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Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us
“Cooperative learning” activities intended to encourage student discussion, comparison of ideas, and mutual challenging of ideas on academic and social topics;
A “values-rich” literature-based reading and language arts program intended to foster understanding of diversity;
“Developmental discipline,” a positive approach to classroom management that stresses teaching appropriate behavior rather than punishment, involving students in classroom management, and helping them to learn behavior management and conflict resolution skills;
“Community-building” activities aimed at increasing appreciation for diversity or students’ sense of communal involvement and responsibility; and
“Home-school” activities to foster parent involvement in their children’s education.
Several cohorts of elementary school students in 12 elementary schools were followed for two consecutive years beginning in 1992 to assess effects of this prevention program. Statistically significant positive effects were found on measures of marijuana and alcohol use.
The School Development Program is a comprehensive school organization development intervention seeking to broaden the involvement in school management of stakeholders in the school. The program creates a representative governance and management team composed of school administrators, teachers, support staff, and parents that assesses school problems and opportunities, identifies social and academic goals for the school, plans activities to address the goals, and monitors activities and takes corrective action to keep the activities on track. An evaluation of the program in 10 inner-city Chicago schools over a four-year period found that the rate of increase in substance use was statistically significantly lower in the program than in the comparison schools (Cook et al., 1998).
Although these examples provide evidence that early prevention may work to reduce substance use, little is known about the ideal time or times to deliver preventive interventions, how preventive interventions can be most effectively sequenced over the life course, or how the timing of prevention activities may matter relative to the timing of drug epidemics. Presumably, the effects of cumulative prevention efforts delivered over the entire life course are considerably larger than the relatively short-term efforts that have been studied, and presumably the effects of certain types of prevention are greater during the early stages of an epidemic than when it is in full swing. Clarifying these issues of timing will require additional research.
The duration of programs also varies considerably from study to study. The accumulated wisdom in the prevention field is that longer is