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Blueprints Programs = Positive Youth Development

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Model Program Seal

Positive Action

Blueprints Program Rating: Model

A school-based social emotional learning program for students in elementary and middle schools to increase positive behavior, reduce negative behavior, and improve social and emotional learning and school climate.

Program Outcomes

  • Academic Performance
  • Alcohol
  • Anxiety
  • Bullying
  • Delinquency and Criminal Behavior
  • Depression
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Illicit Drug Use
  • Positive Social/Prosocial Behavior
  • Sexual Risk Behaviors
  • Tobacco
  • Truancy - School Attendance
  • Violence

Program Type

  • Alcohol Prevention and Treatment
  • Drug Prevention/Treatment
  • School - Environmental Strategies
  • School - Individual Strategies
  • Skills Training
  • Social Emotional Learning

Program Setting

  • School

Continuum of Intervention

  • Universal Prevention (Entire Population)


  • Late Childhood (5-11) - K/Elementary
  • Early Adolescence (12-14) - Middle School


  • Male and Female


  • All Race/Ethnicity


  • Blueprints: Model
  • Crime Solutions: Effective
  • OJJDP Model Programs: Effective
  • SAMHSA: 2.2-2.8
  • What Works Clearinghouse: Meets Standards Without Reservations - Positive Effect

Program Information Contact

Carol Gerber Allred
264 4th Avenue
Twin Falls, Idaho 83303-2347
(800) 345-2974

Program Developer/Owner

  • Carol Allred

Brief Description of the Program

Positive Action (PA) is a school-based program that includes school-wide climate change and a detailed curriculum with lessons 2-4 times a week—approximately 140 15-minute lessons per grade K-6 and 82 15-20 minute lessons per grade 7 and 8. Lessons for each grade level are scripted and age-appropriate. All materials necessary to teach the lesson are provided including posters, puppets, music, games, and other hands–on materials integrated into the lessons. Students’ materials include activity booklets, journals and other lesson aids. The content of the program is included in six units that form the foundation for the whole program. The first unit teaches the philosophy of the program and the Thoughts-Actions-Feelings about Self Circle, and provides an introduction to the nature and relevancy of positive and negative actions/behaviors. Units 2-6 teach the positive actions for the physical, intellectual, social and emotional areas. There are two school-wide climate development kits (elementary and secondary) and a Counselor’s Kit. The contents delivered through the climate development and counselor kits reinforce the classroom curriculum by coordinating the efforts of the entire school in the practice and reinforcement of positive actions.

See: Full Description


Results of the randomized study in Hawaii revealed:

  • After three program years, there were school-wide reductions in grade retention, suspensions and absenteeism and school-wide improvements in reading and math proficiency and teacher- and student-reported school supportiveness for program schools, relative to control schools. These results were maintained through the one-year post implementation follow-up.
  • Significant improvements were found among Positive Action schools in school quality one-year post-trial, compared to control schools.
  • Fifth grade program youth were significantly less likely than controls to have engaged in self-reported substance use, violence, and sexual activity.

Results of the randomized study in Chicago revealed that, compared to the control condition, the students and schools in the intervention condition showed significantly

  • higher socio-emotional and character development at grades 5 and 8
  • lower self-reported substance use at grades 5 and 8
  • lower self-reported violence at grades 5 and 8, lower parent-reported bullying at grade 8, and lower self-reported bullying at grades 5 and 8
  • higher life satisfaction at grade 8
  • lower depression and anxiety at grade 8
  • lower unhealthy food consumption at grade 8
  • lower school-level disciplinary referrals and suspensions at grade 8
  • better reading test scores at grade 8.
  • higher school and peer self-esteem at grade 8

Compared to the control group in an independent evaluation (Guo et al., 2015), students in the intervention condition showed:

  • Improvements in self-esteem and school hassles scores
  • Possible iatrogenic effect on internalizing symptoms

Significant Program Effects on Risk and Protective Factors:

Intervention students, compared to controls, had

  • lower disaffection with learning and higher teacher-rated academic motivation at grade 8 (Chicago Study)
  • lower normative support for aggression at grade 8 (Chicago Study)
  • better social interaction skills, evidenced by higher scores on the Social Emotional and Character Development Scale (Chicago and Hawaii Studies)
  • higher self-esteem (Guo et al., 2015)

Compared to matched control youth in Smokowski et al. (2016), the intervention group reported significantly higher self-esteem but only for those receiving 3 years of the intervention and a high number of PA lessons.

Race/Ethnicity/Gender Details

There is some evidence in the Hawaii data that this program is more effective for boys than girls, but only in reducing violent behaviors and sexual activity at 5th grade, behaviors that girls of this age engage in very rarely. In the earlier waves of the Chicago study, tests for gender- or race-specific effects were not reported. By Wave 8 (eighth grade), tests for gender differences were reported, with results showing less of a decline in social-emotional and character development over time for boys compared to girls. The Chicago study was conducted in high-risk, urban schools with a large minority sample. Results replicated findings from the Hawaii trial, which was conducted in a mix of urban, suburban, rural and remote island schools.

