Indianapolis Star (02.08.12) - Wednesday, February 22, 2012
A study of Indiana high schools similar in enrollment,
community size and racial demographics finds those that
offered a specific abstinence education program demonstrated
better overall academic achievement.
Purdue University Sociology Professor Kenneth Ferraro analyzed
42 high schools, one-half of which offered the Peers Educating
and Encouraging Relationship Skills (PEERS) Project, an
abstinence-based curriculum that uses peer educators to
discuss risky behaviors. Under the program, high school
students are recruited to talk to pupils in grades six through
eight in science or health and wellness classes.
"We were interested in whether abstinence education programs
were good, bad or benign for academic performance," said
Ferraro. "We found that school corporations with a specific
abstinence education program had a higher percentage of their
high school sophomores pass the math portion of the ISTEP+
Graduation Qualifying Exam in 2008-09 than was the case for
The longer the schools used PEERS, the better the results,
said Ferraro. "We saw greater gains in the percent passing the
math exam when the program was sustained for several years,"
he said. However, there was no association between PEERS and
attendance rates at the schools.
PEERS Executive Director Eve Jackson said the program benefits
both younger and older students. High school students who
serve as mentors tend to grow more confident in their own
positive values as they promote them to younger students, she
said. "When exemplary role models explain why it is important
to set future goals and make healthy choices as well as
abstain from all risky behavior, including sexual activity,
middle school students pay attention," she noted. Overall,
"Students abstaining from risky behavior do better in school,"
The study, "Do Abstinence Education Programs Influence High
School Academic Performance?" was published in the American
Journal of Health Studies (2011;26(4)).