase the clarity, fairness, and consistency of school disciplinary policies, have been promoted by experts in the field but have not been widely used or rigorously tested. Thus, this study combined a curriculum and a whole-school strategy to test a comprehensive approach to violence prevention.

  • What was the impact of the program on the level of student aggressive and violent behaviors in schools that implemented the combined violence-prevention program compared to the schools that did not implement the program?
  • Was there a difference in the level of aggressive and violent behaviors for high-risk students in schools that implemented the combined violence-prevention program compared to high-risk students in schools that did not implement the program?

Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways (RiPP), the curriculum component, consisted of 16 one-hour lessons delivered at each grade level. Best Behavior, the whole-school component, created clear school rules and helped personnel consistently enforce them. Forty middle schools were recruited for the evaluation with half of them randomly assigned to receive the violence-prevention program. School violence and student aggression was measured through student and teacher surveys. The quality of program implementation was measured in treatment schools through interviews with school administrators and teachers, and through on-site observations.

  • There were no statistically significant differences between intervention and control schools on self-reported student violence or victimization after three years of program implementation.
  • There were no statistically significant impacts on self-reported violence and victimization between high-risk youth at treatment schools and high-risk youth at control schools after three years of program implementation.
  • In a majority of intervention schools, students were exposed to the full set of 16 RiPP lessons in each of the 3 years of implementation, although the curriculum was not fully delivered with fidelity.
  • By the end of the third year, 83 percent of intervention schools instituted behavioral rules and 78 percent instituted a reward system. In addition, 87 percent of teachers agreed that the rules were well defined and 64 percent agreed that the consequences of breaking school rules were clear.

The final report, titled Impacts of a Violence Prevention Program for Middle Schools: Findings After 3 Years of Implementation, was released in May 2011.

Other publications from this study are listed below.

A restricted-use file containing de-identified data is available for the purposes of replicating study findings and secondary analysis.