Sex Ed Snapshot Update - FAQ

Sex Ed Snapshot Update - FAQ

Prompted by the passage of the state’s comprehensive sex education law in 2007 (HB07-1292), Colorado Youth Matter conducted a baseline assessment of sexuality education programs and policies in schools in 2010 to determine if the education and policies met the standards of the law. Concurrently, a statewide coalition – The Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance – was formed to provide policy advocacy and community engagement strategies to support statewide implementation of the law. The Colorado Board of Education then adopted new standards for comprehensive health education, prompting the need for another assessment in 2012 to monitor changes in sexuality education programs and policies implemented in Colorado schools.

With two assessments completed, we can begin to identify trends and highlight concrete steps that schools, districts and communities can take together to implement the law and standards and provide young people with the best possible education about their sexual health.

For definitions of terms used in this document, please see the glossary in the state document, Youth Sexual Health in Colorado: A Call to Action.

1. It was not a formal research study.
2. The sample was not the same in 2010 and 2012. We can compare trends but cannot determine any shifts or changes in specific schools and districts.
3. We did send our survey to the same geographic areas across Colorado, with expanded efforts in 2012.
4. Responses do not represent the entire state of Colorado but do reflect the responses of both urban and rural respondents.
5. Each assessment (2010 and 2012) was conducted over a 6-month period.

The Difference Between the Surveys

The 2010 Snapshot included:

  • Online school district HIV/AIDS and sex ed policy search

  • Online survey (developed through Survey Monkey)

  • Telephone key informant interviews

For the first study, “urban” was defined as the 7 county metro areas. “Rural” referred to all locations outside of this area.

In 2012, we simplified our approach, which included:

  • Online survey – one for teachers, one for administrators

  • Targeted follow-up with school administrators via phone and email.

Rural and urban respondents were analyzed together because there was very little difference between the responses in 2010. Additionally, sexuality education and HIV education were analyzed together because there was very little significant difference here as well.

Between the two assessments, we have conducted a search of online district sexuality education policies, qualitative guided interviews, general online surveys, and surveys targeted for specific populations. 

About the Process

  1. Why did you decide to do another Snapshot?
  2. Is this a formal research study?
  3. Who responded to the survey? Is it representative of the whole state?
  4. What do young people think of this survey? Were they included?
  5. Did rural responses differ from urban responses?

What’s happening in the schools?

  1. What is my child learning about sex ed in their classroom?
  2. What does the policy in my school or district say?
  3. How many schools make sex ed available to youth in their native language
  4. When do students start learning about sexual health?
  5. How well do principals and school administrators know the state law?

  6. How often is the education provided actually in line with the criteria outlines in the state law HB07-1292 Concerning the Instruction of Human Sexuality in Schools?

  7. What else is being offered in my teenager’s school that can help them make healthy decisions

  8. What kind of education do teachers receive to deliver quality sex ed? Do they get enough training?

  9. Is professional development for teachers on this topic required?

  10. Do schools provide enough sex ed for students?

  11. What topics are most frequently covered and which ones aren’t, related to sex ed topics? What exactly is being taught in Colorado classrooms? Stated in HB07-1292?

  12. What about elementary school?

  13. What are the most common programs being used to teach sex ed? How many of these are evidence-based?

  14. Our school is ready to use a sex ed program that is both evidence-based and includes a positive perspective on youth? Where do we begin?

  15. How long is an average sex ed program?

  16. My school is so focused on test scores that they don’t have a lot of classroom time for skill building. We fought to get a few weeks of general health education. What’s the fastest, best sex ed program available?

  17. How do I find out what’s being taught in my child’s school?

  18. How are parents informed about sex ed in schools?

  19. How are parents involved in their child’s sexuality education?

For even more information…

Do you have other questions about this assessment, or want to learn more about how you can initiate or improve the sex education in your school or district? We want to hear from you! Pleas This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">email us for more information.

Acknowledgements

This assessment would not be possible without the initial support in 2010 from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado HIV and AIDS Prevention Program, and from JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. Philliber Research Associates provided additional support in 2012. Finally, Colorado Youth Matter staff and board and The Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance staff and members shared ongoing feedback and insights that greatly informed the development of this resource.

Recommended citation:

Colorado Youth Matter and The Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance (2012). Colorado Sex Education Snapshot: 2012 Update. Denver, CO.


About the Process:

1. Why did you decide to do another Snapshot?

To better understand what is being taught, The Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance and Colorado Youth Matter initiated an update to Colorado Youth Matter’s Sex Ed Snapshot published in 2010. Focusing this time on information on education and policies provided by sexual health educators, teachers and school administrators.

Our organizations are often asked about what is happening with sex ed in Colorado and what is being taught. No one entity is tracking and compiling this data and we thought it is important and valuable to do. We also want to see the changes and trends over time.

2. Is this a formal research study?

No, this is an informal statewide assessment. It is not representative of everything happening in the state. The samples were not exactly the same for both surveys, though we did send the survey to similar lists and constituents both times.

