Evaluating a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program for At-Risk Youth in Alternative Schools

Publication Date: August 5, 2020
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  • Published: 2020

Introduction

Research Questions

  1. Relative to the standard school curriculum, did offering Teen Choice in study schools change youths’ knowledge of contraception and sexually transmitted infections; perceived conflict management ability; attitudes toward healthy relationships, abstinence and contraception; and intentions to have sex six months after the program ended?
  2. Relative to the standard school curriculum, did offering Teen Choice in study schools change youths’ likelihood to engage in unprotected sex six months after the program ended?

This brief highlights evidence on the impacts of the Teen Choice curriculum for youth in alternative schools in and around New York City. Because alternative schools provide supplemental services to address the specific needs of youth, these schools often find it difficult to fit pregnancy prevention programming into the regular school day. The result is that youth enrolled in these schools often have limited opportunities to receive sexual health education. To help expand the available evidence on teen pregnancy prevention services for youth in alternative schools, the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded a rigorous evaluation of the Teen Choice curriculum in New York. The program was delivered by trained staff from the program developer, Inwood House, with federal grant funding to the New York State Department of Health from the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP).

Purpose

This brief provides a final summary of key implementation and impact findings from the evaluation of Teen Choice in New York. It encapsulates findings from two earlier reports that provide detailed evidence on the program’s impacts and implementation.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • By design, Teen Choice enrolled highly at-risk youth with substantial academic and behavioral issues. Because the program served this high-risk population, maintaining regular attendance was a challenge, despite the considerable efforts of program staff to boost attendance.
  • Despite low attendance, Teen Choice increased students’ exposure to information on romantic relationships, birth control, and STIs. Increased exposure did not lead to increases in students’ knowledge about contraception or STIs, however.
  • As a supplement to the regular school curriculum, Teen Choice did not change the likelihood of having unprotected sex in the three months prior to the six-month follow-up survey.
  • The program did improve some outcomes associated with sexual risk behavior, however. Teen Choice increased students’ support for condom use and perceived skills for saying no to sex. In addition, Teen Choice reduced the percentage of youth who said they intended to have sex in the year following the survey.

Methods

The study team used a random assignment design to test the efficacy of Teen Choice as a voluntary supplement to the standard school curriculum. The study team recruited youth from five alternative schools, serving youth from 7th through 12th grades, in rolling cohorts in the New York City area from 2014 to 2016. Youth were randomly assigned into either (1) a treatment group offered Teen Choice as a voluntary program during the school day or (2) a control group offered the standard school curriculum. Youth in both research groups completed a baseline survey upon enrolling in the study and a follow-up survey six months after the program ended.

Citation

Knab, Jean, Robert G. Wood, Joanne Lee, and Lauren Murphy (2020). Evaluating a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program for At-Risk Youth in Alternative Schools. OPRE Report #2020-81. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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