A School-Based Randomized Controlled Trial: Practice-Based Evidence and the XY-Zone
Method: Using purposive sampling, XY-Zone eligible students from 10 high schools in an urban area were recruited for participation in this pilot randomized controlled trial. To be eligible for the XY-Zone, students had to be “at-risk.” The agency defined “at-risk” through four risk domains: 1) academic (e.g., failed classes or state examinations), 2) attendance (e.g., excessive absences and tardies), 3) behavioral (e.g., gang involvement, poor classroom conduct), and 4) social service (e.g., free/reduced lunch, CPS involvement). The waitlisted control condition received Communities in Schools services (e.g., group or individual treatment, mentoring), and those randomized into the XY-Zone received 12 weeks of XY-Zone treatment. Data on self-control (a=.87), self-efficacy (a=.88), family involvement (a=.80), school engagement (a=.88), and career development (a=.88) was collected at baseline, mid-way, and post-intervention. Baseline differences were calculated using Fisher’s exact and independent samples t-tests. Two-way ANOVA with repeated measures was used to determine the effectiveness of the XY-Zone on outcome variables.
Results: The final sample (n=61) was primarily Hispanic (54%) or Black (34%), and most were freshmen (51%) or sophomore (36%) students. Differences between control (n=25) and treatment (n=36) groups for primary outcomes were not significant at baseline. Most (75%) had risk factors in more than one domain, with 24.6% in one, 44.3% in two, 26.2% in three, and 4.9% had risks in all four. Treatment group students attended most (70%) groups and service providers addressed most (93%) of the manualized treatment objectives. Relative to the control group, treatment group participants reported increases in self-efficacy, self-control, family involvement, and career development. Effect sizes were in the small to medium range (η2=0.02 to 0.06).
Conclusions: This study is one of the first to examine a gender-specific, school-based intervention focused on protective factors among youth at-risk for delinquency. An example of researcher/practitioner collaboration is offered. Although results are promising, additional research with larger samples is needed to determine effectiveness. As the field of school-based social work and prevention continues to move forward, it is important that researchers build on what is known to investigate relevant interventions, such as the XY-Zone, explore opportunities associated with practice-based evidence, and investigate the impact of existing and potentially new protective factors on youth at-risk of delinquency.