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Teen Outreach Program (TOP) Print

Science and Success, Second Edition: Sex Education and Other Programs that Work to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections

Full Study Report [HTML] [PDF]
Executive Summary [HTML] [PDF]

Program Components

  • Combines community service learning, adult support and guidance, and curriculum-based group activities
  • Participants engage in a minimum of 20 hours of community service learning per academic year.
  • TOP® staff guide the youth in choosing, planning, implementing, reflecting on, and celebrating their service learning project.
  • TOP® groups meet at least once a week throughout the school year (nine months) to discuss topics from the Changing Scenes© curriculum.
  • Topics include communication skills/assertiveness, understanding and clarifying values, relationships, goal-setting, influences, decision-making, and adolescent health and sexual development.

For Use With

  • Adolescents in grades six through twelve.
  • Students from all racial/ethnic backgrounds.
  • Urban, suburban, and rural youth.
  • As part of a school curriculum.
  • As an out-of-school program through community-based youth organizations, local health departments, and social service agencies.

Evaluation Methodology

  • Quasi-experimental design, including treatment and comparison conditions in 30 schools nationwide in 1986-1987
  • Students in grades seven through 12 (n=1,487); average age 15.65
  • Pretest and posttest at program end (nine months after pretest)

Evaluation Findings

  • Long-term findings: Reduced rates of behavior-related problems (pregnancy, school suspension, class failure, and/or school dropout)

First Replication Evaluation Methodology (1991-1995) & Findings

  • Experimental design, including treatment and control conditions at 25 sites nationwide
  • High school students (n=695)
  • Pretest and posttest at program exit (nine months after pretest)
  • Long-term findings: Reduced rate of teen pregnancy. Control group adolescents experienced more than twice the percentage of pregnancies than did adolescents in the program (9.8% vs. 4.2%).

Second Replication Evaluation Methodology (1996-2000) & Findings

  • Quasi-experimental design, including treatment and comparison conditions at 60 sites nationwide
  • High school students (n=3,277)
  • Pretest and posttest at program exit (nine months after pretest)
  • Long-term findings: Reduced rate of teen pregnancy

Evaluators' comments: One of the more striking features of the Teen Outreach Program is that it does not explicitly focus upon the problem behaviors it seeks to prevent but rather seeks to enhance participants' competence in decision making, in interacting with peers and adults, and in recognizing and handling their own emotions. Particularly in the field of teen pregnancy prevention, this focus has important practical implications, because it means the program may be politically acceptable in communities where programs that explicitly focus upon sexual behavior may not be feasible to implement.
Source: Allen JP, Philliber S, Herrling S, et al. 1997

Evaluators' comments: The most striking finding was that Teen Outreach appeared most effective as a prevention program with youths who were most at-risk of the specific type of problem behaviors being assessed. The program had the greatest impact in reducing future pregnancies among the group at highest risk of such pregnancies (those who have already given birth to a child). For this group, the likelihood of an additional pregnancy was less than one-fifth as large in the Teen Outreach group as in the comparison group, even after accounting for other background factors that may have also affected pregnancy rates. For academic failure, Teen Outreach demonstrated greater efficacy for youths who had been previously suspended than for those who had not. The program was also found to be more effective for members of racial ethnic minority groups, who were also at greater risk for academic difficulty in this study.
Source: Allen JP, Philliber S, 2001

Program Description

Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) is an evidence-based, national youth development program designed to prevent adolescent problem behaviors by helping adolescents age twelve through eighteen develop healthy behaviors, life skills, and a sense of purpose. TOP® currently serves nearly 50,000 teens at 1800 sites in 34 states plus Washington D.C

The nine month program focuses on engaging young people in a minimum of 20 hours of community service learning annually, and weekly meetings using TOP’s Changing Scenes© curriculum.

Group facilitators include teachers, guidance personnel, or youth workers who have been trained to facilitate the discussions outlined in the curriculum.

The curriculum uses a variety of experiential methods to engage youth, including small-group discussions and role-playing. A community service learning guide aids discussions about volunteer experiences, tying together the classroom and community service learning aspects of the program and allowing youth to process and reflect on their service activities.

To make TOP® appropriate for a range of grades and ages, the curriculum has four levels. Each level contains material that is developmentally appropriate for the age group involved (Level I: 12- to 13-year olds. Level II: 14-year-olds. Level III: 15- to 16-year olds. Level IV: 17- to 19-year olds.)

Curriculum theme areas include the following:

  • Communication Skills / Assertiveness
  • Understanding and Clarifying Values
  • Relationships
  • Goal-Setting
  • Influences
  • Decision-Making
  • Human Development and Sexuality*
  • *Although pregnancy prevention is a main outcome of TOP®, less than 15% of the curriculum would be considered comprehensive sex education.

