Evaluative Assessment of the Houston Police
Department's D.A.R.E. Program

Summer 1998
Bruce Gay, Ph.D.
University of Houston-Downtown
Department of Social Sciences

This Redaction Prepared by Jim Rosenfield
Contains summary and key appendices.
MS Word Document of complete study

Executive Summary

In the Spring of 1998, the Houston Police Department, in conjunction with the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Houston-Downtown, the Houston Independent School District and the UH-Downtown Criminal Justice Center, collaborated in an effort to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. Using a pretest and posttest questionnaire for both experimental and comparison (control) schools, [ For a complete description of the research methodology employed see Appendix F. Succinctly, there were 21 experimental schools (i.e., schools which had the program) and two control schools (i.e., schools which were not presently participating in the program). All respondents were students in the fifth grade.]

2,913 surveys were distributed to 23 selected schools [Schools selected had to be participating in the D.A.R.E. program for the Spring term. Selected schools are representative of the entire greater Houston area.] in the Houston Independent School District. Of that number, 1,142 surveys had to be excluded from analysis. The final number of surveys included from the overall program analysis was 1,771. Gender representation was 50 percent for each. Ethnically the data is represented by 54.6 percent Hispanic, 21 percent black, 18 percent white, and 6.5 percent other.

An evaluative assessment gauges the extent to which a program impacts or causes change in a desired direction (either behaviorally or cognitively). Impact assessments must, therefore, be specifically directed to measure those objectives that have been operationally defined. As such, the findings of this report do not address the issues of efficiency and utility (i.e., cost-benefit analyses) or the long term effects of the program (e.g., keeping young people off drugs for life is not a stated program objective and therefore is beyond the scope of this assessment).

There is very little compelling evidence to suggest that the primary goal of the D.A.R.E. program is being reached at a statistically significant level. Of the 12 objectives that were operationally defined, only four had statistically significant observed changes that can be explained as a function of the intervention program:

  • Changing Beliefs About Drug Use & Awareness of Different Kinds of Pressure
  • Learning Resistance Techniques -- Ways to Say "No"
  • Managing Stress
  • Making Decisions About Risky Behaviors
Reported changes for the other eight objectives had statistically similar changes in the control group and as such, cannot be said with certainty that they were the result of the intervention.

The evidence also suggest that ancillary benefits such as having police officers in the classroom because it provides an opportunity to improve police-community relations by providing an opportunity for children to meet officers in a non-confrontational environment is not strongly supported. Most students apparently have already formed opinions about police officers that only marginally change after the intervention program. In onlu one area (not being afraid of the police) was significant change observed.

In short, the D.A.R.E. program was only marginally successful.

For a complete description of the research methodology employed see Appendix F. Succinctly, there were 21 experimental schools (i.e., schools which had the program) and two control schools (i.e., schools which were not presently participating in the program). All respondents were students in the fifth grade.

Appendix B



The D.A.R.E. program was developed as a cooperative effort of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District to prevent drug abuse in children and youth. Traditional drug abuse programs dwell on the harmful effects of drugs. The program emphasis of D.A.R.E. is to help students recognize and resist the many subtle pressures that influence them to experiment with drugs, gangs and violence. In addition, program strategies are planned to focus on feelings relating to self-esteem, interpersonal and communication skills, decision making, and positive alternatives to drug abuse behavior.

The instructional guide for D.A.R.E. has been developed to assist police officers, school administrators, and teachers in the planning and implementation of a program of drug abuse resistance education for students in grades 5 and 6.


The program content for D.A.R.E. is organized into seventeen 45 to 60 minute lessons to be conducted by a uniformed police officer and suggested extended activities to be taught by the regular classroom teacher.

The lessons will be conducted by a specially trained uniformed police officer who will be assigned to the school one day a week for one semester. The police officer win conduct the lessons in grades 5 or 6 on a weekly basis.

Peer Leadership Participation

D.A.R.E. offers a variety of activity-oriented techniques which are designed to encourage student-generated responses to problem-solving situations. An important element of D.A.R.E. is the use of student leaders who do not use drugs as positive role models in influencing younger students not to use drugs and to avoids gangs and violence.

Culminating Activity

The last lesson of D.A.R.E. should be designed as a culminating assembly-type activity to which all classes involved in D.A.R.E. will be invited.

The Survey

Please Help Us With This Survey of the D.A.R.E. Program!

Answer every question. Place an "x" or "/" in each box that is closest to your answer.
School (Fifth Grade). Your sex: Male Female
What is your race? * White * Black * Mexican or Hispanic * Other (specify)

1. 1 feel good about myself (Never Sometimes Most of the time All the time)

2. People compliment me (Never Sometimes Most of the time All the time)

3. 1 allow others to say how they feel without getting angry at them * Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * All the time

4. 1 feel safe at home.
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * * the time

5. 1 feel safe at school
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time 0 All the time

6. How often do you consider the consequences when making decisions?
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * All the time

7. How often do you experience stress?
* Never * Sometimes 0 Most of the time
* All the time

8. When I get in trouble or something goes wrong, it is usually my fault.
* Never 0 Sometimes * Most of the time * All the time

9. Risky behavior has bad consequences
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * All the time

10. TV and radio influence the way I think and act.
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * All the time

11. If you join a gang, they will protect you from others who try to hurt you
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * All the time

