Assessing the Effectiveness of the Pass Program: An Early Intervention for At-Risk Middle School Students
An Early Intervention for at-risk Middle School students
Background and Purpose:
Youth who exhibit disruptive behaviors in middle school are often at-risk for academic problems, academic failure and further offending. Often these youth are suspended from school which actually facilitates more offending and exacerbates academic difficulties. Early Intervention programs encouraging self-regulation skill development have been found particularly effective in reducing anger, offending and violent behaviors in at-risk youth. In addition, they have been found to reduce mental health problems and improve academic self-efficacy and achievement. These programs can act as a diversion from the Juvenile Justice system which has been found to exacerbate youths’ negative attitudes and behaviors and mental health symptoms. The authors present data on an evaluation of an Early Intervention program which targeted at-risk middle school students. The purpose was to determine if there were changes between the treatment and control groups on mental health symptoms, self-regulation skills, and academic self-efficacy.
The PASS program used Master artists from the community to teach at-risk middle school students Cultural arts and self-regulation skills. The after- school classes were offered to youth who evinced disruptive or illegal behaviors in lieu of suspension from school. The artists were extensively trained and staff carefully monitored program implementation.
A pretest- posttest control group design was utilized to evaluate program effects on participants’ mental health symptoms, academic self-efficacy and social skills. Ninety-two youth participated in the study (Treatment N=44; Comparison N=48). After informed consent was obtained from parents and youth, the participants completed the pretest and were randomly selected to be in the treatment or wait-list control group. The Treatment group attended the Pass program five days per week and approximately 2 months later completed the posttest. Wait-list youth completed the program later.
The following measures were used at pre and posttest: The Youth Self-Report (YSR) to measure mental health symptoms and academic self-efficacy, the Aggressive Behavior Questionnaire to measure aggressive behavior, The Social Problem-Solving Inventory for Adolescents to measure problem-solving skills, and the Social Skills Rating Scales which measures several social skills. Data analyses included t-tests, ANOVAS, correlations, and Regression Analyses.
Mixed –model repeated measures ANOVA’s demonstrated that there were no differences in measured factors, including age, gender, ethnicity, and guardian’s income between the two groups. Outcome data suggested significant improvements for the treatment group in internalizing behavior, academic self-efficacy, social problem-solving skills, communication, cooperation, responsibility, empathy, engagement, and self-control.
Bivariate correlation analyses indicated a significant relationship between communication, empathy, self-control, and internalizing behavior with academic self-efficacy for the treatment group. While Regression analyses produced a significant model predicting academic self-efficacy from communication skills, self-control, and internalizing symptoms for the treatment group.
Conclusions and Implications:
The data provide findings which suggest that the PASS program has shown a reduction in Internalizing symptoms, and improvements in social problem solving, skills, social skills, and academic self-efficacy. In addition its’ use as an alternative to school suspensions and a diversion from the Juvenile Justice system are discussed.