Primary Project: Palm Beach

An Evidence-Based Practice


The Primary Project is a school-based early detection, intervention and prevention program designed to prevent school adjustment difficulties and foster the social and emotional well-being of children in kindergarten through third grade. Primary Project uses trained associates to who work intensively with students. The program uses early screening tools with all children to identify those in need of additional supports early in their school career. In participating schools, at risk children were selected based on their rating on the Teacher-Student Rating Scale (T-CRS). Typical candidates include children who are acting out, display mild aggression, are anxious or withdrawn, or have learning problems that interfere with progress in school.

The teachers, parents, and school counselors of each student collaborate to develop an intervention plan that establishes goals for the student's treatment. The core of the intervention is the creation of a strong relationship with the child associate, who meets with the student for one-on-one counseling sessions once a week for 20-25 weeks a year using developmentally appropriate play sessions intended to reinforce and build on the child's strengths. Progress is assessed during regular meetings between the child associate and school mental health professionals and mid-intervention progress reviews.

This program is locally funded by Children Services Council of Palm Beach County.

Goal / Mission

The goals of this program are to detect school adjustment difficulties, prevent social and emotional problems, and enhance learning skills of children in kindergarten through third grade.

Results / Accomplishments

In Palm Beach County, more than 600 children in select schools participate in this program each year. An evaluation study performed during the 2007-2008 school year evaluated the outcomes of 407 children in the program (205 kindergartners and 202 first graders), compared to 469 at risk children (275 kindergartners and 194 first graders) who did not participate in the program. Program participants had significantly lower disciplinary referrals and were less likely to be retained (not promoted to the next grade level).

In terms of disciplinary referrals, 5.4% of program group kindergartners and 9.9% of program group first graders received disciplinary referrals compared to 12% for comparison group kindergartners and 21.1% of comparison group first graders (p<0.05). In terms of retention, 4.9% of program group kindergartners were retained compared to 12.3% of comparison group kindergartners (p<0.05). The evaluation also found that after intervention, participants in the program had a significant improvement on all four scales (major areas) of the Teacher-Student Rating Scale (T-CRS).

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Seth Bernstein
Boys Town of South Florida
3111 S. Dixie Highway, Suite 200
West Palm Beach, Fla. 33405
Health / Mental Health & Mental Disorders
Social Environment / Children's Social Environment
Boys Town of South Florida
Children's Institute
Date of implementation
Geographic Type
West Palm Beach, Florida
For more details
Target Audience
Children, Families
Submitted By
Children Services Council of Palm Beach County