Risk and Protective Factors

Risk Factors
  • Individual: Antisocial/aggressive behavior, Bullies others, Early initiation of antisocial behavior, Early initiation of drug use, Favorable attitudes towards antisocial behavior*, Favorable attitudes towards drug use, Physical violence, Rebelliousness, Substance use, Victim of bullying
  • Peer: Interaction with antisocial peers, Peer substance use
  • School: Low school commitment and attachment, Poor academic performance, Repeated a grade
Protective Factors
  • Individual: Academic self-efficacy*, Clear standards for behavior, Exercise, Perceived risk of drug use, Problem solving skills, Prosocial behavior, Prosocial involvement, Refusal skills, Rewards for prosocial involvement, Skills for social interaction*
  • Peer: Interaction with prosocial peers
  • Family: Attachment to parents, Opportunities for prosocial involvement with parents, Rewards for prosocial involvement with parents
  • School: Opportunities for prosocial involvement in education, Rewards for prosocial involvement in school

*Risk/Protective Factor was significantly impacted by the program.

See also: Positive Action Logic Model (PDF)

Training and Technical Assistance


Orientation Implementation Training – Instructs participants on how to begin and implement the program by explaining the three basic elements of the Positive Action program: the content which is the philosophy, the Thoughts-Actions-Feelings about Self Circle and the positive actions for the whole self which are described in Six Units, the tools: Pre K-12 curriculum with supplements for bullying, drug and violence prevention, climate development, family/parent and community programs, and the climate results from delivering the content through the tools. It will also cover the outcomes and the studies which produced them. It is interactive with group presentations.

Description, Costs, Number of Participants and Length of trainings:

Note: Although several training options are mentioned below, it should be noted that in all evaluations certifying for Blueprints that face-to-face training was delivered.

  • On-Site/ Face-to-FaceHosted at Trainee’s or Positive Action’s site: $3,000 per day plus travel expenses (includes trainer’(s)’ travel time); up to 50 participants. Depending on the intervention (selected parts of the program) — 1/2 to 5 days, typically 1-2 days.
  • Online/WebinarHosted by Positive Action with Internet video and phone: $250 per hour; up to 30 participants. Depending on the intervention (selected parts of the program)—1 to 5 hrs, typically 3 hrs.
  • Self-Training Orientation Workshop Kitsone self-training kit per school/site—Elementary (Pre K–6), Middle School (6–8) and High School (9–12): $550 each; Pre K-12 Comprehensive Training Kit: $1500.
  • Train the TrainerCosts are the same as On-site/Face-to-Face training and the Online/Webinar training plus the costs of the appropriate Elementary, Middle School, High School or Comprehensive Self-Training Orientation Workshop Kit(s); up to 25 participants. Depending on intervention (parts of program) selected—1/2 to 1 day extra.


Ongoing In-service Training –Instructs participants on how to deliver seven short sessions in an in-service setting spread throughout the year that are designed to be presented by seven different faculty groups to continue to reinforce the Orientation Training that begins the program. It develops experts in key areas of the program and prepares them to become coaches when needed.

Media Training Teaches the process of gathering and circulating news in broadcast, print and social media to promote their activities through positive publicity for their program.

Costs: same as the Orientation options plus the cost of a Self-Training Ongoing In-Service Workshop Kit ($300) and a Media Training Workshop Kit ($200) per school; up to 50 participants; 1-2 days.


Option 1 Develops administrators, faculty and other personnel through the Positive Action program content for themselves professionally and personally.

Option 2 Prepares participants to improve specific segments of their educational program, i.e., classroom management, school-wide climate development, intrinsic motivation, encouraging parent and community involvement and how to integrate into RTI or PBIS using Positive Action tools.

Costs: same as the Orientation options plus the cost of the grade-level appropriate Self-Training Orientation Kit(s) ($550-$1500), Ongoing In-Service ($300) and Media Training ($200) Workshop Kits per school.

Brief Evaluation Methodology

Two primary evaluations utilize clustered, randomized designs in which schools were matched and then randomized to a treatment or control condition. The first was conducted in Hawaii and the second was conducted in Chicago, Illinois. Both studies matched schools into pairs after screening them for eligibility. Matching criteria were similar across both studies, considering variables such as demographics, school size, mobility of students, ethnicity, student/teacher ratios, student characteristics such as special education and gifted status, disciplinary referrals, suspension rates, and standardized achievement scores. Schools in each pair were then randomly assigned to either the treatment or control condition. There were 10 matched pairs in Hawaii and 7 in Chicago. In the Hawaiian study, students in the first and second grade (two distinct cohorts) in the year prior to program implementation (2001-02) were followed through the end of the fifth and sixth grades (spring 2006). Program implementation began in the fall of 2002. In the Chicago study, students in 3rd grade during the 2004-2005 school year were followed through the spring of 2010 (end of grade 8). Analysis did not include students who moved out of study schools, but did include new, incoming students for each of the program years.

Other studies used retrospective school-level archival data to employ a matched-control research design. A recent test of the preschool program randomly assigned students to classrooms in three Virginia preschools.

