Evaluation of the D.A.R.E. School-Based Substance Abuse Prevention Curriculum

Evaluation conducted March 2001 through June 2009

    • April 27, 2009

About the Evaluation
In February 2001, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) awarded a $13.7-million grant to Zili Sloboda, Sc.D., of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at the University of Akron to develop and test the Take Charge of Your Life (TCYL) coursework, disseminated through the D.A.R.E. delivery system. The intent of the pilot was to test TCYL’s effectiveness and the D.A.R.E. delivery of providing students with life skills such as communication, decision-making, assertiveness and refusal skills—skills students need in order to act on their desire not to use drugs, alcohol and illicit drugs. Additionally, it aimed to help middle school students develop an understanding of the personal, social, and legal risks and consequences involved in the use of substances including tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Summary of Methods

The evaluation team analyzed data from the Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Study (ASAPS), designed as a national randomized controlled trial of the TCYL curriculum. Students from six metropolitan areas—Detroit, Los Angeles, Houston, Newark, St. Louis and New Orleans—participated in the study. Eighty-three school clusters were randomly assigned to either the TCYL program or the control group. Self-administered surveys were collected from students seven times during the seventh grade to the 11th grade.

Knowledge and Impact

The TCYL coursework had a positive or beneficial behavioral and perceptual impact for those students considered “high-risk”—meaning those who began using marijuana in their early teens, before or by the seventh grade. There was also a significant negative finding: a 3-4 percent increase in alcohol and cigarette use among 11th grade students who weren’t using either substance in seventh grade (at the beginning of the study). Based on this pilot study, D.A.R.E. is transitioning to a new middle school course called keepin’ it REAL, which has been included on the federal government’s National Registry of Effective Prevention Programs (SAMSHA).

This is the largest and most comprehensive substance use prevention research effort to date with RWJF’s grant to the University of Akron for the Take Charge of Your Life coursework study. The research evaluation team led an ambitious evaluation that went beyond any other previous study of school-based drug prevention in both scope and sophistication at that time. As a result, the study provides a valuable road map for future investments in the field of drug and alcohol prevention research.