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Intervention Summary

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Building Skills

Building Skills is a 12-lesson curriculum designed to help 5th graders avoid or reduce high-risk behaviors, including substance abuse, by improving their inter- and intrapersonal skills. Curriculum topics include self-esteem, goal setting, decisionmaking, problem solving, communication skills, choosing friends, stress/anger management, conflict resolution, assertiveness, and substance refusal skills. Lessons of approximately 1 hour each are delivered during class time by a trained prevention specialist once per week for 12 weeks. Each lesson consists of lecture-based instruction; a group activity, which allows students to practice the skills taught; an individual activity, which uses the student handbook to further reiterate the teachings; and a debriefing session, which reviews and summarizes the lesson. Lessons do not require the use of computers or audiovisual devices. Prevention specialists encourage students to practice the skills in their everyday lives, especially at home and at school. At the end of the program, students are encouraged to take their handbooks home and discuss the curriculum topics with their parents, in order to reinforce the skills learned.

Descriptive Information

Areas of Interest Mental health promotion
Substance abuse prevention
Outcomes Review Date: November 2010
1: Goal setting
2: Stress management
3: Anger management
4: Cooperation
5: Decisionmaking
6: Assertiveness
Outcome Categories Mental health
Social functioning
Ages 6-12 (Childhood)
Genders Male
Female
Races/Ethnicities Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino
White
Race/ethnicity unspecified
Settings School
Geographic Locations Urban
Suburban
Implementation History Building Skills has been delivered in over 25 sites in western New York since 2005, reaching more than 7,500 students in the Buffalo Public Schools and surrounding suburban school districts.
NIH Funding/CER Studies Partially/fully funded by National Institutes of Health: No
Evaluated in comparative effectiveness research studies: No
Adaptations No population- or culture-specific adaptations of the intervention were identified by the developer.
Adverse Effects No adverse effects, concerns, or unintended consequences were identified by the developer.
IOM Prevention Categories Universal

Quality of Research
Review Date: November 2010

Documents Reviewed

The documents below were reviewed for Quality of Research. The research point of contact can provide information regarding the studies reviewed and the availability of additional materials, including those from more recent studies that may have been conducted.

Study 1

Smykowski, T. (2008). Building Skills program 2005/06 to 2007/08 results. Cheektowaga, NY: Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Supplementary Materials

Building Skills Classroom Sheet

Building Skills grade 5 2005/06, 2006/07, and 2007/08 missing data

Building Skills Survey

Scale reliability and validity information at initial creation

Outcomes

Outcome 1: Goal setting
Description of Measures Goal setting was assessed by a 6-item self-report measure. Prevention specialists administered the instrument to students at the beginning of the school year (pretest) and immediately following the 12-week intervention (posttest). Using a 4-point Likert scale, students responded to each item (e.g., "How often do you work on goals that you have set for yourself?" and "Once I set a goal, I don't give up until I achieve it"). Higher scores on the measure indicate better goal setting.
Key Findings Three successive cohorts of students in 5th-grade classrooms in 12 schools in western New York State received Building Skills (intervention group) or regular classroom instruction (control group); at the end of the evaluation, control group students also received the intervention.

From pre- to posttest:

  • In cohort 1, students in both study conditions had an improvement in goal setting scores (change in mean score, 0.44 vs. 0.03); however, the improvement for intervention group students was significantly greater compared with control group students (p = .014).
  • In cohort 2, intervention group students had an improvement in goal setting scores compared with control group students, who had a decline (change in mean score, 0.52 vs. -0.02; p = .005).
  • In cohort 3, students in both study conditions had an improvement in goal setting scores (change in mean score, 0.91 vs. 0.44); however, the improvement for intervention group students was significantly greater compared with control group students (p = .037).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.3 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 2: Stress management
Description of Measures Stress management was assessed by a 4-item self-report measure. Prevention specialists administered the instrument to students at the beginning of the school year (pretest) and immediately following the 12-week intervention (posttest). Using a 4-point Likert scale, students responded to each item (e.g., "Stressful situations are very difficult for me to deal with" and "I know how to relax when I feel too much pressure"). Higher scores on the measure indicate better stress management.
Key Findings Three successive cohorts of students in 5th-grade classrooms in 12 schools in western New York State received Building Skills (intervention group) or regular classroom instruction (control group); at the end of the evaluation, control group students also received the intervention.

From pre- to posttest:

  • In cohort 1, intervention group students had an improvement in stress management scores compared with control group students, who had a decline (change in mean score, 0.42 vs. -0.16; p < .001).
  • In cohort 2, intervention group students had an improvement in stress management scores compared with control group students, who had a decline (change in mean score, 0.54 vs. -0.15; p < .001).
  • In cohort 3, no statistically significant difference in stress management scores was found between the intervention and control groups.
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.3 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 3: Anger management
Description of Measures Anger management was assessed by a 5-item self-report measure. Prevention specialists administered the instrument to students at the beginning of the school year (pretest) and immediately following the 12-week intervention (posttest). Using a 4-point Likert scale, students responded to each item (e.g., "How confident are you that you can learn to stay out of fights?" and "How confident are you that you can calm down when you are mad?"). Higher scores on the measure indicate better anger management.
Key Findings Three successive cohorts of students in 5th-grade classrooms in 12 schools in western New York State received Building Skills (intervention group) or regular classroom instruction (control group); at the end of the evaluation, control group students also received the intervention.

