Issue No. 18


Welcome to the Blueprints Bulletin



Leadership Letter: 

We are excited to share with you an important milestone Blueprints recently reached. But first, a quick summary of our history will help frame the discussion.
 
Blueprints History

The Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development mission is to provide a comprehensive registry of scientifically proven and scalable interventions that prevent or reduce the likelihood of antisocial behavior and promote a healthy course of youth development and adult maturity. Those interventions are rated as either Promising or Model/Model Plus.
 
Originally started as Blueprints for Violence Prevention, Blueprints was one of the earliest efforts to establish a clear scientific standard for evaluating the evidence of an intervention’s effectiveness, implementing a rigorous expert review process and certifying those interventions that met this standard. Launched in 1996 by internationally renowned researcher Dr. Delbert S. Elliott (who also founded the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence in 1992), the early years of Blueprints focused on identifying programs that were effective in addressing violence and drug use outcomes. Since its inception, Blueprints has expanded its scope to include mental and physical health, self-regulation, educational achievement, and other positive developmental outcomes.

Celebrating an Important Milestone: 100 Certified Interventions!

In August 2021, Blueprints reached an important milestone by certifying its 100th intervention!
 
Of these, 18 are rated Model/Model Plus and 82 are Promising.
 
The Blueprints website provides an interactive search feature to identify Blueprints-certified interventions based on specific criteria that allows users to browse through a wide range of interventions that match those criteria.
 
Model and Model Plus interventions are listed separately from Promising interventions.
 
This is because Model and Model Plus interventions have demonstrated efficacy for changing outcomes over time and are recommended by Blueprints for large-scale implementation.
 
Promising interventions show promise of efficacy but require follow-up research before being recommended for large-scale adoption.
 

How does an Intervention receive a Rating of Model or Model Plus?

The Blueprints registry standard for a Model rating requires: 

  1. A theoretical rationale/logic model
  2. One or more high quality randomized control trials
  3. An experimental replication
  4. Sustainability of effects for at least one-year post intervention
  5. No evidence of negative or harmful effects
  6. The organizational capacity to provide materials, training, and information for new users to adopt and implement the model intervention with fidelity

Blueprints also has a Model Plus rating, which requires at least one trial by an evaluation team independent of the program developer and his or her colleagues. In sum, the logic is that to consider any program as ready to be relied on in practice or for scaling up, there should be a clearly specified theoretical rationale, reliable evidence of positive, sustained impact based on a sound experimental research design, and at least one replication of positive findings.
 
A high-quality quasi-experimental design (QED) can meet Blueprints standards, but to earn a Model or Model Plus rating, effective interventions must have demonstrated positive effects in at least one high-quality RCT.
 
The Blueprints website provides more information about our standards and review process.

Testing Promising Interventions for Scale-up
 
While most certified interventions listed on the Blueprints website are rated Promising (82 out of 100), several are currently being tested for replication.
 
Under the Research Grants Focused on Systematic Replication (84.305R) competition, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), which is the research arm of the US Department of Education, will support systematic replication studies of interventions that have produced beneficial effects on education outcomes in one or more rigorous causal-impact studies. We are aware of two replications of Blueprints Promising programs that IES is currently funding:

  • Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI, formerly called Targeted Reading Intervention) is a teacher professional development program designed to help classroom teachers acquire key diagnostic reading instruction strategies differentiated to meet the exact needs of individual students who are struggling with early reading. Blueprints certified the program based on an RCT conducted by Amendum et al. (2011). Dr. Robin Wisniewski from RTI International received a 5-year grant (07/01/2021 – 06/30/2026) that will follow first grade students and teachers for an additional 2 years beyond the intervention to test TRI’s long-term impacts on reading achievement.
  • Whole Number Foundations Level K (Roots) is a 50-session small group mathematics intervention delivered as a pull-out program during the regular school day. The aim is to help strengthen whole number concepts and operations skills in students at risk for developing long-term mathematics difficulties. Blueprints certified the intervention based on an RCT conducted by Clarke et al. (2016). Dr. Ben Clarke from the University of Oregon received a 5-year grant (07/01/2020 – 06/30/2025) to conduct a replication study of ROOTS for students at risk for mathematics learning disabilities across school types and student populations intentionally selected to differ from previous efficacy studies.

