Prevention Science [PREV] pp654-prev-454096 October 14, 2002 12:14 Style ﬁle version Nov. 04, 2000
Prevention Science, Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2002 (
The Prevalence of Effective Substance Use Prevention
Curricula in U.S. Middle Schools
Christopher L. Ringwalt,
Louise Ann Rohrbach,
and Ashley Simons-Rudolph
Despite an abundance of evaluative evidence concerning the effectiveness of several school-
based substance use prevention curricula, many of the nation’s middle schools continue to
implement curricula that are either untested or ineffective. This study reports the prevalence
of substance use prevention curricula in the nation’s public and private schools that contain
middle school grades. We also report school- and respondent-related backgound characteris-
tics differentiating schools using at least 1 effective curriculum from those using ineffective
or untested curricula. Respondents comprised the lead staff who taught substance use pre-
vention in a representative sample of 1,905 of the nation’s public and private schools that
include middle school grades. Data were collected in 1999 by means of a self-administered
survey. Altogether, 26.8% of all schools, including 34.6% of public schools and 12.6% of pri-
vate schools, used at least 1 of the 10 effective curricula speciﬁed. Few school or respondent
characteristics were related to program implementation. Over two thirds of schools reported
using more than 1 curriculum, and almost half reported using 3 or more. Results demonstrate
the considerable gap between our understanding of effective curricula and current school
practice. Prevention researchers and practitioners should work closely together to ﬁnd ways
to increase the proportion of schools implementing effective curricula.
KEY WORDS: prevention; curricula; substance use; middle schools.
School-based curricula constitute the nation’s
primary means of preventing youth substance use. Af-
ter many years of research on school-based programs,
there is now substantial empirical evidence concern-
ing the relative effectiveness of a number of school-
Paciﬁc Institute for Research and Evaluation, Chapel Hill, North
Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Univer-
sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, North
Westat, Rockville, Maryland.
Department of Preventive Medicine, Institute for Prevention Re-
search, Universityof Southern California, Los Angeles, California.
Correspondence should be directed to Christopher L. Ringwalt,
DrPH, Paciﬁc Institute for Research and Evaluation, 1229 E.
Franklin Street, 2nd Floor, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514-
3307; e-mail: email@example.com.
based substance use prevention curricula. This re-
search has also provided understanding of some of the
key elements of substance use prevention: for exam-
ple, the beneﬁts of a social inﬂuences approach (Cen-
ters for Disease Control [CDC], 1994; Dusenbury &
Falco, 1995; Glynn, 1989; Tobler et al., 2000). On the
basis of this research, both private and governmental
organizations have called for schools to implement
prevention programs that have yielded empirical evi-
dence of effectiveness. The Department of Education
has recently released a set of “Principles of Effective-
ness,” which require recipients of funding through the
Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act
(SDFSCA) to “...design and implement [their] activ-
ities based on research or evaluation that provides ev-
idence that the strategies used prevent or reduce drug
use ...” (U.S. Department of Education [DoE], 1998).
The primary purpose of this paper is to assess the ex-
tent to which U.S. middle schools are implementing
2002 Society for Prevention Research