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Evidence-Based Programs

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Get Real

Overview of the Program

Get Real is a 3-year middle school curriculum developed by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and published by ETR. There is also a 1-year high school component designed to be taught in grade 9 or 10. The program is designed to delay sex and to increase correct and consistent use of protection methods when a person becomes sexually active. Get Real views sexuality in the context of relationships and focuses on social and emotional skills as a key component of making responsible and healthy decisions.

The following four premises are built into the curriculum:

  • Sexual health is an integral part of health education.
  • Parents and other caring adults are students’ primary sexuality educators.
  • Relationship skills are a key element of a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum.
  • While abstinence from sex is the healthiest choice for avoiding sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy, adolescents require a comprehensive understanding of sexual health, sexuality and protection methods, which they will need when they become sexually active.

Program Objectives

As a result of participating in the Get Real program, students will be able to:

  • Connect self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills to responsible decision making.
  • Name reasons abstinence is the healthiest choice for youth their age.
  • Describe consequences of sexual activity and ways to reduce the risk of negative consequences.
  • Apply a decision-making model to real-life situations.
  • Demonstrate assertive communication and refusal skills for delaying sexual intercourse and avoiding unprotected sexual activity.
  • Increase their opportunities for conversations with their parents and other caring adults about personal, family and community beliefs about sexual health. The program is delivered through class discussion, role plays, worksheets, practice of skills and assessment activities.

Sessions

Get Real consists of 27 sequential lessons taught across the middle school years—9 lessons each in Grades 6, 7 and 8. The 1-year high school component has 8 sequential lessons and 3 optional lessons designed to be taught in Grade 9 or 10.

GRADE 6

Lesson 6-1: Creating the Classroom Climate

Lesson 6-2: Communication and Refusal Skills

Lesson 6-3: Relationships and Boundaries

Lesson 6-4: Male Anatomy and Reproduction

Lesson 6-5: Female Anatomy and Reproduction

Lesson 6-6: Puberty

Lesson 6-7: Abstinence

Lesson 6-8: : Decision Making and Values

Lesson 6-9: Grade 6 Conclusion and Review

GRADE 7

Lesson 7-1: Creating the Classroom Climate

Lesson 7-2: Media Literacy and Sexuality

Lesson 7-3: Sexual Identity

Lesson 7-4: Creating a Safe School Environment

Lesson 7-5: Deciding About Sexual Behavior

Lesson 7-6: Defining and Maintaining Abstinence

Lesson 7-7: Introduction to Sexually Transmitted Infections

Lesson 7-8: : Introduction to Protection Methods

Lesson 7-9: Grade 7 Conclusion and Review

GRADE 8

Lesson 8-1: Creating the Classroom Climate

Lesson 8-2: Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships

Lesson 8-3: Addressing Obstacles to Abstinence

Lesson 8-4: Comprehensive Protection Methods

Lesson 8-5: STI/HIV Transmission

Lesson 8-6: Living with HIV

Lesson 8-7: Refusal Skills

Lesson 8-8: : Goals and Decision Making

Lesson 8-9: Get Real Capstone Project

HIGH SCHOOL (GRADE 9 0R 10)

Lesson 9-1: Introduction to Sexuality

Lesson 9-2: Gender, Sex and Shared Responsibility

Lesson 9-3: Reasons and Methods for Preventing Pregnancy

Lesson 9-4: Preventing STIs and HIV

Lesson 9-5: Sexual Risks and Low-Risk Intimacy

Lesson 9-6: Negotiating Postponement and Protection

Lesson 9-7: Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships

Lesson 9-8: : Assessing Risk and Accessing Sexual Health Care

Optional Lesson 9A: Reproductive Anatomy

Optional Lesson 9B: Sexual Identity

Optional Lesson 9C: Social Media Literacy and Sexuality

Each lesson is designed to be taught in 45 minutes. If classes are generally taught during longer blocks, the lessons can be expanded through prolonged discussion or review of anonymous questions. However, it will be difficult to implement the classes in less than 45 minutes each without substantial changes to the lessons. If necessary, two lessons may be taught in a 90-minute block.

Unique Features of the Program

Get Real teaches the five social and emotional learning (SEL) skills of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making as key elements in learning how to negotiate relationships. These skills are integrated into the content of the lessons through activities and process questions.