Facilitators choose which Changing Scenes© lessons to implement with their TOP® group, allowing the group’s weekly meetings to be responsive to the needs of the group. Group facilitators include teachers, guidance personnel, or youth workers who have been trained to facilitate the discussions outlined in the curriculum.

An experimental evaluation showed that teens from a variety of racial/ethnic groups and socioeconomic levels who participated in TOP® were less likely to experience pregnancy or cause a pregnancy and less likely to get suspended from school or to fail a school course during the time they were in the program than teens in a control group.

TOP® costs between $410 and $640 per student annually and has a $1.29 return on investment for every $1.00 invested. This return on investment relates solely to the pregnancy prevention effects and does not include the effects of reduced risk of course failure or school suspension.

Evaluation Methodology

High school students (n=1,487) were randomly assigned to either an intervention or comparison group in each of 30 schools across the United States. Although programs varied widely, all involved both classroom and volunteer activities. Participating and comparison youth were in grades seven through 12, most in grades nine or 10. Over 70 percent of intervention participants were female; 67 percent of comparison youth were female. Among all youth, about one-third were black, about 50 percent were white, less than 10 percent were Hispanic. Program effects were assessed by students' self-reports of pregnancy or pregnancy involvement, course failure, and suspension at baseline and nine months later at program exit.[25]

At entry, nearly 54 percent of intervention participants and 44 percent of comparison youth reported course failure in the prior year. Rates of suspension in the prior year were also relatively high (22 and 17 percent, respectively). About five percent in each group reported a previous pregnancy. Because each problem behavior had a low base rate, problem behaviors were combined into an overall problem behavior syndrome scale.

Long-Term Findings

The evaluation did not provide information about specific knowledge, attitudes, or behavior changes. Rather, the evaluation focused on specific health and academic indicators.

First Replication Evaluation Methodology (1991-1995)

Teen Outreach Program was re-evaluated, using data collected during 1991-1995 at 25 sites nationwide. Students (n=695) were randomly assigned to either the Teen Outreach Program or the control condition, either at the individual level or at the classroom level. Participants and control youth were in grades nine through 12; 69 percent were in ninth or 10th grade. Average age of intervention participants was 15.8; that of control youth, 15.9. Less than 85 percent were female. About 67 percent were black. Students were surveyed regarding school suspension, course failure, and pregnancy at pretest and nine months later, at the program's end.

First Replication Outcomes

At program completion, the evaluation found that teens who participated in TOP® were less likely to experience or cause a pregnancy, be suspended from school, or fail a course than were teens in the control group. Control group adolescents experienced more than twice the percentage of pregnancies than did adolescents in the program (9.8% vs. 4.2%).


After controlling for demographic characteristics, grade in school, and baseline problem behaviors, the evaluation team found that TOP® had a similar effect on outcomes for all racial/ethnic groups, socioeconomic status groups, household composition categories, and grade levels. Compared to those in the control group, TOP® had a greater effect on reducing the percentage of girls who became pregnant than it did on reducing the percentage of boys who caused pregnancies.


One factor that appeared associated with the likelihood of a student having/causing a pregnancy or being suspended from school was the number of hours he or she volunteered. Non-experimental analyses indicated that the more hours a student volunteered, the less likely she or he was to have or cause a pregnancy.


The program evaluators assert that, because TOP® focuses broadly on adolescent decision-making and not just on sex, it may be more accepted in communities that are uncomfortable with an exclusive reproductive health approach (Allen, Philliber, Herrling & Kuperminc, 1997).

Second Replication, Evaluation Methodology (1996-2000)

Another evaluation of Teen OutreachProgram (conducted in 1996-2000) was designed to assess the program's impact on youth at highest risk for teen pregnancy and school dropout. Data were collected from 3,277 participants and comparison youth at 60 sites nationwide. Youth's average age was 15.9 to 16.0; youth were in ninth through 12th grade; and about three-quarters were male. About 45 percent were black. Nearly 37 percent were white. Nearly 13 percent Hispanic. Once again, youth were surveyed at baseline and at program exit, nine months later.

Second Replication Outcomes

 

For More Information:

Wyman offers a dedicated website for those interested in Wyman’s TOP®: www.wymancenter.org/TOP. For additional information or specific questions, please contact Felice McClendon, National Network Partner Development Manager ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Resources to support the development and implementation of local TOP® programs, including implementation training, training of trainers, technical assistance, and self-assessment program evaluation materials, are available from Wyman Center and their certified replication partners exclusively.

Wyman Center
600 Kiwanis Drive
St. Louis, MO  63025

Phone: (636)-938-5245
Website: www.wymancenter.org

 

 

* High risk youth are defined in this program as youth with a history of class failure, school dropout, school suspension, or involvement in pregnancy.

 
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