Research results show students across U.S. put high value on FLASH curriculum

Students in different parts of the country overwhelmingly find the FLASH sexual health curriculum, produced by the Family Planning program at Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC), valuable and worth recommending to their peers.

As part of a multi-year study being conducted in the South and Midwest, more than 90 percent of students surveyed say they will use the skills they learned in class in their real lives, and more than 90 percent would recommend FLASH to a friend.

In addition, after receiving instruction in the High School FLASH curriculum:

  • 85% say that they are more likely to tell a partner when they don’t want to have sex.
  • 90% say they are more likely to use a condom or ask a partner to use a condom if they choose to have sex.
  • 90% say they are more likely to get tested for an STD if they have had unprotected sex.

“Students like FLASH a lot, and they find it personally impactful. While we might expect that in King County, where we have a lot of history with FLASH, it’s great news that students in rural areas and in the South and Midwest say their health-related behaviors will change because of FLASH,” said Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health—Seattle & King County. 

FLASH is available to educators everywhere. It’s currently used in every school district in King County, across much of Washington state, and in at least 40 other states.

Federal research grant was restored through King County lawsuit

A federally funded research project is studying the impact of the FLASH curriculum on high school students’ ability to delay sexual activity and to protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs. The study is a rare opportunity to measure how students respond to what’s taught in the classroom. While FLASH is based on the latest research and evidence, the full curriculum has never been evaluated for its effectiveness (which is also true of most sexual health courses).

Through a competitive process in 2015, the federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program awarded $5 million over five years to PHSKC, to rigorously evaluate High School FLASH.

But, after launching the research and enrolling schools and students, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program threatened to terminate all 81 of its projects until King County and several partners prevailed last year in a lawsuit against the Department of Health & Human Services.

For this portion of the research, more than 950 ninth- and tenth-graders at schools in the Midwest and South were asked to rate their experiences with FLASH, at the conclusion of the 15 lessons.

Typical student comments include:

  • “FLASH helped me say no to sex without protection.”
  • “It makes me feel better when I talk to adults.”
  • “FLASH taught me and my peers a lot, especially when it comes to social stuff like not judging each other.”

These results come from Student Satisfaction portion of the evaluation, which measures student intentions. During the fifth and final year of the study, an independent evaluation team is analyzing data that goes deeper than intentions and measures how the curriculum impacted beliefs, knowledge and behaviors. The team will share these additional results with schools in 2020. The Student Satisfaction survey takes less time to compile and analyze than these additional portions of the research.

Quick Facts about FLASH:

  • Designed by a local health department, in partnership with schools
  • Three different versions are customized to be age-appropriate (Elementary, Middle School, High School)
  • Uses Family Homework assignments to incorporate family discussion into the curriculum

(Originally published 10/3/2019)

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I'm part of the communications team at Public Health - Seattle & King County and work closely with all of the programs in the Community Health Services Division.