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Safe and Drug-Free Schools: Promising Prevention Practices


Effective program evaluation provides data for improvement, coordination, accountability, celebration, and sustainability of your efforts. Evaluating your program does not need to be a painful process. There are outside resources available to schools and communities to assist in evaluation efforts. Look for volunteer evaluators at your local college/university, health department, or contact local marketing professionals. Regardless of your expertise in evaluation, funders look towards evaluation results to determine if your program was successful in achieving your desired outcomes and is worthy to receive continued funding. It is a vital piece of your programming!

Keep program evaluation in mind as you begin your planning process. First, identify the problem(s) or issues your school or community is facing. Next, decide the outcomes that you want to achieve that can be measured. Third, choose proven effective strategies that specifically address your identified problem. After these three steps have been completed, select activities that you intend to implement. Having these four items written and well established will help you to evaluate the results of your program.

Outcome Measures

Outcome measures are necessary to determine how successful your prevention strategies have been in achieving your intended goals of reducing substance abuse in your school and community. Outcomes are used to measure changes in knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and policies. Short, intermediate, and long-term goals should be established to set benchmarks for what you hope to achieve through your prevention efforts. Three types of evaluation are needed to ensure your strategies are successful.

  • Needs Assessment: A needs assessment can help to determine real needs within the community by gathering and using data, ensuring there is no duplication of effort, identifying gaps in services, and fully understanding the resources that exist to implement desired substance abuse prevention programs, practices and polices. (Example: Youth Risk Behavior Survey.)

  • Process Evaluation: A process evaluation describes the activities your group or coalition has undertaken, such as the tasks performed, the organizations or people served or impacted, and the diverse efforts it has initiated. Process evaluation is the who, what, when, and where of your strategies. (Example: Number of people reached and number of participants at a parent training.)

  • Outcome Evaluation: Outcome evaluations refer to both short-term and long-term effects of the work your coalition or group performs. What changes did your coalition expect to achieve, and did you meet your goals? Did you accomplish what you set out to do? (Example: reducing underage drinking by 10%.)

Additional resources:

SAMHSA'S Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Strategic Prevention Framework – Evaluation. Evaluation helps organizations recognize what they have done well and what areas need improvement. The process of evaluation involves measuring the impact of programs and practices to understand their effectiveness and any need for change.


National Community Anti-Drug Coalition Institute (CADCA). (2006).

Community Anti-Drug Coalition Institute. (2005). Evaluation Primer: Setting the Context for a Drug-Free Communities Coalition Evaluation.

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