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A Randomized Controlled Trial of Safe School Ambassadors in High Risk Schools in Puerto Rico

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
San Francisco
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $4,744,947)

Statement of the problem: The proposed study investigates the impacts of the Safe School Ambassadors Program (SSA) on school safety and social competencies (conflict resolution, empathy). Students exposed to high levels of aggressive behavior and violence at school are more likely to disengage from school and experience clinical levels of mental and emotional disorders than students who experience either no or low levels of violence at schools. The SSA is a school-level intervention, designed to impact student behavior by enhancing school climate through the training of influential peers (Ambassadors). SSA trains 40 students per year in each school to be Ambassadors to identify bullying and other mistreatment and to safely intervene. They are suppo11ed by adult mentors who facilitate family groups to provide feedback and troubleshoot difficult cases. A rigorous evaluation is needed to understand SSA's impact on school safety and personal and social competencies. The study will be conducted in 48 high-risk intermediate and high schools (24 each) in seven educational territories of Pue110 Rico. Schools are designated high risk due to violence, drop-out and other negative indicators. Approximately 20,000 grade 7-12 students will pai1icipate in the study. The student population is Hispanic and impoverished with over half living below the poverty level. To conduct the study, WestEd has pai1nered with the University of Puerto Rico, and the developer of SSA (the Community Matters group), the Pue110 Rico Depai1ment of Education, and the Braxton School of Pue11o Rico. The study utilizes a cluster randomized experimental design, whereby high-risk intermediate and high schools are randomly assigned to an experimental group and a wait-listed control group. Within intervention schools, a student-level random assignment study will be conducted to assess impacts ofpai1icipation in SSA. Separate studies are conducted to estimate impacts of SSA in middle schools and in high schools. Key student outcomes include measures of violence perpetration and victimization and social competencies. Self-report survey data will be collected prior to implementation and in the first two implementation years. The primary hypothesis-testing analyses will involve multilevel models to estimate impacts. Both school-wide impacts on all students and on socially influential students will be estimated, as well as impacts of SSA pai1icipation on student pai1icipants in intervention schools. Anticipated products include publications in journals and presentations targeting academic audiences, and dissemination to practitioners and policy makers through WestEd's national centers. Interim/final repo11s will be completed, and data will be archived for public dissemination. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 13, 2016