A recent national study found that only half of American middle and high schools meet their state and district health education standards, and less than 25% of all students receive daily recommended physical activity standards. Without adequate health education and physical activity, youth face short-term and long-term consequences. These consequences are linked not just to adolescent health disparities, but also to youths’ educational attainment, employability, and other key outcomes throughout their lives.
Grassroots Health has historically aligned the way we think about data quality and rigor with academic standards that attempt to define what “counts” as evidence.The widely accepted, nonprofit evaluation hierarchy considers large sample sizes, validated survey instruments, and experimental research designs as the gold standard. We value this type of science and how it aims to rigorously, consistently, and transparently measure program impact.
We also recognize that science is not immune to bias. Science may strive to maintain objectivity, but it can also reproduce institutionalized and unequal power structures.
In an organization whose aim is to be responsive to many voices and to put students at the center of our work, we strive to incorporate a diversity of perspectives about what program impact means. Our work is most successful when we bring many interests, resources, and perspectives together for a common mission.
We acknowledge that different people and groups involved in our work may have very different ideas about what impact looks like, as well as how it should be measured and communicated. Each of these perspectives is valid.
We implement pre/post surveys that provide realtime feedback on the growth of students in our programs. This measures their growth, not just academically, but also their perceived ability to use this information through a variety of scales assessing self efficacy, values, communication, attitudes, and beliefs.
We produce data reports so teachers and students see their data first. We then use the data to make yearly updates to our curriculum. We recognize the value of and implement processes for collecting anecdotal data, focus groups for different learners, and other platforms (analyzed externally) to gather positive youth development data to account for our own bias.
With our approach to re-imagining health education, schools are not only able to reach national health and physical education standards, but they are also able to provide health education in a format that students enjoy, that is community-centered, and that is led by near-peer role models.
As a result of programs, middle schoolers demonstrate increased health knowledge and improve their ability to apply this knowledge in their own lives, ultimately creating positive health behaviors and habits. In addition, our college student-athlete volunteers enter the workforce ready to be active community members and champions of health equity.
Take a look at some of the highlights from our 2021-2022 school year: