This article originally appeared in the Vernal Express.
Uintah Schools are Positive Action Models
By Virginia Harrington, Vernal Express Writer
Three years of research in character education within the Uintah School District have come to an end.
The results have been overwhelmingly positive and have led to the district being labeled the Positive Action model for the entire nation. These results were presented April 27 to educators, local government officials, school administrators, court officials, couselors and the public during a dinner at Western Park.
Positive Action, a model for character education, was developed by Dr. Carol Gerber Allred of Twin Falls, Idaho. Local artist and teacher Kris Gerber received a grant for $1.4 million to conduct three years of research in local schools to test the effectiveness of the curriculum.
Paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, Gerber said the basis of the curriculum is, "When we do good, we feel good. When we do bad, we feel bad." Gerber said Positive Action education has the potential to change the face of a community as evidenced by changes seen in student behavior in Brownsville, Texas. The curriculum decreased drug problems and other behavior problems while it increased reading ability by 40 percent. Other academic areas also improved. Family relationships were healed and juvenile appearances in court decreased.
Similar results have been seen in the Uintah School District among students in the research groups when compared to students in the control groups. The research took place at the elementary school level throughout the district. A random selection was made to determine which classes would be part of the research and which would be controls. Students in every class in which the program was implemented experienced marked improvement in both academics and behavior.
Judge Larry Steele of the Juvenile Court said he is impressed by the success of the curriculum.Steele said the courts are the last resort for troubled youths and that they are not the answer to behavioral problems."The court doesn't have the power for a final solution," he said.
One of the reasons Positive Action has been so successful is that it addresses the whole child and the whole family. The program doesn't stop when students leave the classroom. Troubled or dysfunctional families have the opportunity to continue the education program in the home and in a counseling office. "I recommend this program for all families, not just families with problems."
One couple attending the presentation had taken advantage of this opportunity with their children. They said the yelling and the fighting in the home had decreased and they recommend the character education for others who are experiencing difficulties.
Steele and Gerber both said some of the credit for the success of the research goes to the community at large. "I'm a partner with the community," Steele said. Gerber said the programs that were already in place in the community when the research began gave Positive Action a solid foundation and strong partners throughout the process.
Dr. Brian Flay is doing the data analysis for the research program. He said the self-image of the students and their enjoyment of learning increased in every case where the curriculum was implemented. He documented improvement in self-concept, intellectual performance, physical performance, self-management, social skills, honesty and other areas of self-improvement.
Dr. Allred said her program is a method of ridding children and families of negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts. "It's not revolutionary, it's just common sense," Allred said. The goal is to teach individuals to examine the consequences of their decisions and behaviors before action is taken. Gerber said the process is ongoing and is never totally mastered. It does become a way of life that builds and improves character throughout a lifetime.
Allred said the success of the research has made Uintah School District a national model for other districts to follow. She has seen passion and commitment to the program here and hopes other areas will follow the example set in Uintah County.