A New D.A.R.E. Curriculum Gets Mixed Reviews

Communications activities for improving and evaluating the DARE school-based substance abuse prevention curriculum

Field of Work: Evaluation of D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).

Problem Synopsis: Substance abuse prevention efforts that could reduce or avert harm suffer from significant limitations; the only national delivery system for substance abuse prevention that approximates a model infrastructure is D.A.R.E.), which has a delivery system made up of thousands of trained local law enforcement officers, and a standard, established curriculum. D.A.R.E.'s program has been evaluated several times. Evaluation findings and subsequent studies published in the late 1990s raised concerns about D.A.R.E. A new evaluation was necessary to: test a curriculum that represented current thinking about substance abuse prevention; test a style of teaching that represented current knowledge about teaching and learning structure; and examine the extent to which D.A.R.E. police officers implemented the curriculum in accordance with the model.

Synopsis of the Work: Zili Sloboda, ScD, and colleagues at the University of Akron, Ohio, designed and evaluated Take Charge of Your Life, a substance abuse prevention curriculum for 7th- and 9th-grade students delivered by D.A.R.E. police officers.

Key Findings:

  • By 11th grade, significantly more students who participated in Take Charge of Your Life reported alcohol or cigarette use in the prior 30 days than did a control group of students who did not participate.
  • Students who took Take Charge of Your Life classes and who had used marijuana at baseline in 7th grade were significantly less likely to use marijuana by 11th grade, compared with students in the control group.
  • D.A.R.E. police officers delivered all of the lessons and, on average, 73 percent of the content of those lessons.
  • The curriculum's positive impact on reducing marijuana use among 11th graders who had used marijuana at baseline was associated with their skill in refusing to use marijuana and their perceptions of prevalence of use among their peers.

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