AIDS Education:

Public School Programs Require More Student Information and Teacher Training

HRD-90-103: Published: May 1, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 15, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO surveyed public school districts' implementation of the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) educational program about human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

GAO found that: (1) although CDC believed that students at every grade level should receive age-appropriate HIV education, only 5 percent of the school districts required education at each grade level; (2) school districts most frequently provided instruction for the seventh through tenth grades and the least instruction for the eleventh and twelfth grades; (3) school districts cited already crowded curricula as a restriction on the extent of HIV education they offered; (4) districts that did not require any HIV education typically enrolled fewer than 450 students; (5) state and local education agencies' lack of adequate data regarding students' HIV-related knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors hampered efforts to set program priorities, evaluate programs, and improve operations; (6) state and local agencies attributed their inability to collect CDC-suggested data to lack of staff or authority to ask sensitive questions; (7) about 20 percent of HIV teachers received no specialized training on the subject, while the remainder typically received less than the recommended amount of training; (8) 13 school districts that received direct CDC funding generally trained a higher percentage of teachers, had longer training sessions, and more extensively covered key topics; and (9) CDC issued HIV education guidelines regarding teacher training in 1988, but did not set standards for the number of training hours or the amount of training time to be spent on key topics.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: CDC concurred with the GAO recommendation, but said that it has already taken enough of a leadership role.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should require the Director, CDC, to take a leadership role in developing approaches to extend and reinforce HIV-related education for eleventh- and twelfth-grade students.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: CDC concurred, but said that resources should be primarily focused on high-incidence areas, wherever they are.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should require the Director, CDC, to work with state education agencies to help smaller school districts overcome resource and community barriers preventing them from offering HIV education.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: CDC concurred, but said that such data collection may be perceived as controversial. Therefore, data collection is a complicated process requiring cooperation from grantees.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should require the Director, CDC, to ensure that state and local grantees collect adequate knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors data from students to evaluate and improve school-based programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: CDC concurred, but said that is has already helped to develop support materials in lieu of specific guidance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should require the Director, CDC, to develop guidelines for the training of teachers who instruct HIV education courses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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