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Program Profile: Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®)

Evidence Rating: Promising - More than one study Promising - More than one study

Date: This profile was posted on October 31, 2012

Program Summary

This is a school-based program to prevent school failure and teen pregnancy by engaging teens for at least 9 months in curriculum-guided discussion and community service learning. The program is rated Promising. Participants experienced significantly lower levels of teenage pregnancy, course failure, and school suspension than students in the control group.

Program Description

Program Goals
Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) is a national youth development program designed to prevent adolescent problem behaviors by helping youth ages 12–19 develop healthy behaviors, life skills, and a sense of purpose.

Target Population
TOP® serves adolescents in grades 6–12. In 2012, TOP® served nearly 30,000 teens from more than 350 low-resource communities across the country. TOP® can be integrated into the curriculum of schools but is also implemented as an out-of-school program through community-based youth organizations, local health departments, and social service agencies.

Program Activities
TOP® consists of three interrelated elements: community service learning, adult support and guidance, and curriculum-based group activities.
  • Community service learning: 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. Service projects may include direct service, indirect service, or civic actions.  
  • Adult support and guidance: Each TOP® club is led by at least one consistent and trained facilitator over the 9-month cycle. Group facilitators include teachers, guidance personnel, or youth workers who have been trained to facilitate the discussions outlined in the curriculum.
  • Curriculum-based group activities: TOP® groups meet at least once a week throughout the school year (9 months) to discuss topics from the Changing Scenes© curriculum, including communication skills/assertiveness, understanding and clarifying values, relationships, goal-setting, influences, decision-making, and adolescent health and sexual development. 
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; and Level IV: 17- to 19-year olds). 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.

Key Personnel
Each TOP® club is led by at least one consistent and trained facilitator over the 9-month program. Facilitators include teachers, guidance personnel, or youth workers who have been trained to facilitate the discussions outlined in the curriculum (see the Implementation Information section to learn more).

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Teen Pregnancies
Allen and colleagues (1994) found that, based on data collected at program exit, Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) youths (females only) had lower levels of pregnancies (3.2 percent) relative to comparison students (5.4 percent). This difference was statistically significant.

Course Failures
Based on data collected at program exit, program youths had lower levels of course failures (31.2 percent) relative to comparison students (37.2 percent). This difference was statistically significant.

School Suspensions
Based on data collected at program exit, program youths had lower levels of school suspensions (16.5 percent) relative to comparison students (21.4 percent). This difference was statistically significant.

Study 2
Allen and colleagues (1997) found that TOP® participants experienced significantly lower levels of teenage pregnancy, course failure, and school suspension than students in the control group, even after accounting for baseline levels of these behaviors.

Teen Pregnancies
Based on data collected at program exit, program youths (females only) had lower levels of pregnancies (4.2 percent) relative to control youths (9.8 percent). This finding was statistically significant.

Course Failures
Based on data collected at program exit, program youths had lower levels of course failures (26.6 percent) relative to control youths (46.8 percent). This finding was statistically significant.

School Suspensions
Based on data collected at program exit, program youths had lower levels of school suspensions (13 percent) relative to control youths (28.7 percent). This finding was statistically significant.

Study 3
Allen and Philliber (2001) found that results confirmed earlier findings regarding the overall efficacy of TOP®, and indicated that the program appeared most effective for those students at greatest initial risk of the problem behaviors being targeted.

Teen Pregnancies
Based on data collected at program exit, program youths demonstrated only 53 percent of the pregnancy rate that was demonstrated by students in the comparison group.

Course Failures
Based on data collected at program exit, program youths demonstrated only 60 percent of the course failure rate that was demonstrated by students in the comparison group.

School Suspensions
Based on data collected at program exit, program youths demonstrated only 52 percent of the suspension rate that was demonstrated by students in the comparison group.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Allen and colleagues (1994) conducted an evaluation of Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) using a pre–post design and a well-matched comparison group. Characteristics of TOP® were evaluated at 66 different sites nationwide from 1987 through 1992. Participants consisted of 1,020 students who participated in TOP® and 1,013 comparison students. Students ranged from 11 to 19 years old and from 7th to 12th grades.  The majority of the TOP® group was female (71.2 percent). The race/ethnicity of students included black (40.3 percent), white (40.6 percent), Hispanic (15.2 percent), and other (3.9 percent). The majority of the comparison group was also female (65.3 percent). The race/ethnicity of comparison students was black (38.0 percent), white (43.3 percent), Hispanic (14.2 percent), and other (4.5 percent). There were no significant differences between the two groups on demographic characteristics.

Self-report questionnaires were used to assess students’ problem behaviors, containing items asking students a) whether they had ever been pregnant (females) or caused a pregnancy (males), b) whether they had failed any courses during the previous year at school, and, c) whether they had been suspended at any time during the previous year at school. The incidence of each of these three problem behaviors was summed to yield a problem behavior score for each student, and the scores were used to measure the program’s effectiveness in reducing problem behaviors.


Study 2
Allen and colleagues (1997) conducted a randomized controlled trial of TOP® across 25 sites nationwide from 1991 through 1995, concentrating on the program’s impact on teenage pregnancy, course failure, and school suspension. The sample consisted of 695 high school students, who were randomly assigned to either TOP® or to a control group. The majority of the TOP® group was female (86.0 percent). The race/ethnicity of students included black (67.7 percent), white (17.0 percent), Hispanic (12.9 percent), and other (2.4 percent). The vast majority of the comparison group was also female (83.3 percent). The race/ethnicity of comparison students was black (66.6 percent), white (20.4 percent), Hispanic (9.6 percent), and other (3.4 percent). There were no significant differences between the two groups on demographic characteristics.

Self-report questionnaires were used to assess students’ problem behaviors, containing items asking students a) whether they had ever been pregnant (females) or caused a pregnancy (males), b) whether they had failed any courses during the previous year at school, and c) whether they had been suspended at any time during the previous year at school. Students were told that the information they provided would be kept confidential, and they were specifically reassured that none of their answers would be available to school officials. Participants were assessed at program entry, to provide baseline data, and were then assessed at program exit 9 months later. Students’ scores in both the treatment and comparison groups were compared between the two time periods to provide indicators of the program’s effectiveness in reducing problem behaviors.


Study 3
Allen and Philliber (2001) conducted a randomized controlled trial of TOP® with the intention of examining how well the program addresses the needs of those students within the program who are at the highest risk of problematic behavior. Data was collected over a 4-year period across more than 60 sites nationwide. For a subset of about 20 percent of students (n=660), random assignment to treatment and control groups was used. Participants in this evaluation of TOP® consisted of 1,673 students who participated in TOP® and 1,604 comparison students; all students were in the 9th through 12th grades. The majority of the TOP® group was male (75.4 percent). The race/ethnicity of students included black (44.3 percent), white (38.1 percent), Hispanic (12.6 percent), and other (5.0 percent). The majority of the comparison group was also male (70.9 percent). The race/ethnicity of comparison students was black (46.1 percent), white (35.4 percent), Hispanic (12.9 percent), and other (5.6 percent). There were significantly more female students and black students in the comparison group. This difference was controlled for in the analysis.

The same self-report questionnaires used in the Allen and colleagues (1997) study were used to assess students’ problem behaviors. At entry, students were asked a) whether they had ever been pregnant (females) or caused a pregnancy (males), b) whether they had failed any courses during the previous year at school, and, c) whether they had been suspended at any time during the previous year at school. At exit, the same questions were asked of students (except that the pregnancy question was modified to refer only to the academic year of the program). Final analyses concentrated on whether this broad-based competence-enhancing intervention was most efficacious when serving higher-risk adolescents, and was assessed in terms of both familial risk factors and behavioral risk factors.
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Cost

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Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (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, course failure, or school suspension. For information on costs related to becoming a Certified TOP® Replication Partner and managing a network, contact the Wyman Center.
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Implementation Information

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Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) is made available in communities through organizations or schools that contract with and are trained by Wyman to replicate the program in their city, state, or sector. These entities are Certified TOP® Replication Partners, who take responsibility for the training, fidelity monitoring, and technical assistance of local providers of the program. To become a Certified Replication Partner requires an application process, a contract with Wyman, and a first-year fee for training, program materials, data management, and the first year’s site visit. There is an annual fee for Certified Replication Partners. These fees allow for partners to serve up to 50 clubs or 1,000 teens in their network of providers. Partners may serve more than 1,000 teens, and annual fees are adjusted to allow for greater support for larger networks.

