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Program Profile

Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Program Description

Program Goals
The Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program is a school-based gang- and violence-prevention program with three primary goals: 1) teach youths to avoid gang membership, 2) prevent violence and criminal activity, and 3) assist youths in developing positive relationships with law enforcement. The program is a cognitive-based curriculum that teaches students life skills such as conflict resolution, responsibility, appreciating cultural diversity, and goal setting. All of these skills are presented with an emphasis on how crime affects victims and how youths can meet basic social needs without resorting to joining a gang.

Target Population/Sites
The G.R.E.A.T. program targets youths as they begin middle school. The program is active in every state nationwide, with four regional headquarters (Midwest Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest, and West) that assist in implementation, delivery, and course materials.

Key Personnel
The G.R.E.A.T. program primarily uses uniformed law enforcement personnel to teach students. This takes some burden off of classroom teachers and helps facilitate one of the main goals of the program: developing a positive relationship between youths and law enforcement officers. Over the program’s life and development, federal agents from the U.S. Marshalls and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), along with district attorneys and probation officers, have been trained and certified to teach G.R.E.A.T.

Program Theory/Activities
The G.R.E.A.T. program was originally developed by the Phoenix (Ariz.) Police Department in partnership with ATF in 1991. After evaluation, the original nine-lesson curriculum was revised, drawing on the models of two other school-based programs—the Seattle Social Development Model (SSDM) and Life Skills Training (LST)—as well as research on risk factors for youth gang involvement. The SSDM is a comprehensive model that builds a positive learning environment through cooperative learning, proactive classroom management, and interactive teaching. The LST program emphasizes developing skills more than assimilating knowledge and relies heavily on problem-solving exercises, role-playing, and cooperative learning strategies.

With the inclusion of these different programmatic elements, the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum was expanded to 13 lessons that range from 45 to 60 minutes taught in the sixth grade. The lessons are cumulative. The G.R.E.A.T. lessons encourage students to make healthy choices such as being involved in more prosocial activities and associating with more prosocial peers rather than delinquent ones. A strong emphasis is placed on communication skills such as being an active listener and being better able to interpret verbal and nonverbal (body language) communication. The program seeks to improve students’ empathy for others and to increase the levels of guilt associated with violating norms and laws.

The G.R.E.A.T. Program also includes a six-lesson elementary school curriculum, a summer component, and a family-strengthening program for parents and children called G.R.E.A.T. Families. The elementary school component is designed for students in the fourth and fifth grades and aims to prevent violence while developing a positive bond between law enforcement and youths during their early developmental years. Each of the six lessons lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. Students receive a letter to share with their parents that explains the lesson and is designed to facilitate parent–student interaction. The summer component builds on the school-based curriculum, although students need not have participated in the school-based curriculum to participate in the summer sessions. It provides students with positive activities over the summer months as an alternative to gang activity and offers additional opportunities for social, cognitive, and interpersonal growth. The summer curriculum combines lessons (e.g., on conflict resolution, goal setting, self-image, juvenile law and procedures, cultural awareness/sensitivity) with fieldtrips and activities. The family component is a six-session family-strengthening program. Families are engaged through group interactions and activities designed to increase positive family functioning.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Evaluations of the Gang Resistance and Education Training (G.R.E.A.T.) outcomes indicated promising results, but caution should be used in interpreting these results since the effects documented by Esbensen and colleagues (2012) were not wholly consistent with the stated goals of the program.

Gang Membership
The program had a moderate positive effect on gang membership. The odds of joining a gang were 39 percent lower for students completing the G.R.E.A.T. program than for students in the control group at the 1-year follow-up. Treatment group students receiving the G.R.E.A.T. program in the sixth grade were 39 percent less likely than control group students to have joined a gang by the eighth grade.

Delinquency and Violent Offending
There were no statistically significant differences between treatment group students and control group students on any of the general delinquency or violent offending outcomes at the 1-year follow-up. Results were in the expected direction (reduction in criminal activity for the treatment group), but they did not reach statistical significance.

Attitudes Toward the Police
The program had a small positive effect on prosocial attitudes toward the police. G.R.E.A.T. students reported a statistically significant and more positive opinion of police officers than students in the control group at the 1-year follow-up. This effect was more pronounced on the two items directly related to G.R.E.A.T. program officers.

Development of Social Skills
G.R.E.A.T. students demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in refusal skills, were better able to resist peer pressure, were less self-centered, and expressed less positive attitudes toward gangs than students in the control group at the 1-year follow-up. However, there were no statistically significant differences between the treatment group and the control group students on any of the 15 attitudinal measures (empathy, impulsivity, guilt, etc.).
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Esbensen and colleagues (2012) used an experimental, multisite, longitudinal (5 years) panel design across seven cities in the continental United States to study the impact of Gang Resistance and Education Training (G.R.E.A.T.) on gang membership, delinquency, and attitudes toward the police. The seven cities included in the evaluation were Albuquerque, N.M.; Chicago, Ill.; Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas area district; Greeley, Colo.; Nashville, Tenn.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Portland, Ore. Several factors were taken into consideration when choosing evaluation sites, such as school district size, length of program history at a site, degree of program implementation, race/ethnicity composition of the area, police department characteristics (e.g., department size and organizational structure), and the amount of youth crime and gang activity in the area. At each site, between four and six schools were identified for study participation. The goal behind school selection was to choose schools that would represent their respective districts. The final sample included 31 schools and 195 sixth and seventh grade classrooms (102 received G.R.E.A.T., and 93 served as controls). Classrooms were randomly chosen to receive the intervention or serve as part of the control group. Active parental consent and student assent were obtained for everyone included in the study.

Of the 4,905 students enrolled in the 195 classrooms, 4,372 students (89.1 percent) returned completed consent forms, with 77.9 percent of parents/guardians (3,820) allowing their child to participate. The student sample was evenly split between males and females. Just over half (55 percent) resided with both biological parents, and the large majority (88 percent) were born in the United States. The sample was racially/ethnically diverse, with Hispanic youths (37 percent), white youths (27 percent), and African American youths (17 percent) accounting for 81 percent of the sample. Sixty-one percent were age 11 or younger at the pretest/baseline assessment.

The researchers reported that the random assignment was moderately successful and produced comparable treatment and control groups. There were three statistically significant differences that slightly favored the treatment group. The treatment group had a higher awareness of services, more negative attitudes about gangs, and a little less frequency of delinquent acts. However, these slight differences were controlled for in the analyses and had a negligible impact on the size or significance of group differences in the outcomes.

Outcomes measured were gang membership, delinquency, violent offending, and attitudes toward police officers. Self-report student surveys were used to gather data on each of these outcomes. The survey instrument was built specifically for this study, but the researchers drew from several other existing surveys of youth to inform their questions and scales. Gang membership was measured by self-nomination (e.g., “Are you now in a gang?”), which is the same method that many police departments use throughout the country. Delinquency and violent offending were assessed with a 15-item delinquency inventory that included both the prevalence and frequency of criminal activity during the past 6 months. Lastly, attitudes toward the police were measured by eight questions, six of which dealt with global attitudes toward police officers and law enforcement in general and two that asked what students thought of police officers as teachers. A baseline/pretest assessment was completed by all students and followed up with annual surveys for the next 5 years.

Because of the highly nested nature of the research design—observations within students within classrooms within cities—a multilevel analysis was required. As there were only a small number of cities of this level, the analysis was treated as a fixed effect through a series of dummy variables (values of 1 or 0), but all other levels of the model included random effects. A logistic model was applied to the gang membership measure, a negative binomial model was used for the counts of general delinquency and violent offending, and a linear model was used for attitudes toward the police.
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Cost

