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Positive Action awarded Chicago study grant

Education and Social Science Background

The Institute of Education’s grant for research on social and character development will provide $1.42 million to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions (the Positive Action program) designed to promote positive social and character development, increase positive behaviors, and reduce antisocial behaviors among elementary school children.

Program interventions will focus on building social and emotional competencies and on developing important skills, such as self-regulation, conflict resolution, and social problem solving.

The outcomes of greatest interest are social and emotional competencies such as self-regulation, responsibility, perspective-taking, conflict resolution, and social problem-solving skills. Prosocial behaviors and attitudes such as caring, citizenship, fairness, giving, and volunteerism will also be evaluated along with the reduction of negative behaviors such as aggression, violence.

Other outcomes of interest include aspects of school climate, such as attendance, tardiness, truancy, vandalism, parental involvement in school activities, teacher retention, and school staff morale. Although interventions target belief and attitudinal changes, the programs must be designed to effect measurable behavioral change in students.

Through cooperative agreements awarded by the Institute of Education Sciences, grantees will work with the U.S. Department of Education, the Centers for Disease Control, and a national evaluation contractor, funded through a separate competition by the Institute of Education Sciences, to carry out randomized experiments of selected social and character development interventions.

Positive Action will conduct this project in the Chicago Public Schools. CPS is ideal for this study as schools are poorly funded, the student population has many problems, and students score below national norms.

Another benefit of Chicago schools is their ethnic diversity, with a composition of African American (52%), Hispanic (29%), Caucasian (14%) and Asian (3%) students. Chicago schools also have high rates of mobility and a high prevalence of low-income families (85%).

Results from CPS schools, therefore, will apply to large, multiethnic, urban populations.