Enlisting Parents, Teachers and Students in Tobacco Control Advocacy
Between 1997 and 2001, the National Education Association Health Information Network, Washington, supported a pilot project—called Kids Act to Control Tobacco! (Kids ACT!)—to increase the number of youth and parent tobacco-control advocates in Connecticut and Maryland.
The project was a partnership of the National Education Association Health Information Network and and the Connecticut and Maryland Parent Teachers Associations.
Project staff collaborated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)-funded National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids and coalitions in Connecticut and Maryland of the RWJF-funded SmokeLess States® Program, which works on statewide strategies to reduce tobacco use through education, treatment, and policy initiatives.
- The project developed and field-tested a tobacco-control advocacy curriculum in middle schools, and an advocacy guide for parents to use in speaking with their children.
- Eighty-three teachers and 1,526 students in Maryland and 77 teachers and 1,160 students in Connecticut tested the curriculum. Feedback forms showed that 66 percent of the teachers agreed that they would teach the curriculum again; however, 53 percent reported that the activities took too much time.
- A process evaluation conducted by an independent consultant found that many students and teachers had a difficult time understanding the concept of advocacy.
Based on those findings and a literature search of youth advocacy, the project produced a revised curriculum that is based on a four-step advocacy model.
RWJF supported the project with a grant of $499,622 between October 1997 and January 2001.
More than one million children become regular smokers each year, and ultimately one-third will die prematurely from their addiction. Nearly all adult smokers begin smoking as children (average age 13). Despite these facts, only a modest number of parents, teachers, and youth have become interested in tobacco prevention and control issues. While most parents are opposed to youth tobacco use, relatively few have mobilized to work on youth access and other important issues that could reduce youth smoking. If teachers are to help students become antitobacco advocates, they need tools to assist them in this effort.
The primary goal of the project was to motivate and mobilize teachers, students (grades 6 through 8), and parents to become tobacco control advocates at the grass-roots level. Specifically, the grant supported a pilot project to increase the number of youth and parent tobacco-control advocates in Connecticut and Maryland through a partnership of the NEA HIN (which provides NEA members with information and training concerning health enhancing behaviors, reducing health risks, and promoting a safe and healthy environment) and the Connecticut and Maryland State PTAs.
The project has two major components: (1) the development of testing of a Teachers Guide and Family Guide, and (2) an outreach effort with local schools and PTAs to recruit teachers for the pilot program. A process evaluation of the project, conducted by Caroline Sparks, Ph.D., an independent consultant based in Washington, D.C., under a subcontract with NEA HIN, was designed to (1) assess teachers', students', and parents' reactions to the program; and (2) assess NEA HIN's ability to disseminate the program in two states.
An advisory committee helped guide the design and development of the Kids ACT! program (see the Appendix for a list of members). The project hired two coordinators, one in Maryland and one in Connecticut, who were responsible for marketing the program in their states, recruiting teachers for the pilot, and providing assistance to teachers who were participating in the pilot. The project distributed a brochure describing the program to about 7,500 teachers, parents, and other educators. The project also contacted more than 40 key health, education, and community-based organizations and state and local agencies in Maryland and Connecticut.
Two RWJF-funded national initiatives participated in the effort. The Center for Tobacco-Free Kids (which works to reduce tobacco use among youth) served in an advisory capacity by providing leadership, guidance, and expertise in the area of youth advocacy during the development and pilot test of the Kids ACT! curriculum and program. It also helped project staff promote the program to the tobacco control field. The Center and SmokeLess States® coalitions in Connecticut and Maryland were members of the advisory committee. They marketed the Kids ACT! program in their respective states to help the project recruit teachers for the pilot.
The NEA HIN supplemented the RWJF grant with $119,852 of its own funds. In addition, the NEA HIN received a $50,000 grant from the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids to cover the cost of printing the Teacher Guide and the Parent Advocacy Guide.