From pre- to posttest:

  • In cohort 1, intervention group students had an improvement in anger management scores compared with control group students, who had a decline (change in mean score, 0.54 vs. -0.28; p < .001).
  • In cohort 2, no statistically significant difference in anger management scores was found between the intervention and control groups.
  • In cohort 3, intervention group students had an improvement in anger management scores compared with control group students, who had a decline (change in mean score, 0.05 vs. -0.52; p = .011).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.2 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 4: Cooperation
Description of Measures Cooperation was assessed by a 6-item self-report measure. Prevention specialists administered the instrument to students at the beginning of the school year (pretest) and immediately following the 12-week intervention (posttest). Using a 4-point Likert scale, students responded to each item (e.g., "I like to help around the house" and "Being part of a team is fun"). Higher scores on the measure indicate greater cooperation.
Key Findings Three successive cohorts of students in 5th-grade classrooms in 12 schools in western New York State received Building Skills (intervention group) or regular classroom instruction (control group); at the end of the evaluation, control group students also received the intervention.

From pre- to posttest:

  • In cohort 1, students in both study conditions had a decline in cooperation scores (change in mean score, -0.08 vs. -0.42); however, the decline for intervention group students was significantly less than that for control group students (p = .031).
  • In cohorts 2 and 3, no statistically significant differences in cooperation scores were found between the intervention and control groups.
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.1 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 5: Decisionmaking
Description of Measures Decisionmaking was assessed by a 4-item self-report measure. Prevention specialists administered the instrument to students at the beginning of the school year (pretest) and immediately following the 12-week intervention (posttest). Using a 4-point Likert scale, students responded to each item (e.g., "How often do you stop to think about your options before you make decisions?" and "I make good decisions"). Higher scores on the measure indicate better decisionmaking.
Key Findings Three successive cohorts of students in 5th-grade classrooms in 12 schools in western New York State received Building Skills (intervention group) or regular classroom instruction (control group); at the end of the evaluation, control group students also received the intervention.

From pre- to posttest:

  • In cohorts 1 and 3, no statistically significant differences in decisionmaking scores were found between the intervention and control groups.
  • In cohort 2, intervention group students had an improvement in decisionmaking scores compared with control group students, who had a decline (change in mean score, 0.14 vs. -0.18; p = .035).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.3 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 6: Assertiveness
Description of Measures Assertiveness was assessed by a 9-item self-report measure. Prevention specialists administered the instrument to students at the beginning of the school year (pretest) and immediately following the 12-week intervention (posttest). Using a 5-point Likert scale, students responded to each item (e.g., "How likely are you to tell someone your opinion, even if you knew they would not agree with you?" and "How likely are you to tell someone to go to the end of the line if they cut in line ahead of you?"). Higher scores on the measure indicate greater assertiveness.
Key Findings Three successive cohorts of students in 5th-grade classrooms in 12 schools in western New York State received Building Skills (intervention group) or regular classroom instruction (control group); at the end of the evaluation, control group students also received the intervention.

From pre- to posttest:

  • In cohorts 1 and 2, no statistically significant differences in assertiveness scores were found between the intervention and control groups.
  • In cohort 3, intervention group students had an improvement in assertiveness scores compared with control group students, who had a decline (change in mean score, 0.25 vs. -0.75; p = .007).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.2 (0.0-4.0 scale)

Study Populations

The following populations were identified in the studies reviewed for Quality of Research.

Study Age Gender Race/Ethnicity
Study 1 6-12 (Childhood) 50.2% Female
49.6% Male
60.8% White
18.1% Black or African American
14% Race/ethnicity unspecified
7.2% Hispanic or Latino

Quality of Research Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the Quality of Research for an intervention's reported results using six criteria:

  1. Reliability of measures
  2. Validity of measures
  3. Intervention fidelity
  4. Missing data and attrition
  5. Potential confounding variables
  6. Appropriateness of analysis

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Quality of Research.

Outcome Reliability
of Measures
Validity
of Measures
Fidelity Missing
Data/Attrition
Confounding
Variables
Data
Analysis
Overall
Rating
1: Goal setting 4.0 3.8 3.5 2.8 2.5 3.3 3.3
2: Stress management 4.0 3.5 3.5 2.8 2.5 3.3 3.3
3: Anger management 3.5 3.5 3.5 2.8 2.5 3.3 3.2
4: Cooperation 3.5 3.3 3.5 2.8 2.5 3.3 3.1
5: Decisionmaking 4.0 3.8 3.5 2.8 2.5 3.3 3.3
6: Assertiveness 4.0 3.3 3.5 2.8 2.5 3.3 3.2

Study Strengths

The outcome measures used in the study generally have acceptable levels of reliability and face validity. Most of the measures have good criterion validity and are correlated with other measures. Considerable attention was given to ensuring implementation fidelity. The curriculum was presented by full-time prevention specialists who received extensive training in the curriculum and used a teacher's manual that contained detailed instructions on structuring the lessons, as well as scripts to be read during each session. In addition, fidelity tracking sheets were completed for each session, and as measured by yearly samples of these sheets, more than 90% of the program information was covered. Analyses were conducted to assess differences between students lost to attrition and students for whom pre- and posttest measures could be matched. Listwise deletion was used to eliminate unmatched scores from the analysis, and an imputation procedure was conducted for missing data for scale items. Data analyses using mixed-model analyses of variance were appropriate. Sample sizes were more than adequate.

Study Weaknesses

Researchers provide limited description of the control or intervention schools beyond identifying schools as urban or suburban and noting the race/ethnicity percentages of students. There is no discussion of how many urban and suburban schools were in the control or intervention condition. School setting (urban vs. suburban), ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (e.g., via free or reduced-price lunch status) were not considered as covariates in the data analysis. The methods used to eliminate unmatched surveys and to handle missing data for scale items did not model missing data, observations, or participants.

Readiness for Dissemination
Review Date: November 2010

Materials Reviewed

The materials below were reviewed for Readiness for Dissemination. The implementation point of contact can provide information regarding implementation of the intervention and the availability of additional, updated, or new materials.

New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Bureau of Prevention. (2007). 2007 youth risk and protective factor chart. Albany, NY: Author.

Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Inc. (2006). Building Skills grade 5 teacher's manual. Buffalo, NY: Author.

Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Inc. (n.d.). Administration instructions for 5th grade Building Skills survey. Buffalo, NY: Author.

Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Inc. (n.d.). Building Skills classroom sheet. Buffalo, NY: Author.

Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Inc. (n.d.). Building Skills grade 5 implementation training outline. Buffalo, NY: Author.

Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Inc. (n.d.). Building Skills grade 5 student handbook. Buffalo, NY: Author.

Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Inc. (n.d.). Building Skills survey 2008-2009 grade 5. Buffalo, NY: Author.

Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Inc. (n.d.). Fidelity instrument for 5th grade Building Skills program. Buffalo, NY: Author.

Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Inc. (n.d.). 40 developmental assets chart. Buffalo, NY: Author.

Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Inc. (n.d.). Personal treasure hunt. Buffalo, NY: Author.

Readiness for Dissemination Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the intervention's Readiness for Dissemination using three criteria:

  1. Availability of implementation materials
  2. Availability of training and support resources
  3. Availability of quality assurance procedures

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Readiness for Dissemination.

Implementation
Materials
Training and Support
Resources
Quality Assurance
Procedures
Overall
Rating
3.5 2.8 4.0 3.4

Dissemination Strengths

The teacher's manual directly aligns with the student handbook and is detailed and easy to follow. The manual includes guidance for each lesson, the sequencing and timing of lessons, and the leading of discussions. The manual also includes thorough information on the student activities associated with each lesson to reinforce learning. Training and developer support are available to facilitate implementation at new sites. A lesson-specific fidelity instrument and a simple, but comprehensive, student survey are available to support quality assurance, along with clear guidance for using these tools and interpreting results.

Dissemination Weaknesses

The brief lesson scripts for some topics, such as addiction, various drugs, and dealing with stress, are overly simplistic. It is unclear how implementers learn about training opportunities. Trainings are offered twice a year at the developer's site only, which may limit accessibility to new sites. No supplemental materials or resources are identified to help build the knowledge of implementers who do not have extensive experience in substance abuse prevention and other topics being covered.

Costs

The cost information below was provided by the developer. Although this cost information may have been updated by the developer since the time of review, it may not reflect the current costs or availability of items (including newly developed or discontinued items). The implementation point of contact can provide current information and discuss implementation requirements.

Item Description Cost Required by Developer
Implementation kit (includes 1 teacher's manual, 25 student handbooks, 50 student surveys, 1 survey administration instruction sheet, and 1 fidelity instrument) $100 per kit Yes
Additional teacher's manuals $70 each No
Handbook kit (includes 25 student handbooks, 50 student surveys, 1 survey administration instruction sheet, and 1 fidelity instrument) $30 per kit No
1-day training in Buffalo, NY, held biannually (in the spring and fall) $275 per participant No
Phone and email implementation support Free No
Replications

No replications were identified by the developer.

Contact Information

To learn more about implementation or research, contact:
Timothy Smykowski
(716) 821-7722 ext 311
tsmykows@wnyunited.org

Consider these Questions to Ask (PDF, 54KB) as you explore the possible use of this intervention.

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