The Chicago Social and Character Development Trial: Extension to Grade 8
Purpose: Significant numbers of students, particularly those living in large, under-resourced, urban areas, arrive in school lacking the necessary social skills and character development needed to succeed academically. Positive Action responds to a national need that schools address a range of student social and behavioral outcomes, including social skills, character development, and antisocial behavior, in ways that promote improved achievement. Previous data, during which students were followed up to grade 5, show effects of Positive Action for a wide range of outcomes. This project provides follow-up evaluation of Positive Action through grade 8 to determine its effects on social and academic outcomes during the middle grades and after six years of implementation.
Project Activities: Positive Action is a comprehensive program designed to enhance the instructional and emotional climates of the school and classroom, increase parental involvement, and improve students' character, self-concepts, and skills. In this project, the research team is providing an extension (through grade 8) of a matched pairs randomized control evaluation of Positive Action in 14 urban public elementary schools.
Products: Products from this project include published reports on the efficacy of Positive Action, a school-based social and character development program, particularly as implemented in grades 6 through 8.
Purpose: This project provides follow-up evaluation of Positive Action through grade 8 to determine its effects on social and academic outcomes during the middle grades and after six years of implementation.
Setting: The participating schools are located in an urban center in Illinois.
Population: Study schools consist of an average of two classrooms per grade. Students represent a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, and most are from high-poverty homes.
Intervention: Positive Action is a comprehensive program designed to enhance the instructional and emotional climates of the school and classroom, increase parental involvement, and improve students’ character, self-concepts, and skills. Positive Action uses research-supported strategies and methods such as active learning, positive classroom management, skills development, role-play, a detailed curriculum with almost daily lessons, school-wide reinforcement of positive behaviors, and family involvement.
Research Design and Methods: In previous research, 14 schools were assigned randomly from matched pairs to receive the intervention or continue “business as usual.” In this project, program effects continue to be assessed at the individual student level annually in grades 6-8 for the study cohort of students who have been assessed on five previous occasions, and at the school level using aggregate indicators of attendance, discipline, and standardized achievement.
Control Condition: Control schools conduct “business as usual.”
Key Measures: Measures of program effects include annual surveys of teachers (school and classroom practices, school and classroom climate, social and character development, and classroom behavior of individual students in cohort) and students (school and classroom climate, social and character development and supporting skills and attitudes, behavioral and emotional problems), as well as archival school records data (attendance, discipline problems, grades, and test scores). Parents also will be surveyed for the grade 8 assessment. Extensive process measures assessing fidelity of implementation and dosage of exposure for all Positive Action program components will be obtained from multiple sources (teachers, staff, students, administrators, classroom and parents).
Data Analytic Strategy: Statistical analyses use hierarchical statistical models (random regression models) and growth curve mixture models that can accommodate longitudinal data with nested observations and missing observations.
Related IES Projects: Positive Action for Social and Character Development (R305L030004); Investigation of How and for Whom the Positive Action Social-Emotional and Character Development Program has its Effects on Student Behavior and Academic Achievement (R305A180259)
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 article, monograph, or newsletter
Bavarian, N., Lewis, K., DuBois, D., Acock, A., Vuchinich, S., Silverthorn, N., Snyder, F., Day, J., Ji, P., 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.
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.
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.
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.
Lewis, K.M., Bavarian, N., Snyder, F., Acock, A., Day, J., DuBois, D.L., Ji, P., Schure, M.B., Silverthorn, N., Vuchinich, S., and Flay, B.R. (2012). Direct and Mediated Effects of a Social-Emotional and Character Development Program on Adolescent Substance Use. International Journal of Emotional Education, 4(1): 56–78.
Lewis, K.M., DuBois, D.L., Bavarian, N., Acock, A., Silverthorn, N., Day, J., Ji, P., Vuchinich, S., 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., ... & 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.
Lewis, K.M., Vuchinich, S., Ji, P., DuBois, D.L., Acock, A., Bavarian, N., Day, J., Silverthorn, N., and 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.
Li, K.K, Washburn, I., DuBois, D.L., Vuchinich, S., Ji, P., Brechling, V., Day, J., Beets, M.W., Acock, A.C., Berbaum, M., Snyder, F., and Flay, B.R. (2011). Effects of the Positive Action Program on Problem Behaviors in Elementary School Students: A Matched-Pair Randomized Control Trial in Chicago. Psychology and Health, 26(2): 187–204.
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.
Vuchinich, S., Flay, B.R., Aber, L., and Bickman, L. (2012). Person Mobility in the Design and Analysis of Cluster-Randomized Cohort Prevention Trials. Prevention Science, 13(3): 300–313.
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.