High school program linked to lower substance use and better health behaviors – Zoo House News

High school program linked to lower substance use and better health behaviors – Zoo House News

  • Science
  • December 19, 2022
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A new UCLA-led study shows that a college preparatory program for educationally disadvantaged youth, conducted in about 13% of US public high schools, has positive effects on students’ social networking, psychosocial outcomes and health behaviors Has.

The findings, published Dec. 16 in the journal Pediatrics, suggest that the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which aims to improve educational opportunities for underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students, also significantly reduced substance use reduced.

“Academic tracking” is a common practice in high schools, whereby underperforming students are clustered with others of similar academic achievement. Although the study results aim to tailor academic rigor to students’ level of preparation, the results suggest that this practice can be counterproductive by reinforcing risky behaviors that students pick up from their peers.

“Untracking” these students by mixing them up with higher-performing peers can lead to better physical and mental health, said lead author Dr. Rebecca Dudovitz, associate professor of pediatrics and director of pediatric health research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“This is the first randomized controlled trial of AVID in the United States, so it’s really exciting to see that this program, designed to give children educational opportunities, has also improved their health,” said Dudovitz.

AVID works with high school students who achieve a B or C GPA who might not otherwise be placed on more rigorous college preparatory courses. Operating in 5,400 secondary schools, including middle and high schools, in 46 states, it subjects academically moderate students to tougher courses than they would have been assigned under normal circumstances. AVID helps students develop agency, relationship skills, and knowledge of opportunities.

“We believe in surrounding students with a supportive community and providing them with the skills and resources they need to achieve their goals within existing educational structures that enable college and career readiness for every student,” said Thuan Nguyen, CEO of Avid. “The results of the UCLA study are not surprising given how much AVID educators invest in the lives of their students.”

The researchers randomized 270 students in five major public schools to either an AVID group or regular school programs. Students completed the surveys at the end of 8th grade or at the beginning of 9th grade and again at the end of 9th grade.

They found that students in the AVID group had a lower likelihood of using substances — a 33% lower risk compared to the control group — in addition to a 26% lower risk of associating with substance-using peers, and about one 1.7 times more likely to socialize with peers who were more involved with academics.

Additionally, AVID males experienced less stress and higher self-efficacy, determination, and commitment to school than their peers assigned to the usual follow-up academic program. However, these effects were not seen in women, possibly because a supportive academic environment has a greater effect on boys of color, the researchers write.

‘AVID has positive effects on social networks, health behaviors and psychosocial outcomes, suggesting that academic untracking can have significant positive spillover effects on adolescent health,’ the researchers write.

The study has some limitations. The schools were all from a single school district and served primarily low-income Hispanic students, and the results were all from one academic year, the researchers note. They did not directly observe how AVID was implemented or whether the program actually increased college enrollment. Additionally, it was not possible to blind the participants, meaning the students knew who was assigned to each group, which may have prompted them to respond to survey questions in a way they thought the researchers would view positively .

While more research is needed, the findings nonetheless provide important evidence for “ensuring schools have the resources and structures needed to expand access to educational opportunities and foster healthy social connections, particularly in marginalized communities.” , may be key to broader realization of education and health equity,” the researchers write.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evidence for Action Program (Grant 74086) and the National Institutes of Health (1K23DA040733-01A1) funded this research.

Co-authors of the study are Dr. Paul Chung, Kulwant Dosanjh, Meredith Phillips, Christopher Biely, Chi Hong Tseng and Dr. UCLA’s Mitchell Wong; Joan Tucker of RAND Corporation; USC’s Mary Ann Pentz; and Arzie Galvez and Guadalupe Arellano of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Chung is also associated with Kaiser Permanente.

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