Focusing on the Boys: Implementing Wise Guys in Davenport, Iowa

Focusing on the Boys: Implementing Wise Guys in Davenport, Iowa

Published: Feb 10, 2016
Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Associated Project

Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP)

Time frame: 2011–2020

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families


Ellen Eliason Kisker

Lauren Murphy

Key Findings

Key Findings:

  • A strong team of two experienced facilitators implemented Wise Guys as intended. They received training on the curriculum and had strong support from the leaders from the state health department and their organization. During the study period, the facilitators offered all planned sessions except when schools closed due to bad weather or school scheduling conflicts arose. 
  • Boys were very engaged in the program and activities. According to the facilitators, school staff, observation, and focus group participants, boys liked participating in Wise Guys. Participants indicated that they thought the program would help them make better decisions in the future.
  • The main challenge identified by both the facilitators and participants was limited time for implementing the program. Many boys expressed a desire for Wise Guys to meet for longer sessions or more often.

Few programs are designed specifically to delay sexual activity and prevent adolescent fatherhood. To address this research gap, the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services directed Mathematica Policy Research to collaborate with the Iowa Department of Public Health to conduct a rigorous evaluation of Wise Guys in and near Davenport, Iowa. The Wise Guys curriculum is designed specifically for adolescent boys and aims to promote male responsibility while helping prevent teenage pregnancy. This programming was funded through the state’s Personal Responsibility Education Program grant, which it received in 2010.

For the evaluation, Mathematica partnered with a community-based organization, Bethany for Children and Families, which delivered the Wise Guys curriculum to 7th-grade boys in seven Davenport-area middle schools. Bethany offered the curriculum as a voluntary pull-out program during the school day. The Wise Guys curriculum includes topics and approaches designed to meet the specific needs of adolescent boys. In addition, by implementing Wise Guys in boys-only groups, the program aims to create an environment in which boys feel comfortable talking about topics related to male responsibility and sexual health.

This report summarizes Bethany’s experience implementing Wise Guys during the 2013–2014 and 2014–2015 school years.

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