When the Rubber Meets the Road: Implementing the PATHS® Curriculum in High-Impact Schools

The importance of both quality implementation and administrative support has been documented in recent research. For this reason, we strongly encourage all principals and other personnel to attend PATHS® workshops and to support the program.

Most research with the PATHS® program has been conducted using randomized trial designs by university researchers who managed training and ongoing consultation, but recent studies have also examined the effects of the PATHS® program where implementation was administered under local conditions. Kam and colleagues (Kam, Greenberg, & Walls, 2003), for example, conducted an “effectiveness” study of a local dissemination of the PATHS® curriculum to a group of inner-city public schools that had very low academic performance and high rates of poverty (90% of children received free and reduced lunch).

The findings demonstrated the importance and complex nature of implementation quality in school-based prevention. Both principal support and the quality of teacher implementation at the classroom level were critical factors in determining the success of the program dissemination on child outcomes. In classrooms where teachers implemented with high quality and where the principal showed strong support for the PATHS® implementation, there were significant decreases in aggression within the first four months of implementation. However, significant intervention effects were only found in those settings where both principal support and teacher implementation were positive. These results underscore the need to study the complex and multiple facets of the implementation process, including dosage, quality of delivery, and commitment and support of institutional leadership.

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