The Wyman Center also provides Certified Replication Partners and those in their networks access to TOPnet Online as part of the partner’s fees. This site allows for teen and facilitator surveys to be conducted online and for survey reports to be generated online. The site also provides networking across TOP® clubs, providers, and partners and gives users access to program materials, question-and-answer sites, and grant announcements.

TOP® partners and providers ensure a minimum of one session per week for 9 months, with no fewer than 25 sessions. Each session lasts 1–2 hours. Providers place at least one trained facilitator for each group of teens and a minimum of 20 hours a year of service for each participant. Service learning activities are intended to respond to the needs and capacities of both students and local communities. In 2010, Wyman launched a robust set of supports and accountabilities to ensure that TOP® is delivered with fidelity. This system is Wyman’s National Network and includes (as of September 2012) 46 Certified TOP® Replication Partners with more than 500 provider organizations, serving tens of thousands of teens throughout the United States.
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Other Information

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Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) was developed in 1978 in the St. Louis City Public Schools system. Since its development, TOP® has been implemented at hundreds of sites with more than 100,000 middle and high school age youths. A national demonstration program was launched in 1984 by the Junior League of St. Louis and then was taken over in 1987 by the Association of Junior Leagues International. From 1996–2005 the program was operated by Cornerstone Consulting Group of Houston, Texas. Wyman began work with TOP® in the mid-1990s by implementing clubs in the Near South Side community of St. Louis. In 2005, Wyman became the national replicator of the program and launched the National Network in 2010.
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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
Allen, Joseph P., Gabriel P. Kuperminc, Susan Philliber, and Kathy Herre. 1994. “Programmatic Prevention of Adolescent Problem Behaviors: The Role of Autonomy, Relatedness, and Volunteer Service in the Teen Outreach Program.” American Journal of Community Psychology 22(5):617–38.

Study 2
Allen, Joseph P., Susan Philliber, Scott Herrling, and Gabriel P. Kuperminc. 1997. “Preventing Teen Pregnancy and Academic Failure: Experimental Evaluation of a Developmentally Based Approach.” Child Development 64(4):729–42.
http://people.virginia.edu/~psykliff/pubs/publications/allen%20philliber%20herrling%20kuperminc%201997%20150.pdf

Study 3
Allen, Joseph P., and Susan Philliber. 2001. “Who Benefits Most From a Broadly Targeted Prevention Program? Differential Efficacy Across Populations in the Teen Outreach Program.” Journal of Community Psychology 29(6):637–55.
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Targeted Truancy Interventions
These interventions are designed to increase attendance for elementary and secondary school students with chronic attendance problems. The practice is rated Effective for improving attendance.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Education - Attendance/truancy



School-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs
Designed to foster the development of five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies, in order to provide a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance in students, which can result in more positive social behaviors, fewer conduct problems, and less emotional distress. The practice was rated Effective in reducing students’ conduct problems and emotional stress.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Multiple juvenile problem/at-risk behaviors
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Internalizing behavior



Dropout Prevention Programs
School- or community-based programs targeting frequently absent students or students at risk of dropping out of school. These programs are aimed at increasing school engagement, school attachment, and the academic performance of students, with the main objective of increasing graduation rates. The practice is rated Effective for reducing rates of school dropouts, and rated Promising for improving test scores/grades, graduation rates, and attendance.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Education - Dropout
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Academic achievement/school performance
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Graduation
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Attendance/truancy
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Program Snapshot

Age: 12 - 19

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Rural, Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Leadership and Youth Development, School/Classroom Environment, Truancy Prevention

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide, National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices

Program Director:
Claire Wyneken
Senior Vice President
The Wyman Center
600 Kiwanis Drive
Eureka MO 63025
Phone: 636.549.1236
Website
Email

Researcher:
Joseph Allen
Professor of Psychology
University of Virginia
Gilmer Hall
Charlottesville VA 22903
Phone: 434.982.4727
Website
Email

Researcher:
Susan Philliber
Senior Partner
Philliber Research Associates
16 Main Street
Accord NY 12404
Phone: 845.626.2126
Fax: 845.626.3206
Website
Email

Training and TA Provider:
Felice McClendon
National Network Partner Development Manager
The Wyman Center
600 Kiwanis Drive
Eureka MO 63025
Phone: 636.549.1238
Website
Email