Methods: The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) was used to assess the SEC of 246 Playworks Junior Coaches at 25 elementary schools. Playworks staff (Coaches) working directly with the students at each school were asked to complete the DESSA on every Junior Coach at two time points (Fall 2014 and Spring 2015). Growth in SEC was estimated utilizing a three-level multilevel modeling framework, with time nested within students, and students nested within schools.
Results: Coaches assessed Junior Coaches to have gained an average of 4 T-score points (p < .001) in SEC between pretest and posttest. About 21% of the variance in SEC growth was attributed to school characteristics, and about 39% of the variance in SEC growth was explained by student characteristics. Females had higher levels of initial SEC (p < . 001) but males had a higher rate of growth (p < .001). White students had higher levels of initial SEC than black students (p < .001), but black students had a higher rate of growth relative to white students (p = .01).
Conclusions: Overall, this analysis finds that many Junior Coaches experienced improvement in SEC over the 2014-2015 school year. Findings should be interpreted with caution due to some limitations in study design. (e.g. it remains unclear the extent to which observed differences are attributable to programming). This analysis provides pilot data for more rigorous testing to determine if Playworks programming leads to growth in protective factors among students and reduces disparities in protective factors that typically appear in elementary school.