What Works In Schools: Research and Results

CDC’s What Works In Schools is a three-strategy school-based program originally designed to prevent behaviors and experiences that put adolescents at risk for HIV, STI, and unintended pregnancy.

The three strategies are:

What Works In School icon

CDC’s School-Based Program

A recent CDC-authored publication in the Journal of Adolescent Healthexternal icon reported positive outcomes for students who attended schools that implemented the program. From 2013 to 2018, 16 school districts received CDC funding, guidance, technical assistance, professional development, and ability to hire a district-level coordinator to implement the three strategies. Non-governmental organizations were also funded to provide additional support to local school districts.

Funding for a staff person and activities
Schools who implemented CDC’s What Works In Schools saw improved outcomes in student sexual risk, substance misuse, suicide, and experiencing violence.
Findings from an evaluation of this approach showed that schools that implemented the What Works In Schools program model saw significant benefits in six outcome areas:
  • Sexual history (have they ever had sex)
  • Sexual partners (had 4 or more lifetime sexual partners)
  • Sexual activity (they had sex in the last 3 months)
  • School safety (have they missed school because of concerns for their safety)
  • Rape (have they ever been forced to have sex)
  • Drug use (ever used or current use marijuana)

The influence of the What Works In Schools program extended beyond the students who participated, as improved outcomes were seen for all students at schools where the program was implemented.

The beneficial effect of the What Works In Schools program also extended beyond HIV, STD, and pregnancy prevention. Students saw reductions in multiple risk behaviors and experiences, including violence and drug (marijuana) use.

Although the schools in the study received CDC funding and technical support, any district or school could implement the What Works In Schools strategies. For more information on What Works In Schools, check the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health website.

To read the full study, click hereexternal icon.

San Diego Unified School District created safer and more supportive school environments.

teen group

The district developed an online form for students to confidentially report bullying and harassment, and strengthened practices to address reported bullying.

Before the form was available, 79 instances of bullying and harassment were reported between July 2013 and June 2015, and only 50% of schools had specific practices in place to prevent bullying and harassment.

After the form, 77% of schools implemented practices to address bullying. By May 2019, 7,468 instances of bullying were reported.

For more information on San Diego’s program, click here.