School-Based Bullying Prevention: Ensuring Long-Term Sustainability

Keep it Going

  • Overview

    SecureTo continue bullying prevention efforts over time, you need to consider issues of sustainability early on in the implementation process. Even schools that successfully implement bullying prevention or intervention programs often struggle to maintain results over time due to resource constraints and lack of student engagement, for example. You can take several steps to ensure the long-term sustainability of a program and extend a program’s success.

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  • Steps to Take: Lessons Learned from the Research

    Steps to Take:  Lessons Learned from the Research

    Start to think about how to sustain a program over time at the beginning of the implementation process.

    • Start planning for the long term now.
    • Pinpoint which resources you will need.

    Assess efforts to reduce school-based bullying on a regular basis.

    • Check in regularly to track progress.
    • Set realistic expectations about timing and track milestones along the way.

    Monitor which elements of the program are being implemented and how the staff and students perceive the intervention efforts.

    • Conduct regular process evaluations.
    • Use established tools and standards to check your progress.

    Refresh teachers and school staffs’ skills and knowledge about the program when programs are implemented over a number of years.

    • Refresh the program with ongoing training.
    • Find out which ongoing training resources may be available.
    • Planning for Long-Term Implementation

      When implementing a bullying prevention program, it is essential to consider how the program, if effective, will be maintained in the future. Plans to sustain the program over time should take place during the pre-implementation process.

      • Start planning for the long term now. Introducing a new bullying prevention program can take several years. Planning for the future of the program at the outset can have a big impact on the program’s success. Early planning has two advantages:

        • It will help you manage your funding and resources.
        • It shows teachers and staff that the program is a priority at the school. This, in itself, may increase teachers’ dedication to the program.

        For example, the WITS Primary Program involves community members in the implementation process to encourage support for the program. Their commitment increases the chances that the program will continue over time.

      • Pinpoint which resources you will need. Consider exactly which kinds of support you will need to continue the program at your school. Think about yearly program costs; costs and time commitments required for additional staff training; continued technical assistance from the program developers or another outside source; and continued support from staff and students.

        The success of a bullying prevention program also depends on the enthusiasm of school staff and the engagement of the students. It is important to keep them interested and committed to the program after the initial implementation (for more information on securing support, see Getting Stakeholder Buy-in). One issue that can affect student engagement is overly repetitive material. For example, the School-wide Positive Behavioral Intervention Systems is a schoolwide program that is repeated annually. Because of this, some students receive the same information twice, which may weaken their interest in the program. To address this problem, teachers and staff may need to present any repetitive information in a way that reiterates the program materials, and continues to foster students’ interests.

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    • Determining Program Impact

      Before you spend more money and time to continue bullying prevention efforts, you need to assess how the program is working. Did the program reduce incidences of school-based bullying? Did the program have any unintended consequences? Obviously, it is not efficient to fund a program that has not reduced bullying behaviors within the school—or worse, one that has increased problem behaviors. Outcome evaluations can help answer these questions and ensure that time and money are well spent.

      • Check in regularly to track progress. To make sure you are meeting expectations, school staff can evaluate the program. For example, staff can use measures from needs assessment tools to measure the change in students’ bullying and victimization behavior over time. Or, you can hire an outside evaluator to collect and analyze data on bullying in the school and determine if changes in students’ behaviors are due to the program or some other factor. For example, outside evaluators from a local university in Canada worked with school districts to evaluate the effects of the WITS Primary Program.

      • Set realistic expectations about timing and track milestones along the way. Behavioral change does not happen overnight. It often takes months for a program to improve student behavior or a school’s climate; you need to make sure enough time has passed before you conduct the first evaluation. If the initial evaluation suggests that the program is having a positive effect, you should conduct ongoing evaluations to determine if this effect continues over time. For example, the Bully-Proofing Your School program was implemented in several schools over a 3-year period. The schools conducted an initial impact assessment to determine whether any positive results could be seen early on in the process and then conducted yearly follow-up assessments. A year after the program ended, they conducted a final assessment to check whether there were any lasting effects from the program. Each evaluation showed continued success, which could provide a good argument for funding the program in the future.

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    • Monitoring the Implementation Process

      Throughout the course of a program, it is crucial to assess how well the program is being implemented within your school. Regular assessments help to identify which elements of the program are easily and consistently being used, which are posing the greatest challenges, and how the students and teachers feel about the program.

      • Conduct regular process evaluations. Process evaluations serve as a starting point in determining how program efforts can be improved. A process evaluation can be as simple as a checklist of program elements for teachers to fill out or a more formal procedure that includes program staff, who shadow teachers as they deliver the program. For example, in the Steps to Respect program, teachers and staff kept weekly implementation logs that consisted of check lists and sections for comments. Process evaluations also can include a feedback component for students and staff to express their opinion about the school’s bullying prevention efforts. This information can help enhance engagement in the program and pinpoint areas for improvement.

      • Use established tools and standards to check your progress. Some evidence-based programs may already have tools available to measure success. For example, School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support provides schools with monthly feedback on the implementation process and the changing nature of bullying within the school. They use an instrument to monitor implementation efforts, known as the SET Index, which was put together by the program’s developers.

      Useful Definitions

      • Process evaluation: A study that seeks to determine if a program is operating as it was designed to.
      • Outcome evaluation: A formal study that seeks to determine if a program is working.

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    • Ongoing Training for Staff

      Over time, teachers and other school staff will need a refresher about the program components and goals, as well as additional support to continue providing the program.

      • Refresh the program with ongoing training. Additional training and support can help renew enthusiasm for the program and refresh teachers’ skills. This can take many forms, such as:
        • Training from program developers or certified program staff;
        • Informal meetings with teachers and staff; or
        • More structured training sessions provided by school staff or administrators.
        In addition, regular team meetings can offer opportunities for ongoing training and provide a forum to discuss successes and setbacks with the program. For example, one school implementing Positive Action held training sessions at the beginning of the school year, while another school implementing Steps to Respect held weekly meetings with program staff to prepare for implementation. (For more information on training, see Providing Program Training).

      • Find out which ongoing training resources may be available. Some bullying programs hold regular conferences or booster sessions in which administrators, teachers, and staff from different school districts can share experiences and receive additional training. For example, the KiVa Antibullying Program regularly holds regional meetings run by certified KiVa staff. These meetings serve as additional training for staff and allow administrators and teachers from different school districts to discuss common challenges. Also, the School-wide Positive Behavioral Intervention Systems program offers ongoing training and technical support for individual schools and implementation coordinators.

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