3. Who responded to the survey? Is it representative of the whole state?

In 2012 there were two distinct surveys. One was geared toward principals and administrators and one for designed specifically for teachers and educators. 45 principals and 65 schoolteachers responded. The remaining 101 respondents were other school staff, leaders and community educators. Respondents were from 35 different counties across Colorado. Though there was a broad range of professions and geographic areas represented in this survey, the results are not generalizable to the entire sate.

4. What do young people think of this survey? Were they included?

Though the survey was sent to general and broad constituents and communities, it was not targeted to youth specifically and it is unclear if any youth responded.

 5. Did rural responses differ from urban responses?

In the first sex ed assessment in 2010, a comparative analysis of rural versus urban responses was conducted and found little to no differences. Therefore in 2012, we did not separate out responses for analysis based on geographic location.

What's Happening in the Schools?

1. What is my child learning about sex ed in their classroom?

Currently, there is not a single entity that gathers information about what is being taught in all of Colorado’s 178 school districts. Each district, and each school, may use a variety of resources to teach sexuality education. Additionally, comprehensive sexuality education that is proven to be effective is often designed with specific populations in mind, and so a curriculum that works in an urban setting might not be as effective in a rural setting. Regardless, our belief is that all youth deserve access to the information, tools and resources they need to make informed and responsible decisions about their health. This information can be incorporated into biology, social studies, English, math, home economics…any subject can include medically accurate information about sexual health! If you are interested in knowing what your child is learning in her or his classroom, ask your school directly. All parents have the right to ask questions and review any curriculum being used in the classroom, especially as this can help supplement the important conversations you have with your student at home.

2. What does the policy in my school or district say?

In 2009, Colorado Youth Matter assessed the specific content of approximately 25% of the school districts in the state. Most of these districts did have a general family life/sexuality education or comprehensive health education policy, and all are slightly different from one another, however none of the policies we reviewed prohibited the age-appropriate instruction of specific topics within sexual health.  Since the online policy search in 2009, both Colorado Youth Matter and The Alliance have been tracking changes in some school district policies. That said, if you want to know exactly what your nearest school district’s policy is, visit the school district’s website, or ask a district representative – or call us!

3. How many schools make sex ed available to youth in their native language?

 The following questions were asked on the surveys:ques3 snapshot

More survey respondents in 2012 reported that sexuality and HIV/AIDS education is available to non-English speaking students but there are still at least a fifth of 2012 respondents who said that such education was not available to these students.

ques3b snapshot

When such education is available to non-English speaking students, the 2010 and 2012 respondents most often reported that it was only available in English.

4. When do students start learning about sexual health?

Although we do not know when each Colorado school or district beings teaching sex education survey respondents stated the following:

In Which grades is

sexuality education delivered?

2010 (N = 141)

2012 (N = 271)

5th

15%

15%

6th

12%

15%

7th

20%

19%

8th

24%

28%

9th

28%

38%

10th

23%

32%

11th

14%

23%

12th

13%

21%

5. How well do principals and school administrators know the state law?

82% of administrator respondents reported being familiar with HB07-1292. 11% responded that they were not familiar with law and 5% do not know if they are familiar with the law.

The following charts represent all respondents from both 2012 surveys (principals and teachers) combined, as well as responses from the 2010 survey:

ques5

6. How often is the education provided actually in line with the criteria outlined in the state law HB07-1292 Concerning the Instruction of Human Sexuality in Schools?

2012 survey participants responded to the following question:

In your opinion, does your school/district's

sexuality education meet the requirements

for HB07-1292?

   2012

 (N = 271)

No, not at all

7%

No, not exactly

12%

Yes, somewhat

21%

Yes, very much

19%

Not applicable or do not know

41%

7. What else is being offered in my teenager's school that can help them make healthy decisions?

Although we do not know what services are being offered in every school in Colorado, respondents stated the following:

Which of the following services are

available at your school?

   2012

 (N = 271)*

HIV and/or testing

13%

Family planning

13%

Adolescent immunizations

17%

Mental health counseling an/or treatment

27%

Substance abuse prevention and/or treatment

17%

None of the above

18%

I don't know

8%

 8. What kind of education do teachers receive to deliver quality sex ed? Do they get enough training?

The following 3 questions were asked on the 2012 teacher/educator survey:

ques8a

 ques8b

 ques8c

9. Is professional development for teachers on this topic required?

No. There is no Colorado state law requiring professional development of sexuality education although some specific school policies encourage it.

10. Do schools provide enough sex ed for students?

Participants in the 2012 survey responded to the following two questions, highlighting whether or not sex sed/HIV prevention is taught and how many hours of this instruction students receive in either middle or high school.

ques10

How many hours of sexuality education
do students receive in each grade range?

   Middle School

 (N = 271)

High School (N = 107)

3 hours or less

34%

26%

4 to 9 hours

38%

44%

10 hours or more

28%

30%

 11. What topics are most frequently covered and which ones aren’t, related to sex ed topics? What exactly is being taught in Colorado classrooms?

As stated in HB07-1292, both the benefits and side effects of the following topics must be taught for the sexuality education program to be considered in-line with the state law. The following responses are not representative of Colorado but represent those who participated in our survey.


