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Prevention Science [PREV] PP160-339787 May 24, 2001 7:51 Style ﬁle version Nov. 04, 2000
Prevention Science, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2001
Effects of the Positive Action Program on Achievement
and Discipline: Two Matched-Control Comparisons
Brian R. Flay,
Carol G. Allred,
and Nicole Ordway
This paper reports on the effectiveness of an integrated comprehensive school model for char-
acter development, problem behavior prevention, and academic achievement enhancement.
The Positive Action program consists of a school curriculum, together with schoolwide climate,
family, and community components. As evaluated here, the yearly K-6 curriculum consists of
over 140 ﬁfteen-to-twenty-minute lessons per year delivered in school classrooms on an almost
daily basis. The program is based on theories of self-concept, learning, behavior, and school
ecology. We use a matched control design and school-level achievement and disciplinary data
to evaluate program effects on student performance and behavior in two separate school dis-
tricts. The program improved achievement by 16% in one district and 52% in another, and
reduced disciplinary referrals by 78% in one district and 85% in the other. We discuss impli-
cations of these replicated ﬁndings for the prevention of substance abuse and violence, the
improvement of school performance, and the reform of American schools.
KEY WORDS: prevention; achievement; matched-control; self-concept; violence; discipline.
Public and ofﬁcial demands for improvement
in student achievement have been never ending
(Coleman et al., 1966), and have increased of late (U.S.
Department of Education (DoE), 1997; President
Clinton’s State of the Union Address, 1999, 2000).
Schools are also expected to prevent such problem be-
haviors as violence (Eron et al., 1994), substance use
(Johnston et al., 1998), and other behaviors requiring
disciplinary action (Chandler et al., 1998). A number
of different kinds of programs have been developed
to address problems of academic achievement (Slavin
& Fashola, 1998), smoking (Flay, 1985; Sussman
et al., 1995), substance use (Peters & McMahon,
1996), violence (Tolan & Guerra, 1994), and many
The program evaluated in the reported study was developed by
the second author. The reported evaluation was conducted inde-
pendently by the ﬁrst and third authors.
Health Research and Policy Centers, School of Public Health,
University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois.
Positive Action, Inc., Twin Falls, Idaho.
Correspondence should be directed to Health Research and
Policy Centers, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at
Chicago, 850 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, Illinois 60607; e-mail:
others. Although many of these programs are ini-
tially promising, most are problem speciﬁc and
unable to provide comprehensive sustainable ef-
fects. One possible reason for this is because most
of these programs address the microlevel predic-
tors of the problem, and do not attempt to affect
the multifaceted, distal factors. A comprehensive
approach that includes self-concept development,
schoolwide environmental change, and parental
and community involvement may successfully af-
fect not just one outcome, such as academic per-
formance, violence, and so forth, but may affect
all outcomes together. Recent changes in Title 1
legislation have acknowledged and facilitated the
development/funding of comprehensive school re-
form programs; however, there are few that have been
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
In 1990, President Bush, and 50 state governors,
created Goals 2000 to guide ourchildren’seducational
2001 Society for Prevention Research