UNC Students Help City of Fort Collins With Safe Routes to School Program

Dayna DeHerrera and Grace Turner, l-r behind table, present their poster at UNC Research Day.

A UNC class worked with the City of Fort Collins to help improve bike safety education as part of the national Safe Routes to School (SRTS) education programs.

Seven students in Professor Mary Dinger's Master of Public Health class evaluated Preston Middle School's three-day education program covering bike safety. It includes hands-on bike training, classroom instruction, and a pre-and post-knowledge test that is given to students to measure change when implementing a SRTS program.

The students entered and analyzed data from 2,372 existing knowledge tests from previous SRTS programs. The analysis of previous data revealed that the original fill-in-the-blank format wasn't effective.

"The fill-in-the-blank responses were frequently difficult to read, so we couldn't evaluate what students actually learned from the SRTS intervention," MPH student Dayna DeHerrera said.

To better assess the change in knowledge both before and after the SRTS intervention, the MPH students improved the format of the knowledge test from a fill-in-the-blank test to 10-multiple choice questions and added demographic questions.

They also recommended that the City of Fort Collins implement a matching procedure. This would include creating testing packets with the pre-and-post knowledge tests and giving each student a unique number identifier to reliably analyze change in pre- and post-test scores and measure knowledge gained after the completion of the SRTS program.

"The most important finding from this evaluation was how important matching is to assess change between the pre- and post-test, and explaining the results to people who do not have an evaluation background," DeHerrera added.

The evaluation team found that the students significantly increased their knowledge following the SRTS program, with an increase of 1.89 points from the pre-test to the post-test.

The students indicate that further evaluation will help test the overall effectiveness of the program, as well as piloting the new knowledge test at other schools involved in the SRTS program for comparison.

The group presented the new survey tool and evaluation procedures to the City of Fort Collins before presenting findings at UNC's Research Day this spring. Their research was recognized as one of five finalists for the Graduate Student Research Excellence Award in Social Sciences. The team who collaborated on the evaluation of the program included Hope Adams, Evelyn Audley, Dayna DeHerrera, Hannah Mortimer, Allison Preza, Michelle Thornton and Grace Turner.

"Working with the City of Fort Collins gave us a chance to conduct a real-life evaluation and experience practice-based learning, which is very beneficial for our future careers," DeHerrera said.

Story by Katherine Phillips for Colorado School of Public Health, a collaborative of UNC, Colorado State University and the University of Colorado.