The Get Real program also has a strong family-involvement component. It recognizes parents as the primary sexuality educators of their children, and encourages students to talk with a parent or other caring adult about the material covered in class. Every lesson includes take-home Family Activities that encourage this dialogue between students and their parents and other caring adults. Parents are supported through:

  • Informational letters that explain material covered in class and the corresponding Family Activity
  • Strategies and tips for talking with their children about topics covered in class
  • Additional education resources

Theoretical Framework

Get Real is framed with the concept of social and emotional learning, or SEL. The program uses SEL because all consensual sexual activity takes place in the context of relationships. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

“SEL is a process for helping children and even adults develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. SEL teaches the skills we all need to handle ourselves, our relationships, and our work effectively and ethically. These skills include recognizing and managing our emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically.”

Get Real incorporates the five SEL skills of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making as key elements in learning how to negotiate relationships. If young people can negotiate relationships, they can better negotiate sexual relationships. These skills are integrated into the content of the lessons through activities and process questions. Teachers are trained in the SEL framework during Get Real teacher training.

The program is based on a behavior/determinant/intervention (BDI) logic model. The health goal of the curriculum is to promote positive sexual health behaviors and beliefs among students who have participated in the Get Real middle school comprehensive sexuality education curriculum, resulting in a delay of sexual initiation, a reduction of unintended pregnancies, and higher use of protection methods.

The behaviors targeted are delaying initiation of sex and increasing correct and consistent use of condoms and/or other protection methods. Each behavior has corresponding risk and protective factors. Lessons in Get Real are mapped to these determinants, which are listed on the first page of each lesson. It should be noted that if lessons are altered or activities are omitted, some lessons may no longer address a particular determinant, which may alter the intended behavior-change outcomes.

Ordering and Training Information

To learn more about Get Real, including ordering and training information visit: www.etr.org/ebi/programs/get-real/

Evaluation Fact Sheet

Intervention

In 2008, Wellesley Centers for Women began the process of conducting a longitudinal impact evaluation to study the effectiveness of Get Real. This evaluation was a scientifically rigorous study featuring 24 middle schools in the greater Boston area. The ultimate aim of the evaluation was to establish whether Get Real had any impact on students’ first vaginal sex.

Research Design

Half of the schools were randomly assigned to have Get Real taught by a trained educator to a cohort of students for 3 years, and half continued with their usual sex education programs. A total of 2,453 students participated in the evaluation. Of the participating schools, 22 were located in an urban area, 13 were traditional public schools, 9 were public charter schools, and 2 were private middle schools. The sample was 52% female and 48% male, and 33% were of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. With respect to race, 53% were Black/ African American, 28% White, 6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 2% Native American and 11% biracial/multiracial.

During the evaluation, students completed surveys that measured knowledge, attitudes, and sexual behavior. Surveys were given at the beginning of sixth grade before beginning the program, and follow-up surveys were conducted in seventh, eighth and ninth grades. Researchers also conducted focus groups with students, and interviewed parents about parent-child communication relating to relationships and sexuality.

Findings

The sixth–eighth grade analyses showed that there was a significant difference between students attending the treatment schools compared to those in the comparison schools, with students in treatment schools reporting lower levels of sexual activity. The research findings show that Get Real worked to delay sex among students who received the program, empowers parents to help their children delay sex, reinforces family communication and improves communication skills for health relationships.

In terms of delaying sex:

  • There was a significant effect for both boys and girls, with 16% fewer boys and 15% fewer girls who received Get Real having had sex by the end of eighth grade compared to boys and girls who had sex education “as usual” in comparison schools.
  • For boys, family involvement showed an additional effect, with boys who completed Family Activities in sixth grade being less likely to report having had sex in eighth grade than boys who did not complete these activities.

In addition to delaying sex, the research study found that Get Real also:

  • Reinforced family communication through family activities and empowered parents to help their children delay sex.
  • Improved communication skills for healthy relationships. Both boys and girls who received Get Real identified that they were more prepared to assert themselves and communicate in a relationship, including saying ‘no’ to sex.

Schools that can implement the program as intended are likely to reap significant benefits from exposing their students to a relationship-skills-based comprehensive sexuality education program with a Family Activities component.

References

Charmaraman, L., & McKamey, C. (2011). Urban early adolescent narratives on sexuality: Accidental and intentional influences of family, peers, and the media. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 8(4), 253-266.

Erkut, S., Grossman, J. M., Frye, A. A., Ceder, I., Charmaraman, L, & Tracy, A. J. (2013). Can sex education delay early sexual debut? Journal of Early Adolescence, 33, 479–494.

Grossman, J. G., Frye, A., Charmaraman, L., & Erkut, S. (2013). Family homework and school-based sex education: Delaying early adolescents’ sexual behavior. Journal of School Health, 83(11), 810-817.

Grossman, J. M., Tracy, A. J., Charmaraman, L., Ceder, I., & Erkut, S. (2014). Protective effects of middle school comprehensive sex education with family involvement. Journal of School Health, 84(11), 739–747.