What is the primary method your community uses to select safe and supportive school programs?

Voices from the Field

Voices from the Field is a place for administrators, teachers, school support staff, community, and family members to (1) share what you think by responding to a polling question, (2) see what others think by viewing the poll’s results, (3) learn what experts think by reading a short post that includes references and related resources, and (4) share your own experiences by posting comments on safe supportive learning topics.

What is the primary method your community uses to select safe and supportive school programs?

Learn What Experts Think

Why reinvent the wheel? If others have taken the time to figure out what the best (or, at least, a better) way of doing things is, why not build on that hard-earned wisdom? Registries of evidence-based programs allow educational leaders to learn from available rigorous research and to focus their energy on effectively implementing programs with proven track records.

Say, for example, that your school wants to address bullying.  Experts already know quite a bit about what doesn’t work:

  • Zero tolerance policies—or “three strikes and you’re suspended or expelled”—can actually discourage reporting of bullying because students or teachers don’t want to be responsible for such a serious punishment.
  • Using conflict resolution or peer mediation can further traumatize the bullied child by sending the message that he or she is partly responsible for the victimization.
  • Group treatment for children who bully can create opportunities for students to reinforce each others’ antisocial behaviors.
  • Short-term solutions typically lead to short-term results—if any change results at all.

Fortunately, experts also know quite a bit about what does work: comprehensive long-term strategies that change the school climate by reinforcing respectful interactions. Consulting an evidence-based registry of safe and supportive school programs can help your school community narrow down the available options that have been shown to have an impact. That way your focus can be on choosing which program (among programs that have already been vetted) would best meet your community’s needs.

Share Your Experiences

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Audrey Stang, M.S.
Director of Program Services, Children's Services Council of Broward County

Because we want to be good stewards of tax-payer dollars, we have a strong commitment to evidence-based practices. However, we've yet to bring in an evidence-based model of service that hasn't had some unexpected cost. So when you decide to implement a new service model, be sure to do as much research as possible. Work closely with the developers of the model. You have to know you're buying a proprietary product and the producers have requirements: What kind of training is required? Will you have to travel to receive the training? What about ongoing coaching? Certification hoops? You need to put in a lot of time on the front end, making lots of phone calls: it might be especially good to talk to people who've used the model elsewhere.

Lee Rush

The program lists are really important, especially if there are fewer dollars available. Any person who purchases a program can point to a rationale. But my caveat is that if a program isn't on one of these lists that doesn't mean it isn't valuable. For example, the philosophy and practice of using restorative justice principles have been around for centuries while the empirical research has been emerging over decades--A good example of evidence following practice.

Dalene Dutton
Executive Director, Five Town Communities That Care, Rockport, ME

We use evidence-based program lists in our organization whenever we have to make a program recommendation they allow us to save the time of going through the research on all programs directly. The lists are useful, as long as you keep in mind that they're a starting point, not an end point. I work with a lot of coalitions around the country. Many don't know the lists are out there or think that if a program is on the list, it's perfect for any situation. When using evidence-based program lists, you need to be an informed consumer. When you find what looks like a good match on a list, look at the studies that led to the program being listed. If the program was only studied in an urban area and you're in a rural setting, it might not be a good match. Were the risk or protective factors that the program addressed the same as those in your community? Also keep in mind that you may see different results in the messy real world than in the well-funded studies by the program developers where fidelity to the program model is more closely monitored. Get information on what it really takes to implement the program the way it was tested before you make your decision. Talk to organizations who are using the program and talk to the developers if possible. Quality lists are a great tool, but do not allow you to skip doing some real homework on programs that you are seriously considering for implementation.