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InvisibleDr. SiekadellykM
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[TN] Knox County 25 year old DARE program dropped for not being effective
    #535466 - 03/10/11 12:45 PM (5 years, 7 months ago)


D.A.R.E drug prevention curriculum bumped in face of call for measurable results
March 8, 2011 - knoxnews.com

D.A.R.E. is retiring in Knox County.

This spring, the Knox County Sheriff's Office will teach its final classes of the 25-year-old Drug Awareness Resistance Education program in local county schools, according to the program's administrators.

D.A.R.E., developed as a drug prevention curriculum by the Los Angeles Police Department for children 10-12 years old, has been criticized by many studies and even the U.S. Surgeon General for not being effective at keeping kids away from drugs later in life.

Instead of the program, Knox County officers are switching to a drug prevention curriculum called Life Skills Training, which is touted as highly effective and "evidence-based," according to Sgt. Sheila Story of the Knox County Sheriff's Office special services division.

"We're real excited about Life Skills," said Story. She added that Life Skills Training has years of peer-reviewed research behind it.

Story said she believes D.A.R.E. is a good program, but acknowledged it has had its critics. Designed for children ages 10 to 12, D.A.R.E. is run by law enforcement personnel in 72 percent of school districts nationwide.

However, several scientific studies and organizations have called the program ineffective at keeping kids away from drugs later in life, including the U.S. General Accounting Office, the U.S. Surgeon General, the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education.

Knoxville Police Department - which teaches to schools within the city limits - switched to Life Skills Training in 2007, according to Sgt. Kelly Tanner, safety education supervisor for KPD.

Both Tanner and Story said despite the criticism of D.A.R.E., they believe the program did work.

"It's not supposed to be the end-all, be-all fix for all kids," said Tanner. "We're trying to supplement what their parents are already doing, or should be doing. It's so hard to have measurable results."

Just the evidence, please

Measureable results, or "evidence-based practice," is the latest buzzword in education.

Borrowed from the medical field, evidence-based practice is now used to describe every kind of program in education, both academic and social.

In academic subjects, evidence generally means standardized test scores. But when it comes to the soft subjects of drug prevention, anti-bullying lessons or their loftier cousin, character education, evidence is even trickier to evaluate.

"What constitutes an evidence-based program is one of the more pressing topics in our field," said Sean Hanley, a research associate at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Chapel Hill, N.C., which studies the effectiveness of drug prevention programs for teens.

"Long story short, everyone has their own ruler and the ruler is changing all the time," Hanley added.

Tennessee is one of 28 states that requires character education be taught in public schools. It also requires drug education and anti-bullying efforts as well, according to the state Department of Education.

At Alcoa Elementary School, guidance counselor Kip Jones won two awards in 2010 for his character education programs, based on the Chick-Fil-A company's CORE essentials program.

Jones meets with every class about an hour each month, and shows them videos, gives awards for good behavior, and teaches them rap songs about being kind and how to resolve conflicts.

"We do the Bully Rap," said Jones of one of his songs. "That helps them remember the things they can do if a bully starts picking on them. Yeah, I think it helps them."

Proven popular

Many studies have shown that parents, teachers and even students like character education. In fact, 90 percent of parents say it should be taught in school, according to a survey by the Character Education Partnership, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit coalition fostering character education in schools.

But evidence that it works? That's a little more elusive.

In October, the largest study ever of character education was published by the U.S. Department of Education. It looked at 6,000 students in 84 schools throughout six states who were enrolled in seven typical character education programs. None of the programs produced any significant changes in children's behavior, researchers said.

Knox County uses the Character Counts program in elementary schools, which was not included in the study. However, the study said these programs were "typical" of others offered around the nation because they focused on a set of character traits like trustworthiness, respect and good citizenship.

Local educators don't buy the criticism.

"When you hear students talking to each other with respect and to adults with respect, then you know something's working with character education," said Martha Masterson, counselor coach for Knox County Schools, which does a program called Character Counts in elementary schools.

On a recent morning, Blue Grass Elementary School principal Reggie Mosley faced the camera for a televised morning announcement. He told the children the word of the month was "responsibility."

Later, Mosley said if a child got sent to the office, he would likely bring up the word again.

"We just make that a teachable moment," said Mosley. "We're creating an environment that's conducive to learning, so teachers can do what they get paid to do."

Mosley said perhaps the biggest challenge to character or drug education is not finding evidence of whether it works, but finding time to do it. Drug education, especially, takes extra time.

"We're slowly getting to the point where we don't have time for anything extra, and that's sad," Mosley said.

The D.A.R.E. program requires nine continuous hours of instruction, according to Story. With Life Skills Training, educators can choose a more compressed schedule if they need it, she said.

"The teachers have so much on them now, it's so hard to plan the exact time we need for D.A.R.E.," said Story. "We feel like Life Skills is so much more flexible."


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