- Project staff developed two publications: Kids ACT! A Guide to Middle School Teachers, and What Families Can Do and Say to Help Prevent Tobacco Use: A Guide for Families of Middle School Students Using the Kids Act to Control Tobacco! Program. The teacher's guide includes a description of the curriculum and activities for grades 6 through 8. The activities are designed to foster interdisciplinary learning by addressing multiple learning outcomes in art, English language arts, health, math, science, social studies, and other classes. The goal was to maximize the use of the teacher's time and permit students to learn their regular subject curriculum at the same time the curriculum was also designed to meet National Subject Standards, which many schools follow. If the curriculum did not meet these standards, many schools would not have been able to use it. The family guide gives tips on how to talk to children about smoking, teachable moments, and points about the risks of tobacco.
- Project staff tested the curriculum with 83 teachers and 1,526 students in Maryland and 77 teachers and 1,160 students in Connecticut. Teachers from 36 schools in Maryland and 20 schools in Connecticut submitted a total of 110 feedback forms. As an example of an activity that teachers used in implementing the curriculum, a team of social studies teachers integrated some of the activities into an existing lesson designed to show how planting and selling tobacco helped Jamestown, Va., survive and prosper. Some 63 percent of the teachers agreed that they would teach the curriculum again; however, 53 percent reported that they only taught three of the four activities for their grade. As a result, the revised edition of the curriculum has three activities per grade instead of four. Some 85 percent of classroom teachers who returned feedback forms reported that they sent What Families Can Do home to parents via the students. Most parents did not return a feedback form at the back of that guide.
- The evaluator concluded that many students and teachers were having a difficult time understanding the concept of advocacy. Teachers and students needed a more completely developed advocacy model in order to understand the difference between becoming knowledgeable about the health effects of tobacco and becoming public advocates for a tobacco-free environment, the project concluded. To address this problem, the project team revised the Kids ACT! curriculum. The revised curriculum was based on a four-step advocacy model that drew from research and best practices in tobacco control. The curriculum includes a series of activities built on the following themes:
- Develop a conviction to act publicly. This step builds motivation to take public action.
- Prepare and plan to act. This step teaches students to develop an action plan and produce an advocacy product.
- Act publicly. This step teaches students to carry out their advocacy action.
- Evaluate one's action. This step engages students in assessing the success of their advocacy action.
The project originally planned to develop a marketing plan and a Kids ACT! Web site for national distribution of the revised curriculum. But RWJF requested that the project postpone national distribution until an outcome study of the curriculum was completed. In May 2001, RWJF funded the NEA HIN study and an evaluator at the George Washington University School of Health and Health Services to conduct a pilot study and an outcome evaluation of Kids Act! (ID# 038897; After the Grant for details).
Project staff disseminated information about Kids ACT! through articles in newsletters, approximately 25 presentations to local organizations in Maryland and Connecticut, 6 presentations at national conferences, the posting of information on Web sites, and verbal and written contacts with key gatekeepers who had access to teachers (see the Bibliography for details).
- It is important to help audiences distinguish between advocacy and prevention. Kids ACT! is an advocacy program, which was designed to build on existing tobacco prevention education being provided in the classroom setting. Some teachers thought that Kids ACT! competed with programs that focused on individual smoking behavior. In fact, Kids Act! teaches students to act for a tobacco-free environment at home, at school, and in the community.
- Each school district and state has differing standards for deciding or approving the use of instructional materials. In implementing a project such as this one, staff must be familiar with the different approaches of individual school districts and resist taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
- There are certain times during the school year when it is not a good idea to ask teachers to implement a new curriculum. The beginning and the end of the school year—as well as around holidays—are usually too busy to bring in a new curriculum. At the end of the school year, teachers are often occupied with preparing their students for national standardized tests.
- State PTAs did not prove to be a fruitful resource in recruiting teachers for the project. Some of this can be attributed to the nature of working with volunteer organizations. During the field test, there was a change in leadership within both the Connecticut and the Maryland PTAs. The most productive resource for recruiting teachers to participate in the project were the NEA state affiliates.
- In order to ensure that teachers implement a curriculum such as this one with fidelity, teacher training must be provided. Each teacher was given a Kids ACT! brochure during the recruitment phase that outlined his or her responsibility as a participant in the pilot test. Each teacher was offered a variety of ways to orient him- or herself to the curriculum, such as being given on-site training and technical assistance.
