A central purpose of the YES study is to assess the importance of various aspects of the school environment--in particular, programs, policies, and practices--on student alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use, as well as on their dietary and exercise habits. (The emphasis on dietary and exercise issues was added, beginning in 2003, in response to the emerging interest in these important health issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the sponsor of the YES study.)
Because these features of American schools are being assessed on an annual basis in the YES surveys of school administrators, another important objective is to track the direction and rate of change in these programs, policies, and practices over time in order to measure progress (or sometimes regress) in American schools. Simply being able to measure the prevalence and change in these various aspects of schools can serve a number of useful purposes, including needs assessment and measurement of progress in the diffusion of new practices.
A third purpose is to develop other community- and state-level environmental measures relating to policies, programs, and practices in the larger environment that might influence the student outcomes measured in the Monitoring the Future study (substance use, overweight, eating habits, and exercise). The lead role for producing these measures and assessing their importance lies with colleagues at other institutions in an affiliated effort entitled ImpacTeen. The collaborating institutions, along with some of their key participating scientists, may be found at impacteen.org.
Samples. A sample of schools containing representative samples of (separately) 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students in the conterminous United States is surveyed each year. The first such survey was completed in the 1997-1998 school year. These samples are composed of the national replicate half-samples of schools that are leaving the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study each year (after two years of participation in the student surveys) at each of these grade levels. These combined half-samples comprise about 210 schools each year. The sampling design for Monitoring the Future involves the selection of schools with probability proportionate to size (estimated number of students in the target grade level), so schools are represented in proportion to the overall student body that they serve. The resulting data are weighted to correct for any unequal probabilities that may have occurred in the multi-stage sampling procedure.
Data collection. A letter of invitation is sent to the principal of each school cycling out of the Monitoring the Future study. It states clearly that YES is a separate study with a different sponsor (the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) and that they are in no way obligated to participate in this new study. A follow-up phone call is made to the principal, and in the great majority of cases they agree to participate. The School Policies and Programs Questionnaire is mailed each spring to the principal (or in some cases, another school staff member designated by the principal). Final response rates have run at or over 80%.
Questionnaire. The questionnaire comprises separate sections inside a folder. Part I , which for the most part is completed by school principals themselves, requests general information about the school, the student body, faculty, and other resources. It also requests information on a range of policies and practices the school might have for dealing with alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by students. Questions about the physical education requirements of the school were introduced in the 2003 survey, and questions about the food and beverage environment and related policies of the school were introduced in 2004. Part II of the questionnaire has separable sections in case the principal wishes to request the assistance of other administrators in the school in answering some questions. There is a section dealing with the food and beverage offerings at the school, and several relatively small sections dealing with the substance abuse prevention curricula in the school.
Use of existing data. The most important data that are used in combination with the data collected in the YES study of school administrators are those secured from students in those same schools by means of the MTF survey. In particular, use is made of certain outcome dimensions related to student behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. For example, student rates of smoking, drinking, and illicit drug use, as well as various related attitudes and beliefs about these drugs, are important. In addition, student measures on healthy dietary habits, exercise habits, and body mass index (calculated from self-reported height and weight) are being used. At times, other record data, such as Census information, may be used in conjunction with the YES and MTF data.
Confidentiality. The identities of participating communities and schools are kept confidential. Results are reported only in a statistical fashion that does not identify individuals or schools.
Dissemination of results. Findings from the YES study are disseminated through a number of means, ranging from the traditional scientific reports and journal articles to press releases to postings on this Web site. (See Publications.) In addition, the investigators frequently testify before Congress, advise federal offices and agencies, give recommendations to national foundations, and are interviewed by reporters from around the country.