12. It is easy for me to work with others.
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * All the time

13. It is easy for me to talk to others.
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * All the time

14. How often do you stand up for yourself
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * All the time

15. How often do you make your own decisions?
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * All the ti e

16. When someone pressures you to do wrong,
how many different ways can you think of to say "No?"
* None * 1 * * 4--5 * 6--9 * More than 10

17. How many times have you tried drugs?
* None * 1 ZI 2--3 * 4--5 * 6--9 * More than 10

18. Besides school, how many other activities or hobbies are you involved in after school or at home?
* None * 1 :2 2--3 * 4--5 0 6--9 * More than 10

19. Out of 100 seventh graders, how many do you think use drugs, alcohol, or tobacco?
* None * 1-10 * 10-20 * 20-30 * 30-40 * More than 5

20. How often when you have a disagreement with someone does it end up in a fight?
* None * 1 * 2--3 * 4--5 * 6--9 * More than 10

21. Do you think its cool to drink a little alcohol?
* Yes * No * Uncertain

22. Do you think police officers are friendly?
* Yes * No :3 Uncertain

23. Are you afraid of the police?
* Yes :3 No * Uncertain

24. Do you know someone who sells drugs?
* Yes * No 3 Uncertain

25. Do you think you are unique and special?
* Yes * No * Uncertain

26. Do you know how to avoid dangerous situations? Yes No Uncertain

27. Do you know how to avoid dangerous people?
* Yes * No * Uncertain

28. Is there anything that you do best?
* Yes 3 No :1 Uncertain

29. Is saving "NO" the only way to turn down a drug offer?
* Yes * No * Uncertain

30. Are there some good gangs?
* Yes * No * Uncertain

31. Are consequences the result of something you choose to do or not do?
* Yes * No * Uncertain

32. Drugs are often sold in my neighborhood.
* Yes * No * Uncertain

33. Is there more than one kind of peer pressure?
* Yes * No * Uncertain

34. Do you often feel pressured by your friends to do something wrong?
* Yes * No a Uncertain

35. Is it okay to make mistakes?
* Yes * No * Uncertain

36. Have you thought about joining a gang?
* Yes * No * Uncertain

37. Do you think cigarette smoking is cool?
* Yes 0 No a Uncertain

38. Do you usually know how to solve problems when they arise?
* Yes 0 No * Uncertain

39. Do you know anyone you can talk to about your problems?
* Yes * No 0 Uncertain

40. How many times have you smoked a cigarette?
* None * 1 * 2--3 * 4--5 * 6--9 * More than 10

41. Do you feel comfortable being part of a group?
* Yes * No * Uncertain

42. Sometimes it is okay to hit another person if it will settle a problem.
* Yes * No * Uncertain

43. Many of my friends use drugs.
* Yes * No a Uncertain

44. Most police officers are mean.
* Yes * No 0 Uncertain

45. Do you know what to do when you start feeling stressed?
* Yes * No a Uncertain

46. When pressured by your friends to do something wrong, do you give in and do it?
* Never * Sometimes * Most of the time * All, the time

47. Are disagreements a "normal" part of life?
* Yes 3 No * Uncertain

48. Have you ever spoken to a police officer before?
* Yes 0 No * Uncertain

49. If two of your friends got into an argument and were about to start fighting, would you be able to help them settle their problem without fighting?3 Yes * No
* Uncertain

50. How many times have you tried alcohol?
* None * 1 * 2-3 * 4-5 * 6-9 * More than 10

51. Do you make good decisions most of the tune?
* Yes * No :2 Uncertain

52. Do you know how to refuse a drug offer besides saying ???"" :2 Yes * No * Uncertain

53. The only thing a police officer does is put people in jail.
* Yes :2 No * Uncertain


Appendix F

Research Methodology

The steps of this evaluative assessment closely follow those outlined in Rossi & Freeman's (1989) Evaluation: A systematic Approach (4th ed.) published by Sage. The primary program utility questions being examined by this research are: (1) How effective is the D.A.R.E. program in achieving its intended and stated goals, and (2) What parts of the program are most effective?

The methodological procedures for this evaluative assessment will use a pretest, posttest survey instrument in conjunction with the classical experimental design (i.e., experimental group and control group) for the fifth grade.

1.The pre-test will be administered to 24 randomly selected fifth grade classes (approximately 1,900 elementary students). The fifth grade classes will be selected by choosing two elementary schools from each of H.I.S.D.'s 12 districts.

2. Two schools from each district (N=24) that have D.A.R.E. this Spring will constitute the experimental group and one school from each district (if possible) that will not have D.A.R.E. this Spring (N=12) will constitute the control group.

3.The pre-test will be administered to all (N=36) fifth grades before HPD D.A.R.E. officers begin coming to the school so as to minimize external threats of validity.

4.The post-test (identical instrument as pre-test) will be administered to both groups following the conclusion of the 17 week D.A.R.E. program.

Parental consent to participate in the survey was obtained from all students prior to their participation in the surveys.

Because the surveys incorporate discrete and interval level data questions, both nonparametric and parametric statistical analysis will be used. Specifically, non-parametric tests will include Chi-Square, point biserial correlational coefficients, factor analysis, T-test, and descriptive statistics; parametric statistics will include: Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), multiple regression, and correlation (Pearson's Product Moment-R).

The confidentiality and anonymity of all participants (students and teachers) was guaranteed. The survey instruments do not solicit names of participants in any way. Only the name of the school is identified on the survey instrument. All information obtained from these surveys will be held in the strictest confidence.