Winners of the 4-H REAL media Contest

Winners For Program

The June winners across OH, NJ, WV, and PA are!

It's hard to score if you're smoking hard core
Don't let your happy ending go up in smoke
True picture of Alcohol - Winners of the 4-H REAL media contest
Feel great. Don't Vape - REAL Prevention
Smoking kills your smile - REAL Prevention

4-H clubs in Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia participated in a REAL media contest to design their own substance use Prevention message in a video or poster. Here are the winners!

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REAL Prevention Keepin it REAL

D.A.R.E. Program has Made Tremendous Strides in 30 Years

School-based, curriculum-driven drug prevention programming is an essential part of efforts to address drug abuse problems in the U.S. Almost no one would disagree with this — especially parents of school-age children, teachers, school administrators and community law enforcement officers.

On Feb. 7, the Las Vegas Sun published an article, “Results matter more than good intentions.” In it, Ron Haskins noted that D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), the school-based, curriculum-driven prevention program, had been shown to have negative effects. That assertion was based on research I conducted almost 30 years ago.

D.A.R.E. and its programming have undergone dramatic changes since then. To paraphrase a recent advertisement: D.A.R.E. today is not your Daddy’s Oldsmobile. In 2008, D.A.R.E. launched the keepin’ it REAL middle school curriculum. In 2013, it launched the keepin’ it REAL elementary curriculum. In 2016, the U.S. surgeon general endorsed the curriculum as effective.

Why is this important? First, even the best curriculum would not be helpful without a way to take it to scale — to deliver it anywhere and everywhere. Every one of the 3,142 counties in the U.S. contains at least two community-based institutions — schools and law enforcement. D.A.R.E. officers put a “local human face” on law enforcement. Let’s not forget that law enforcement is the only community organization where both reduction of the drug supply and prevention of use of drugs are located.

Second, D.A.R.E. has highly trained law enforcement officers who can deliver effective curricula from kindergarten through high school. Every D.A.R.E. officer undergoes an unparalleled 80 hours of intensive training to deliver the curriculum exactly as it is written. Classroom teachers who deliver drug prevention curricula usually undergo just two days of training. Why is this important? When teachers deliver a prevention curriculum, parents think of them as “teachers” of a certain grade or content. The DARE officer is known to the community as the person responsible for prevention.

The most common comment from parents whose children are receiving D.A.R.E. is: “The D.A.R.E. officer was always at our family dinner table on the days s/he was in our child’s school. I didn’t get drug prevention when I was in school; I received it from my children and their D.A.R.E. officer.”

Third, for 30 years, D.A.R.E. has staged annual training conferences where its officers receive continuing education about trends in drug abuse at the community level, as well as effective ways to deliver prevention programming in schools.

The primary goal of most school-based, curriculum-driven prevention programming is to encourage decisions by young people to never use drugs, or at least to ensure a significant delay in the onset of drug use. The focus of social-emotional learning principles in the Keepin’ it Real curriculum could be critical elements in decisions to stop using drugs.

D.A.R.E. America recognizes that its comprehensive K-12 curricula are only one part of a comprehensive approach to drug use and abuse prevention at the community level. It is important to note that law enforcement agencies are officially committed to the mission of reducing the supply and demand for drugs via prevention.

Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong has said: “How do we continue to engage kids so that they trust us and we can trust them? It starts with programs such as D.A.R.E.. Why is D.A.R.E. so important to our community? Because connecting with children early on, getting the trust and relations going has proven that it works.”

My research examined the effects of the original 17-lesson curriculum. The fact is, the original curriculum did not have the desired effects, yet still was found in almost 75 percent of schools.

D.A.R.E. was obviously not pleased with the results of my study long ago. However, to my great surprise, the folks at D.A.R.E. listened respectfully to my criticisms and asked for advice on how to improve their work.

It was always clear they wanted me to be brutally honest in my assessments. They invited me to be on and later chair the D.A.R.E. Scientific Advisory Board, and eventually to join the board of directors. I believe they have over three decades continued a quest to become an effective vector for school-based, curriculum-driven prevention programming.

The new D.A.R.E. is not your daddy’s Oldsmobile; it is state-of-the-art in all aspects.

Richard Clayton retired in 2013 as The Good Samaritan Endowed Chair in Health Education and Health Promotion in the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky. For more than 20 years, he was director of the federally funded Center for Prevention Research.