Arnold Ventures, a philanthropy dedicated to tackling some of the most pressing problems in the United States, has provided support for RCTs of programs across the spectrum of social policy whose prior evidence shows potential for sizable effects on education, earnings, crime, and other important outcomes. Not only has Arnold Ventures provided support for the Blueprints registry, but it has also supported replications of several interventions rated as Promising on Blueprints:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) is a community mentoring program that matches a volunteer adult mentor to an at-risk child or adolescent to delay or reduce antisocial behaviors and improve academic success. The program was certified based on an RCT conducted by Grossman & Tierney (1998). Dr. David DuBois from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Dr. Carla Herrera (an independent consultant) are conducting a multi-site RCT with a sample of 20 BBBSA agencies nationwide (the grant term runs from 2016-2024).
  • Career Academies, which are school-based programs designed to provide students with the credentials and skills needed to make successful transitions to post-secondary education and careers, was certified by Blueprints based on a multi-site RCT conducted in a diverse set of urban and small-city high schools in California, Texas, and several cities on the east coast (Kemple & Snipes, 2000; Kemple, 2004; Kemple & Wilner, 2008). MDRC is conducting a replication of Career Academies in California high schools. The term of the grant is from 2017-2032.
  • Child First, a two-generation home visitation program which works to heal and protect young children and their families from the devastating effects of chronic stress and trauma, was certified based on an RCT conducted by Lowell et al. (2011). With support from Arnold Ventures and The Duke Endowment, MDRC is leading an experimental study that aims to replicate the findings from the earlier study in multiple locations across Connecticut and North Carolina.
  • EAAA (Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act) Sexual Assault Resistance Education is a four-unit program to help first-year college women resist acquaintance sexual assault by providing them with information and resistance training. The intervention was certified based on an RCT conducted at three universities in Canada by Senn et al. (2015). Dr. Koss from the University of Arizona is leading a multi-site RCT that includes a one-year follow-up across five U.S. universities.
  • Rochester Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (R-FACT) is an outpatient treatment program to reduce recidivism and promote recovery among justice-involved adults with a serious mental illness that was certified based on an RCT conducted in New York by Lamberti et al. (2017). The University of Rochester is conducting an RCT to evaluate the R-FACT model in Minnesota. The grant runs from 2018 to 2025.
  • Year Up is a training and internship program that helps young people with limited post-secondary education get high-quality jobs by learning to work with technology, developing employment skills, and obtaining internships. The program was certified based on an RCT conducted by Fein & Hamadyk (2018) in eight sites across the US. Dr. David Fein of Abt Associates is leading long-term follow-ups to two RCTs of adaptations of the Year Up model, and the grant runs from 2019-2022.

Nominate an Intervention
 
If you are aware of an intervention Blueprints has rated as Promising that is being replicated and you would like us to review the study, please send all evaluation articles/papers to: blueprints@colorado.edu.
 
And if you are a funding agency awarding grants to replicate intervention programs designed to promote healthy youth development, please contact us as well. We would be interested in profiling your work and any interventions from the Blueprints registry you are funding to replicate.
 
More information on nominating an intervention for Blueprints review can be found on our website by clicking here.
 
As always, thank you for your continued interest in and support of Blueprints.

Sincerely,


Pamela Buckley, PhD
Principal Investigator
Institute of Behavioral Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Pamela.Buckley@Colorado.edu


Karl G. Hill, PhD
Co-Principal Investigator
Chair of the Blueprints Board
Institute of Behavioral Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Karl.Hill@Colorado.edu

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development is hosted by the University of Colorado Boulder, Institute of Behavioral Science, with current support from Arnold Ventures and former funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Each intervention included in the Blueprints database has been reviewed carefully by an independent advisory panel that looked at research on the intervention’s impact, practical focus and potential for implementation in public systems.

RCTs Headed by Blueprints Staff (with support from Arnold Ventures):  

  • RCT evaluation of LifeSkills Training to prevent substance abuse in high school students. This project, headed by Drs. Karl Hill and Christine Steeger, will evaluate whether the Botvin LifeSkills Training (LST) Middle School Program – a Blueprints Model Plus program that has been shown in rigorous evaluations to substantially reduce youth substance use – can produce similar impacts when provided directly to high school students in a more abbreviated and potentially more scalable format. Blueprints PI Dr. Pamela Buckley is also consulting on the project. Click here to read more about the study.
  • RCT evaluation of Functional Family Therapy-Gangs (FFT-G). This study, headed by Dr. David Pyrooz (Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder) and Blueprints PI Dr. Pamela Buckley, is an RCT of Functional Family Therapy–Gangs (FFT–G), a therapeutic intervention for justice-involved youth and their families. A previous, well-conducted RCT of FFT-G (i.e., certified by Blueprints) with a sample of 129 juveniles on probation and at risk of gang involvement in Philadelphia found that FFT–G led to statistically significant reductions in the percent of youth with drug charges and the percent of youth adjudicated for any offense during the 18-month period following random assignment (Gottfredson et al., 2018). Under this current project, the researchers will replicate FFT–G in two judicial districts in the Denver, CO area with a sample of 400 juveniles on probation determined to be gang-embedded. Click here to read more about the study. 

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University of Colorado Boulder | Institute of Behavioral Science
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