State and federal education officials have cited UC Irvine's program for creating drug-free schools and communities as one of the top in the nation for 1991.
School districts send their teachers to UCI to learn teaching techniques.
In separate evaluations conducted last fall, UCI's drug-education program for new and current teachers was ranked as one of the top 12 in the country and one of the top four in California.
One factor that impressed federal evaluators was UCI's technique of "infusing" the anti-drug message across all teaching areas, said H. Michael Cannon, vice president for SocioTechnical Research Applications Inc., who visited UCI last August to review the program for the U.S. Department of Education.
UCI's drug-free schools program brings in experts from several fields to train the teachers, he said. For instance, historians tell teachers about the use of drugs in ancient times to "get high," how gang activity is often linked with drugs, as well as the physiological aspects of drugs, he said. Teachers also tour a rehabilitation center for babies exposed to cocaine in the womb, he said.
"If they're an English teacher or a math teacher, they can understand what the relevance is to their discipline," Cannon said.
The "infusion" approach at UCI is to show teachers how to spread anti-drug and anti-gang information throughout all academic subjects, said Suzanne M. Miller, director of UCI's Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program. For instance, a math teacher showing students how to graph statistics might use national figures showing the number of motorists killed in alcohol-related collisions, Miller said.
UCI also works with other community agencies interested in keeping children off drugs and out of gangs, she said. Speakers from agencies such as police, social service agencies, county health-care agencies, religious institutions and the military talk to the teachers so they can understand how schools fit into the overall anti-drug effort, Miller said.
"It is a multifaceted program that we saw as one of the stronger programs in the country," Cannon said.
Many other anti-drug programs across the country take a narrower view and teach the subject from just the educator's point of view and miss how drugs affect all areas of children's lives, Cannon said.
The state, which evaluated UCI's drug-education program for teachers on the basis of effectiveness and ability to be copied, also liked the way UCI worked with several other agencies to help the teachers take a broader perspective, said Karen Stroud, supervisor of the state's use-prevention service section of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.
"That's one of the signs we feel is important for any program, because funds are scarce," Stroud said. "So the more you can get (drug-education) entwined in your community, the more successful you're going to be."