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The New D.A.R.E. Program - REAL Prevention

The New D.A.R.E. Program—This One Works

If you were one of millions of children who completed the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or D.A.R.E., between 1983 and 2009, you may be surprised to learn that scientists have repeatedly shown that the program did not work. Despite being the nation’s most popular substance-abuse prevention program, D.A.R.E. did not make you less likely to become a drug addict or even to refuse that first beer from your friends.

But over the past few years prevention scientists have helped D.A.R.E. America, the nonprofit organization that administers the program, replace the old curriculum with a course based on a few concepts that should make the training more effective for today’s students. The new course, called keepin’ it REAL, differs in both form and content from the former D.A.R.E.—replacing long, drug-fact laden lectures with interactive lessons that present stories meant to help kids make smart decisions. Beginning in 2009 D.A.R.E. administrators required middle schools across the country that teach the program to switch over to the 10-week, researcher-designed curriculum for seventh graders. By 2013, they had ordered elementary schools to start teaching a version of those lessons to fifth and sixth graders, too. “It’s not an antidrug program,” says Michelle Miller-Day, co-developer of the new curriculum and a communications researcher at Chapman University. “It’s about things like being honest and safe and responsible.” Even so, keepin’ it REAL has reduced substance abuse and maintained antidrug attitudes over time among students in early trials—an achievement that largely eluded the former iteration of the program.

D.A.R.E.’s original curriculum was not shaped by prevention specialists but by police officers and teachers in Los Angeles. They started D.A.R.E. in 1983 to curb the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco among teens and to improve community–police relations. Fueled by word of mouth, the program quickly spread to 75 percent of U.S. schools.

But for over a decade research cast doubt on the program’s benefits. The Department of Justice funded the first national study of D.A.R.E. and the results, made public in 1994, showed only small short-term reductions in participants’ use of tobacco—but not alcohol or marijuana. A 2009 report by Justice referred to 30 subsequent evaluations that also found no significant long-term improvement in teen substance abuse. “Thirty years ago, everyone believed that if you just told students how harmful these substances and behaviors were—they’d stay away from them,” says Frank Pegueros, president and CEO of D.A.R.E. America. “I’ve actually had officers tell me, ‘You mean I was doing it wrong for 15 years?’ Evidently, we were.”

Behavioral scientists started to suggest a different approach as early as 1998, based on research into successful behavior-change techniques. Instead of bombarding students with information in 45-minute lectures, they called for a hands-on program that would build communication and decision-making skills and let children rehearse these tactics via role play. Eventually D.A.R.E. started to search for a new curriculum, and the program’s scientific advisory board selected keepin’ it REAL from over 200 listings on a national registry of evidence-based programs maintained by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Now instructors speak only for about eight minutes during each lesson, partly so students can spend more time practicing tough decisions in activities with their friends. “If we teach good decision-making skills, it should transfer from one high-risk behavior to the next,” Pegueros says.

Sgt. Christine Rapp, who has been a full-time D.A.R.E. officer at the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department in Indiana for 16 years, says these exercises are as popular in the classroom as they are with prevention researchers. “The interaction and group work is awesome because we learn by doing—much more than just by hearing,” Rapp says. “When [students] learn the ways to say no to friends, they absolutely love getting up in front of the class and acting those out.” Officers teach four ways to say no: Refuse, Explain, Avoid and Leave (hence the acronym).

The elementary curriculum focuses on developing these four basic skills, says Michael Hecht, a communications researcher at The Pennsylvania State University who developed keepin’ it REAL with Miller-Day. And the middle-school curriculum, intended for seventh graders, has the students apply the guidance much more to drugs. The four strategies that make up the acronym were teased from 300 interviews that the two researchers conducted with kids across the country.

Hecht and Miller-Day have authored several of the handful of studies that demonstrated the program’s effectiveness and convinced the D.A.R.E. scientific advisory board to adopt it. The largest one, published by Hecht, Miller-Day and their colleagues in 2003, asked 6,000 students to fill out questionnaires about their use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana at several points over a two-year period. The reports from students who completed keepin’ it REAL indicated that they sampled these substances less than those in a control group, and used a wider variety of strategies to stay sober. Their antidrug attitudes were also more likely to stick over time. A subset of that study with 1,300 students who were already using drugs, showed that the program reduced substance use at a rate that was 72 percent higher than the control group. Steven West, a rehabilitation counselor at Virginia Commonwealth University who once published a meta-analysis showing D.A.R.E. to have negligible effects, is encouraged by these results. “They are going the right route now—it’s based in science,” West says.