- Introducing a new curriculum to an already overcrowded instructional day was sometimes difficult. The limited amount of time a teacher has to focus on one topic, such as tobacco, presented a challenge. Emphasizing that Kids ACT! is matched to the National Subject Standards and can fulfill service learning requirements helped teachers see the benefits of the program.
AFTER THE GRANT
RWJF has funded a three-year outcome evaluation grant (ID# 038897) of the revised curriculum for middle school students. The evaluation is being conducted by researchers from George Washington University. The evaluation is a group randomized controlled study in middle schools. Schools within a school district will be randomly assigned to implement the Kids Act! curriculum or serve as comparison schools. Among the questions to be asked in this study are:
- Do children who participate in Kids ACT! increase their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about tobacco-free environments?
- Do children's motivation and effectiveness as tobacco control advocates improve if they participate in the program?
- Do participants act to influence their home, school, and community environments to eliminate tobacco use?
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Teacher, Youth, and Parent Tobacco Control Advocacy Program
The National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN) (Washington, DC)
Dates: October 1997 to January 2001
Jerald L. Newberry, M.Ed.
Kids Act to Control Tobacco! Advisory Committee
The Maryland SmokeLess State Program
The Connecticut Education Association
The American Federation of Teachers
National Parent Teachers Association Board Member
The National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids
The Maryland State Teachers Association
The National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids
The Connecticut SmokeLess State Program
Peggy M. Perille
The Connecticut Parent Teachers Association
Stone Middle School
The Maryland Parent Teachers Association
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
Sterne M. Kids Act to Control Tobacco!: A Guide for Middle School Teachers. Washington: The National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN), 1998. 800 copies distributed.
Amundson KJ. Kids Act to Control Tobacco!: Parent Advocacy Guide: How Middle School Parents, Teachers, and Students Can Work Toward Tobacco Control. Washington: The National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN), 1998.
Hodak M, Hudson N, Sparks C and Sterne M. Kids Act to Control Tobacco!: A Guide for Middle School Teachers (revised version). Washington: The National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN), 2000.
Ellis J. What Families Can Do and Say to Help Prevent Tobacco Use: A Guide for Families of Middle School Students Using the Kids Act to Control Tobacco! Program (revised version). Washington: The National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN), 2000.
Brochures and Fact Sheets
"Kids Act to Control Tobacco!: A Tobacco Control Advocacy Program for Middle School Students, Teachers and Parents." Maryland: The National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN), 1998. Approximately 3,900 distributed in Maryland.
"Kids Act to Control Tobacco!: A Tobacco Control Advocacy Program for Middle School Students, Teachers and Parents". Connecticut: The National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN), 1998. Approximately 3,500 distributed in Connecticut.
Presentations and Testimony
Michele Hodak, "Kids Act to Control Tobacco!," at the National Best Practices for Youth Conference, June 3, 1999, Sarasota, FL.
Caroline Sparks, "Evaluating Youth Advocacy," at the National Best Practices for Youth Conference, June 3, 1999, Sarasota, FL.
Michele Hodak and Nancy Hudson, "Sharing a Vision to Empower Students to Act to Control Tobacco" at the National Leadership Conference to Strengthen HIV/AIDS Education and Coordinated School Health Programs," August 26, 1999, Atlanta.
Michele Hodak and Nancy Hudson, "Kids Act to Control Tobacco!: A Collaborative Program for Schools, Parents, and the Community," at the American School Health Association 73rd National School Health Conference," October 30, 1999, Kansas City, MO.
Michele Hodak, "Kids Act! Making Curricular and Community Connections to Empower Students," at the 115th American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance National Convention, March 22, 2000, Orlando, FL.
Michele Hodak, "Expanding the Movement to Non-Traditional Allies: Educators and Schools," at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health, August 8, 2000, Chicago.
Michele Hodak and Caroline Sparks, "Kids Act to Control Tobacco! An Advocacy Program to Empower Youth to Take Action," at the Empowering Youth for Tobacco Control Conference, December 13, 2000, Orlando, FL.
Press Kits and News Releases
A press release on the Kids ACT! program, faxed or mailed on November 10, 1997, to approximately 735 members of the press from the Education Writers Association and other health and special media journalists.
Report prepared by: Susan G. Parker
Reviewed by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Mary Nakashian
Program Officer: Karen K. Gerlach