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Project PATHE (Positive Action Through Holistic Education)

Ages 11-18

Rating: Level 3


This universal, comprehensive school organizational change program is used in secondary schools to reduce school disorder and improve the school environment, thus enhancing student experiences and attitudes about school. The program seeks to reduce disorder by decreasing academic failure, increasing social bonding, and improving students’ self-concepts. The program targets all students in middle schools and high schools, serving large numbers of minority youths in inner cities and impoverished rural areas.

The five major components are

1) Staff, student, and community participation in planning
2) Schoolwide organizational changes aimed at increasing academic performance
3) Schoolwide organizational changes aimed at enhancing school climate
4) Programs to prepare students for careers
5) Academic and affective services for high-risk youths

The program design is unique in its comprehensive coverage and in its simultaneous concentration on organizations and individual-level change. The school’s climate is enhanced through added extracurricular activities, peer counseling, and school pride campaigns. Job-seeking skills programs and career exploration programs emphasize career attainment. At-risk students receive additional monitoring, tutoring, and counseling.


The project design included four experimental middle schools, one control middle school, three experimental high schools, and one control high school. Students were predominantly African-American and resided in both urban and rural areas. The school was the unit of analysis. Students were surveyed in 1981, 1982, and 1983. In 1981 a random sample of 300 students was surveyed in the participating high schools. The entire student and teacher populations were surveyed in the other years (with response rates of 79 percent to 86 percent). In fall 1982 the comparison high school closed. Thus, the evaluation covers a 3-year period for the middle schools in the sample and a 1-year period for the high schools.


High school students reported significant decreases in delinquency and drug involvement and fewer school suspensions and less punishment than the control group. Students in the program who received special academic and counseling services reported significantly higher grades and were less likely to repeat a grade than students who did not receive these services. High school seniors who received these services were also more likely to graduate than those who did not receive the services. For middle school students in the intervention, there were declines in suspensions. PATHE high schools, compared with the control groups, showed that self-reported delinquency (including drug involvement, suspensions, and school punishments) declined; school alienation decreased; attachment to school increased; and school climate and discipline management improved in all the treatment schools. At-risk students showed higher rates of graduation and standardized achievement tests and increased school attendance.

Risk Factors


  • Inadequate school climate/Poorly organized and functioning schools/Negative labeling by teachers
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school

Protective Factors


  • Opportunities for prosocial school involvement
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults


  • OJJDP: Blueprints
  • NIJ: What Works


Catalano, Richard F., Rolf Loeber, and Kay McKinney. 1999. School and Community Interventions to Prevent Serious and Violent Offending. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Gottfredson, Denise C. 1986. “An Empirical Test of School-Based Environmental and Individual Interventions to Reduce the Risk of Delinquent Behavior.” Criminology 24(4):705–31.

———. 1987. “An Evaluation of an Organization Development Approach to Reducing School Disorder.” Evaluation Review 11:739–63.

———. 1990. Changing School Structures to Benefit High-Risk Youths: Understanding Troubled and Troubling Youth: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage.


Denise Gottfredson
Gottfredson Associates, Inc.
3239 B Corporate Court
Ellicott City, MD 21042–2247
Phone: (410) 461-5530
Fax: (410) 461-5529
Web site: