What You Can DoSchools Assessed Student Drinking

Has your school or community assessed student drinking to determine the extent of the problem?

Assess student drinking to determine the extent of the problem. Within the state of California, data has been collected on underage alcohol use for over twenty years. The first California Student Survey (CSS) was conducted in 1985. In 1991, the state Legislature passed a law requiring the Attorney General to continue conducting the survey every two years. Since 1993, the state departments of Alcohol and Drug Programs (ADP), Education (CDE) and Health Services (DHS) have partnered with the Attorney General to fund the CSS. The survey content has also been expanded to provide a broader range of information on health-risk behaviors, comparable with the local California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS).

The 10th (2003-2004) Biennial California Student Survey (CSS) was completed by 10,351 students in grades 7, 9, and 11. If your school participated in this survey, you can get access to a variety of information on underage alcohol use in general, use in your school, and binge drinking.

The California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) is a comprehensive and customizable youth self-report data collection system that can provide you with essential and reliable health risk assessment and resiliency information.

Targeted at grades 5-12, the CHKS enables the collection and analysis of valuable data regarding local youth health risks, assets, and behaviors. The survey is a powerful tool that can help you meet all the new assessment requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) for Title IV Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities by accurately identifying areas of strength and weakness. It is designed to be part of a comprehensive, data-driven decision-making process to help guide the development of more effective health, prevention, and youth development programs.

At the heart of the CHKS is a research-based “Core Module” that provides valid indicators of drug use, violence, crime, and physical and mental health. The Core Module, in combination with the Resilience & Youth Development Module, collects all the data needed for NCLB compliance and allows comparability to state and national data.

  • A unique benefit of the CHKS is its customizability to meet local needs. In addition to the Core Module, there are five supplementary modules to choose from that ask detailed questions on specific topics such as violence, physical health, sexual behavior, HIV/AIDS risk, and nutrition. There is also a custom module for incorporating additional questions targeting topics of local interest. You can select questions from the comprehensive item pool or hire CHKS staff to help you create new questions. The customizability of the CHKS means that schools and districts receive relevant, useful knowledge tailored to their needs.

For more information about the California Healthy Kids Survey and how you can use it, see the following link: http://www.wested.org/pub/docs/chks_home.html

Offer students feedback about use rates. Schools can teach students actual alcohol use rates through educational programs. Participants discuss how many students actually drink and whether drinking is a good idea. Studies have found that students taught with this approach use alcohol less and have fewer related problems because they want to be in the majority. Some schools have already adopted social norms campaigns. One example is Evanston Township High School (ETHS) with their Strength in Numbers campaign. Here, project staff created poster messages specifically designed to support the concepts of power and choice—especially appealing notions to developing adolescents—and to promote the competence, care, and healthy behavior of the majority of students.

A typical example of the posters created is one with the message "Support your friends' healthy choices!" which includes specific avoidance tips derived from the students themselves: "Make a pact ahead of time not to drink. Leave parties together if there's drinking. Stand your ground—together." This upbeat message with its concrete behavioral suggestions is accompanied by the normative statement: "72% of ETHS students choose healthy options other than drinking when they're with their friends." Detailed information regarding the source of the normative data—such as the administration date and sample size of the survey—is also provided. Finally, the accompanying image of two smiling, teenage girls warmly embracing serves to visually reinforce the message. Approaches such as these to change the social norms around alcohol use have been found to be effective, especially with college-age youth.

The University of Arizona conducted a four-year project that used a blend of social norms and environmental management approaches. The university adopted the phrase “4 or fewer”—in that 69% of the students have 4 or fewer drinks when they party—as their marketing approach. Using print media as their primary means of delivery, the university found a 29.2% decrease in heavy drinking over a four year period.

In the School. 2004. Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free. Available at: http://www.alcoholfreechildren.org/en/act/school.cfm. Accessed on [10/05/06]

What Schools Can Do. Alcohol Epidemiology Program: University of Minnesota. Available at: http://www.epi.umn.edu/alcohol/policy/schools.shtm. Accessed on [10/02/06]

L Austin, G. and R. Skager. 10th biennial California Student Survey Drug, Alcohol and Tobacco Use 2003-2004. WestEd. California’s Attorney General’s Office. http://safestate.org/documents/CSS03MainFindings.pdf  [Accessed on 08/15/06]

Hansen WB, Graham JW, Wolkenstein BH, et al. 1991. Program integrity as a moderator of prevention program effectiveness: Results for fifth-grade students in the adolescent alcohol prevention trial. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 52(6):568-579.

National Social Norms Resource Center. Available at:  http://www.socialnorms.org/CaseStudies/evanston.php. Accessed on [09/08/06]

A Campus Case Study in Implementing Social Norms and Environmental Management Approaches. 1999. The University of Arizona Campus Health Service.

A Campus Case Study in Implementing Social Norms and Environmental Management Approaches. 1999. The University of Arizona Campus Health Service.

Hansen WB. 1993. School-based alcohol prevention programs. Alcohol Health and Research World 17(1):54-60.

Phillips, J.L. Springer, F. & Roberts, B. 2005. Summary Report: High Rate Underage Users Workgroup Findings and Recommendations. Community Prevention Institute.

Schools and the Community Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Environment: Opportunities for Prevention.1998. Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. U.S. Department of Justice.

Schools and the Community Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Environment: Opportunities for Prevention.1998. Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. U.S. Department of Justice.