In a study conducted in North Carolina (Guo et al., 2015), two rural, economically disadvantaged counties participated; all middle schools in the intervention county received the intervention for three years, and the schools in the other did not. Sample size ranged across waves from 3715 to 5894, but the matched samples used in the analysis ranged from 1246 to 1968. Primary outcome measures included self-esteem, school hassles, aggression, and internalizing symptoms. Drawing from the same data set, Smokowski et al. (2016) investigated whether the amount of exposure to the PA program (i.e., number of years participating in PA and number of PA lessons) was associated with adolescent functioning, including internalizing symptoms, aggression, school hassles and self-esteem. A quasi-experimental design was used in which 5,894 students who received different doses of PA were matched with students who received no PA. Stalker et al. (2018) added mediation analyses with an additional wave of data. The total sample size was 8,333.

Peer Implementation Sites

Southbridge Public Schools
25 Cole Ave
Southbridge, MA 0155
Contact: Nikki Murphy, SEL Director


Bavarian, N., Lewis, K. M., Acock, A., DuBois, D. L., Zi, Y., Vuchinich, S., ... Flay, B. R. (2016). Direct and mediated effects of a social-emotional learning and health promotion program on adolescent health outcomes: A matched-pair, cluster-randomized controlled trial. Journal of Primary Prevention, 37, 87-105.

Bavarian, N., Lewis, K. M., DuBois, D. L., Acock, A., Vuchinich, S., Silverthorn, N., ... Flay, B. R. (2013). Using social-emotional and character development to improve academic outcomes: A matched-pair, cluster-randomized controlled trial in low-income, urban schools. Journal of School Health, 83(11), 771-779.

Beets, M. W., Flay, B. R., Vuchinich, S., Snyder, F., Acock, A., Burns, K., ... Durlak, J. (2009). Use of a social and character development program to prevent substance use, violent behaviors, and sexual activity among elementary-school students in Hawaii. American Journal of Public Health, 99(8), 1-8.

Flay, B. R. (2012). Randomized evaluation of the Positive Action pre-K program. Unpublished.

Flay, B. R. & Allred, C. G. (2003). Long-term effects of the Positive Action program. American Journal of Health Behavior, 27(Supplement 1), 6-21.

Flay, B. R., Allred, C. G., & Ordway, N. (2001). Effects of the Positive Action program on achievement and discipline: Two matched-control comparisons. Prevention Science 2(2), 71-89.

Guo, S., Wu, Q., Smokowski, P. R., Bacallao, M., Evans, C. B. R., & Cotter, K. L. (2015). A longitudinal evaluation of the Positive Action program in a low-income, racially diverse, rural county: Effects on self-esteem, school hassles, aggression, and internalizing symptoms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44, 2337-2358.

Lewis, K. M., Bavarian, N., Snyder, F. J., Acock, A., Day, J., DuBois, D. L., ... Flay, B. R. (2012). Direct and mediated effects of a social-emotional and character development program on adolescent substance use. The International Journal of Emotional Education, 4(1), 56-78.

Lewis, K. M., DuBois, D. L., Bavarian, N., Acock, A., Silverthorn, N., Day, J., ... Flay, B. R. (2013). Effects of Positive Action on the emotional health of urban youth: A cluster-randomized trial. Journal of Adoleslcent Health, 53, 706-711.

Lewis, K. M., Schure, M. B., Bavarian, N., DuBois, D. L., Day, J., Ji, P., ... Flay, B. R. (2013). Problem behavior and urban, low-income youth: A randomized controlled trial of Positive Action in Chicago. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(6), 622-630.

Li, K. K., Washburn, I., DuBois, D. L., Vuchinich, S., Ji, P., Brechling, V., ... Flay, B. R. (2011). Effects of the Positive Action program on problem behaviors in elementary school students: A matched-pair randomized control trial in Chicago. Psychology & Health, 26, 187-204.

Smokowski, P. R., Guo, S., Wu, Q., Evans, C. B. R., Cotter, K. L., & Bacallao, M. (2016). Evaluating dosage effects for the Positive Action program: How implementation impacts internalizing symptoms, aggression, school hassles, and self-esteem. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Advance online publication,

Snyder, F., Vuchinich, S., Acock, A., Washburn, I., Beets, M., & Kin-Kit, L. (2010). Impact of the Positive Action program on school-level indicators of academic achievement, absenteeism, and disciplinary outcomes: A matched-pair, cluster randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 3(1), 26-55.

Snyder, F. J., Vuchinich, S., Acock, A., Washburn, I. J., & Flay, B. R. (2012). Improving elementary school quality through the use of a social-emotional and character development program: A matched-pair, cluster-randomized control trial in Hawai'i. Journal of School Health, 82, 11-20.

Washburn, I. J., Acock, A., Vuchinich, S., Snyder, F., Li, K. K., Ji, P., ... Flay, B. R. (2011). Effects of a social-emotional and character development program on the trajectory of behaviors associated with social-emotional and character development: Findings from three randomized trials. Prevention Science, 12(3), 314-323.