Part III: What Works in Dropout Prevention?
Sample Dropout Intervention Program
INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS/PERSONAL GROWTH CLASS
Background: The Interpersonal Relations Class (IPR), also called the Personal Growth Class, was created to address the problem of drug use and dropout among adolescents. This model was originally funded by a High Motivation/School Retention Grant from the Superintendent of Public Instruction in the state of Washington, and by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Intervention Description: The IPR/Personal Growth Classes are designed to prevent drug use and school dropout among high school students identified as at high risk of school failure. The classes use an intensive school-based social network prevention approach. A key component of the program is the avoidance of openly labeling targeted students as “high-risk” in an effort to reduce the possibility of self-fulfilling prophecies. Fundamental elements of the classes include experiential learning opportunities, study-skills training, peer tutoring, resistance skills training, and systematic decision-making skills training. These elements are implemented by both peers and teachers.
Students identified as high-risk are given the option of taking the IPR/Personal Growth classes for credit in their high school curriculum. Parental permission is also required. The classes are small, with the teacher-student ratio at or below 1:10. Classes meet daily for 55 minutes for a full semester and are based on a psycho-educational counseling approach. The goals (i.e., improved school achievement and attendance, decreased drug involvement) of the class are discussed with students at the beginning of the semester and are restated several times throughout the program. A section of the class is offered for students returning from drug treatment, while other sections are offered to those students who are at risk of dropping out or who are known drug users.
Cognitive/behavioral changes are encouraged through reinforcement, skills training, and engaging, experiential learning opportunities. Four days per week are devoted to student discussions of their current psycho-social problems and concerns as well as skills training in problem solving, decision making, and self-management. One day each week is devoted to reviewing students’ attendance and progress in other classes as well as journal writing, goal development, and supervised study and peer tutoring. This day is also used for planning drug-free weekend activities. Two half days each month are devoted to visiting educational sites in the community such as colleges and vocational programs and recreational activities of the students’ choice (e.g., bowling, horseback riding).
Participants & Setting: This model is intended for use with high school students (grades 9-12) identified as at high risk for drug use and school dropout. Criteria used to identify targeted students include previous dropout status, below average school performance, and chronic absenteeism. Teacher and counselor recommendations are also used to identify students for the program. This program has been implemented in urban high schools in the Northwest, serving predominantly middle-class students.
Implementation Considerations: The program is implemented by a program monitor (e.g., school counselor) who ensures the program is properly implemented. This person is assisted by a program manager (e.g., a school nurse). These individuals conduct a weekly half-hour meeting with teachers of the classes in addition to frequent, random classroom observations. The teachers selected to teach the classes must meet several criteria. Teachers must express an interest in working with high-risk students and have a history of acceptance and respect toward students who drop out and use drugs. Teacher support is a key element of the program. Teachers and the program manager participate in training workshops at the beginning of the program and also attend a workshop at the end of the first semester after the class has been implemented in the school.
Cost: The cost of implementing the program is approximately $634 per student for a 90-day semester. This is considerably less expensive than the cost of daily outpatient or inpatient drug treatment, which can range from $5,000 to $15,000 for the same amount of time.
Evidence of Effectiveness: Two research studies have been completed regarding the effectiveness of IPR/Personal Growth Classes. Overall outcomes from these studies indicate that students tend to decrease their drug use and are less likely to drop out of school after participating in the intervention.
One study evaluating the impact of IPR/Personal Growth Classes found that students who participated in the program were significantly less likely to become school dropouts. The program participants also showed significant differences in school achievement, decreases in truancy, and significant changes in drug use compared to the control students.
Another study focused on measuring the effectiveness of the IPR/Personal Growth Classes yielded results showing a significant improvement in grade point average but not in class absences for participants as compared to nonparticipants. Students showed no change in truancy while the control subjects increased in truancy. Self-esteem scores of participants steadily increased compared to students in the control group. There was some evidence that this intervention helped high-risk adolescents curb drug use as indicated by limited use of illicit drugs such as cocaine, opiates, and amphetamines. However, decrease in drug use was not statistically significant.
Manual or Training Available: The National Educational Service (phone: 800-733-6786, fax: 812-336-7790) is the publisher of a full curriculum. In addition, a curriculum entitled Reconnecting Youth (a related program) can be obtained at http://www.son.washington.edu/departments/pch/ry/
Eggert, L. L., Seyl, C. D., & Nicholas, L. J. (1990). Effects of a school-based prevention program for potential high school dropouts and drug abusers. The International Journal of the Addictions, 25(7), 773-801.
Eggert, L. L., Thompson, E. A., Herting, J. R., Nicholas, L. J., & Dicker, B. G. (1994). Preventing adolescent drug abuse and high school dropout through an intensive school-based social network development program. American Journal of Health Promotion, 8(3), 202-215.
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Citation: Lehr, C. A., Johnson, D.
R., Bremer, C. D., Cosio, A., & Thompson, M. (2004). Essential
tools: Increasing rates of school completion: Moving from policy and research
to practice. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute
on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.
This document was published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET). NCSET is supported through a cooperative agreement #H326J000005 with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education Programs, and no official endorsement should be inferred. The University of Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition are equal opportunity employers and educators.