Effectiveness of Recovery High Schools as Continuing Care
Previous research has provided extensive descriptions of recovery schools (Moberg & Finch, 2008; Moberg, Finch, & Krupp, 2014). However, prior to this study, there had been no direct evaluation of whether recovery high school students experience superior recovery outcomes compared to students who are recovering while attending a regular high school. The goal of this first effectiveness study was to rigorously address this question as we focused on the group of well-developed recovery high schools in three states: (1) Minnesota (the state in the United States with the highest concentration of such programs at the time of the project proposal), (2) Wisconsin, and (3) Texas.
The two primary specific aims of this research were:
- To assess behavioral outcomes for recovery high school students (alcohol and other drug use, mental health symptoms, and delinquent behavior) compared to similar recovering students who attend traditional high schools. We hypothesized that students attending recovery schools will show significantly better behavioral outcomes than students attending traditional schools.
- To assess academic outcomes for recovery school students (GPA, standardized test scores, attendance, drop-out rates) compared to similar recovering students who attend traditional high schools. We hypothesized that students attending recovery schools will show significantly better academic outcomes than students attending traditional schools.
To answer these questions, students and their parents completed questionnaires and interviews four times over the course of one year. This produced a rich outcomes dataset for a large number of students with treated substance use disorders who experience different high school environments after treatment.
Students in this study were recruited from substance abuse treatment facilities and recovery high schools in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Texas and were followed for twelve months. Students leaving treatment enrolled in recovery high schools or non-recovery high schools (such as traditional/alternative schools), which allowed for a comparison of outcomes for students in recovery schools versus other schooling options. In addition to collecting information from students, we also administered interviews and questionnaires to one parent or guardian for each adolescent. Furthermore, we compared data from a secondary comparison group from a large national sample (about 18,000) of adolescents.