Which of the following topics

(including benefits and side effects)

are taught at your school?

2012

(N = 271)*      

2012 (N = 271)

Abstinence

37%

6%

Condoms

59%

6%

Contraceptives

64%

6%

Emergency Contraception

49%

11%

HPV Vaccine

43%

12%

Although we don’t know what is being taught in every Colorado classroom, survey respondents were asked to respond to a variety of topics that are often included in sexuality educations programs. A much smaller sample of respondents answered this question,(between 60-65 of the 217 sample) so it not representative of the entire survey sample nor it is representative of Colorado at large. Of those who responded, 70-79% reported teaching the following subjects in either middle school, high school or both middle and high schools: healthy relationships, information on HIV and STIs, abstinence, birth control and pregnancy. A smaller percent of the sample, between 58-65% reported teaching students about condoms and negotiation to use condoms, compassion for people living with AIDS, and sexual abuse. Nearly a quarter of all survey respondents did not know if the majority of specific topics stated above were delivered in either or both middle or high school.

12. What about elementary school?

Although we don't know what is being taught in every Colorado classroom, survey respondents state the following (a much smaller amount of respondents answered this questions, between 60-65, so it is not representative of the entire survey sample of 217)


Topics taught in elementary school?

Percent of respondents that teach

this topic in elementary school

  

Reproductive Anatomy

14%

Physical and social changes associated with puberty

11%

Healthy Relationships

7%

Skills related to setting limits and boundaries

4%

 13. What are the most common programs being used to teach sex ed? How many of these are evidence-based?

Although we do not know what is being used in every Colorado classroom or school respondents stated the programs they use fall into the following categories (Please note the small response rate for the questions.

ques13

Number of Respondents:

2010: N=29 (20% response)

2012: N=34 (12% reponse)

14. Our school is ready to use a sex ed program that is both evidence-based and includes a positive perspective on youth. Where do we begin?

There are lots of programs that have been rigorously evaluated, are medically accurate and age appropriate. When selecting a program to fit your needs, it is important to consider your youth population, their needs, the community, state health education standards, the state sex ed law, and the goals/objectives and evaluation results of the program. There are several credible lists of evidence-based sexuality education programs including:

    • If you have any questions about selecting the best program for your needs, please contact Andie Lyons at Colorado Youth Matter: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

15. How long is an average sex ed program?

Effective, evidence-based sex ed programs encompass a variety of topics and are tailored to meet the needs of various youth populations. Good programs range in length from 6 weeks to 9 months and everything in between. It is important to consider the desired outcomes of a sex ed program as well as the capacity of your school or organization to implement a program as part of the selection process.

16. My school is so focused on test scores that they don’t have a lot of classroom time for skill building. We fought to get a few weeks of general Health education. What’s the fastest, best sex ed program available?

There are lots different ways and solutions to tackle this problem, especially if you are open to being creative. Although evidence-based programs are the gold standard, information about sexual health can be integrated into other classes as well, like biology, family and consumer science, civics, for example. Sexual health information and programs can also be offered as, or incorporated into, existing after-school programs. Colorado Department of Education (CDE) has developed skills based standards for comprehensive health education, including sexual health. These are helpful for determining what students need to know at the different grade levels and to help you in selecting the right program for your grade level. Please see the links in question 13. 

17. How do I find out what’s being taught in my child’s school?

The best person to ask is your child’s teacher, school health instructor, school nurse or principal. Some districts have health curriculum coordinators who may have information about approved curricula. You may also wish to check with your school board, whose members have the authority to pass policy about instruction guidelines and practice.

18.How are parents informed about sex ed in schools?

Students must be given the opportunity to opt out of any program on human sexuality. Schools can chose to make this exemption available to parents through either active consent – where parents are informed of the program and asked to return a form saying their child can participate in the program – or through passive consent, where parents only need to return a form if they do not want their child to participate. Schools are also expected to make the curricula and classroom materials available for community review prior to implementation in the classroom.


Please mark the statement that best
 describes how students are able to 
participate in sexuality and/or HIV/AIDS 
education in your school(s):

2010

(N=141)

  

2012

(N=271)

Parents are required to send in a signed form giving their student permission to participants (opt-in)

14%

20%

Parents are required to send in a signed form not giving their student permission to participants (opt-out)

23%

21%

Parents are not required to sign a form; youth decide independtly whether or not they will participate

2%

5%

Don't know*

8%

5%

Other (please specify)**: "It is in our health curriculum, so being signed up for health is being signed up"

N/A

<1%

Did not respond

53%

49%

19. How are parents involved in their child's sexuality education?


Which of the following ways, if any, does you school/district involved parents in their children's sexuality education?

  2010

(N=66)

  

   2012

(N=152)

Invite parents to attend orientation sessions about sexuality education

36%

34%

Invite parents to attend classes to teach them about sexuality and sexual health topics

12%

29%

Send materials home to parents about their child's sexuality education

49%

49%

Involve parents in their child's sexuality education homework

36%

46%

Invite parents to review complete curriculum

52%

52%

Copyright © 2015 Colorado Youth Matter

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