Richard Clayton, a retired prevention researcher formerly of the University of Kentucky, was also once an outspoken critic of D.A.R.E. but has since been responsible for many science-based improvements to the program after it invited him to join its board of directors and chair its scientific advisory council, which is now stacked with prevention researchers. “They listened to the notion that comes from the literature that you need to be interactive—not didactic lecturing,” he says. “I think what they’ve done is pretty amazing.”

West and Clayton also argue that the D.A.R.E. program is worth saving, because it has built a remarkable network of schools and police stations that have proved willing to work together to encourage kids to lead smart, healthy lives. With that network firmly in place, D.A.R.E.’s biggest responsibility is finding the best way to put it to work. “We want to be on the cutting edge of research and science,” says John Lindsay, a regional director for D.A.R.E. America. “If you believe in that, you can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk—and I think that’s what we’ve done over the last few years.”

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Innovative research partnership for improving the D.A.R.E. curriculum

Innovative research partnership: Michelle and Frank improve the D.A.R.E. curriculum

Innovative research partnerships is a series of profiles about collaborations between Ph.D. communication researchers and working professionals in the community. I consider these partnerships innovative because of the creativity involved in initiating and sustaining cross-sector collaborative research. Through separate interviews of both partners in the collaboration, I share the unique stories behind the partnerships, the challenges they face in their collaborative efforts, and the fruits of these partnerships. The series was started in anticipation of my two conferences sessions on research partnerships at ComNet17 in September and NCA in 2017.

Today, we hear from Michelle Miller-Day and Frank Pegueros. They have worked together to revise D.A.R.E.’s drug prevention curriculum based upon evidence-based strategies. Let’s start with what Frank has to say about this partnership.

Frank Pegueros is the CEO and President of D.A.R.E. America.

On what he has gained from the partnership: Frank said that D.A.R.E. has partnered with many researchers and experts over the years to evaluate their efforts because “anything delivered in the classroom should be evidence-based.” Collaborating with Michelle and her research partner, Michael L. Hecht, over the span of a decade has resulted in significant improvements to the curriculum. Frank said D.A.R.E. is in the process of organizing a full evaluation of the revised curriculum, but preliminary evaluations show positive results.

On his role in the partnership: D.A.R.E. provides drug prevention education for elementary, middle, and high school students. Frank said that experts who develop curriculum programs don’t always get to see their program implemented on large scale, but Michelle’s team is committed to seeing the program reach students. Frank added that he believes partnering in this way helps program developers get input and to better understand audiences for their curriculum programs. By partnering with D.A.R.E., the developer’s program avoids getting “placed on a shelf to gather dust.”

On challenges the partnership faced: Frank said that he and Michelle and Michael have worked together for a long time, adding that their partnership hadn’t faced any significant challenges.

On why the partnership works: The fact that “both sides are open” has made the partnership successful, according to Frank. He said both he and Michelle are after the same thing — achieving positive outcomes in the classroom.

Dr. Michelle Miller-Day is a professor in the School of Communication at Chapman University.

On how the partnership got started: D.A.R.E. contacted Michelle and Michael after conducting a search of evidence-based substance use prevention programs. D.A.R.E. ultimately chose to partner with Michelle and Michael to use their middle school keepin’ it REAL (kiR) program, which had been listed in the national registry for evidence-based programs and practices. The program was found to achieve positive results in several controlled trials and effectiveness studies. Since adopting kiR, Michelle and Michael’s company REAL Prevention has worked with D.A.R.E. to create an elementary program and several high school programs.

On why this research matters: Michelle said that the partnership with D.A.R.E. means their team’s drug prevention program reaches 2.3 million children every year with a curriculum that is evidence-based.

On challenges the partnership faced: Michelle described how her team “D.A.R.E.-ified” the kiR curriculum. This involved incorporating input from multiple stakeholder groups including students, D.A.R.E. officers, and educators, many of whom had differing needs. Michelle said this process took a lot of time but “it wasn’t insurmountable.”

On why this partnership works: The partnership works well because D.A.R.E. focuses on training, marketing, and dissemination of drug prevention, while Michelle and Michael’s team focus on the science and formative research.

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