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Costs vary, depending on site and implementation. Certain components are provided free, including the G.R.E.A.T. Officer Training Certification Course, student handbooks, and the student graduation certificates. G.R.E.A.T. incentives (pens, bags, T–shirts) vary in price. The costs of G.R.E.A.T. personnel depend on the organizational structure used at the site. For example, when sites use School Resource Officers to teach the program, there may be no additional costs. If other officers teach the courses, there may be costs associated with the use of overtime to cover the time spent on an instructor’s duties. Costs also vary for the G.R.E.A.T. Families and Summer Programs, depending on which components and activities are included in the program.
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Implementation Information

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Instructor resources and implementation materials can be found on the Institute for Intergovernmental Research's Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Program Web site.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Esbensen, Finn–Aage, Dana Peterson, Terrance J. Taylor, and D. Wayne Osgood. 2012. “Results From a Multisite Evaluation of the G.R.E.A.T. Program.” Justice Quarterly 29(1):125–51.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri. 2012. “Current G.R.E.A.T. Evaluation: National G.R.E.A.T. Evaluation Reports & Publications.”
http://www.umsl.edu/ccj/About%20The%20Department/great_current.html

Esbensen, Finn–Aage, Adrienne Freng, Terrance J. Taylor, Dana Peterson, and D. Wayne Osgood. 2002. “National Evaluation of the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Program.” In Winifred L. Reed and Scott H. Decker (eds.). Responding to Gangs: Evaluation and Research. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/190351.pdf

Esbensen, Finn–Aage, Kristy N. Matsuda, Terrance J. Taylor, and Dana Peterson. 2011. “Multimethod Strategy for Assessing Program Fidelity: The National Evaluation of the Revised G.R.E.A.T. Program.” Evaluation Review 1–26.

Esbensen, Finn–Aage, and D. Wayne Osgood. 1997. National Evaluation of G.R.E.A.T. Research in Brief. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/167264.pdf

Esbensen, Finn–Aage, and D. Wayne Osgood. 1999. “Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.): Results From the National Evaluation.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 36:194–225.

Esbensen, Finn–Aage, D. Wayne Osgood, Terrance J. Taylor, Dana Peterson, and Adrienne Freng. 2001. “How Great Is G.R.E.A.T.? Results From a Longitudinal Quasi-Experimental Design.” Criminology and Public Policy 1(1):87–118.

Esbensen, Finn–Aage, Dana Peterson, Terrance J. Taylor, Adrienne Freng, D. Wayne Osgood, Dena C. Carson, and Kristy N. Matsuda. 2011. “Evaluation and Evolution of the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Program.” Journal of School Violence 10(1):53–70.

Esbensen, Finn–Aage, Wayne Osgood, Dana Peterson, Terrance J. Taylor, Dena Carson, Adrienne Freng, and Kristy Matsuda. 2013. Process and Outcome Evaluation of the G.R.E.A.T. Program. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/244346.pdf

Institute for Intergovernmental Research®. 2012. “Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Program.” Accessed May 1, 2012.
http://great-online.org/

Ramsey, Alison L., James O. Rust, and Susan M. Sobel. 2003. “Evaluation of the Gang Resistance and Training Program: A School-Based Prevention Program.” Education 124(2):297–309.
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Program Snapshot

Age: 9 - 17

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Classroom Curricula, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Gang Prevention/Intervention, Violence Prevention

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Program Director:
Ron Doyle
G.R.E.A.T. National Program Manager
Institute for Intergovernmental Research
PO Box 12729
Tallahassee FL 32317-2729
Phone: 800.726.7070
Fax: 850.386.5356
Website
Email

Researcher:
Finn Esbensen
E. Desmond Lee Professor of Youth Crime and Violence/Chair of Criminology and Criminal Justice Department
University of St. Louis at Missouri
One University Blvd., 324 Lucas Hall
St. Louis MO 63121-4499
Phone: 314.516.5031
Fax: 314.516.5048
Website
Email

Training and TA Provider:
Ron Doyle
G.R.E.A.T. National Program Manager
Institute for Intergovernmental Research
PO Box 12729
Tallahassee FL 32317-2729
Phone: 800.726.7070
Fax: 850.386.5356
Website
Email