A study by Oregon State University researchers found that Positive Action, a program that teaches social and emotional skills and character development to elementary school children, can improve academic test scores as much as 10 percent on national standardized math and reading tests.
Other key findings include:
* 21% improvement on state reading tests
* 51% improvement on state math tests
* 70% fewer suspensions
* 15% less absenteeism
Supported by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and published in the January issue of the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, this study was conducted in 20 public elementary schools in Hawaii, 10 of which were randomly assigned to receive the program and the rest were controls. Participating schools had below-average standardized test scores and a diverse student population with an average of 55 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.
Behavioral findings from the same study were published by the American Journal of Public Health last October. Researchers found that students who had gone through the Positive Action® program were about half as likely to engage in alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, violent behavior and/or sexual activity as those who did not take part in the program.
“This research demonstrates that a comprehensive, school-wide social and character development program can have a substantial impact on both reducing problem behaviors of public health importance in youth and improving their school performance,” said Dr. Brian Flay, a professor in the Department of Public Health at OSU and the study’s principal investigator.
The positive results from this study reinforce Positive Action’s recognition by the U.S. Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) as the only character education program out of 41 such programs that improves either academics or behavior.