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Most Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing the Best

Program FAQs

  1. Choosing the Best is an “abstinence-centered” sexual risk avoidance (SRA) program. What does this mean?
  2. Does Choosing the Best provide students with information about contraception?
  3. Is Choosing the Best research-based? Evidence-based?
  4. Is Choosing the Best medically accurate?
  5. Do teens respond well to the message to delay sex in Choosing the Best?
  6. What topics are presented in Choosing the Best programs?
  7. Are Choosing the Best programs “fear-based?
  8. Are Choosing the Best Programs “shame-based?
  9. Why does Choosing the Best promote delaying sex “until marriage?
  10. Does the core message to delay sexual initiation apply to LGBTQ teens?
  11. What are teachers instructed to say to students who ask a question about sex or sexuality not covered in Choosing the Best?
  12. Are Choosing the Best programs “values neutral?
  13. Are the Choosing the Best programs based on religion?
  14. Do parents and communities really want sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education?
  15. As a sexual risk avoidance (SRA) program, how does Choosing the Best differ from "abstinence-only" and/or "comprehensive", sexual risk reduction (SRR) programs?

Implementation FAQs

  1. What are sources of funding for Choosing the Best programs?
  2. For what age group(s) are Choosing the Best programs targeted and what are the key differences among the programs?
  3. Is teacher training required?
  4. Does Choosing the Best fulfill all state requirements? (i.e., is it state-approved?)
  5. How do I present Choosing the Best to a school or school board?
  6. How do I get parents involved?

 

Program FAQs

1. Q: Choosing the Best is an “abstinence-centered” sexual risk avoidance (SRA) program. What does this mean?

A: Choosing the Best offers a “sexual risk avoidance” (SRA) approach that strongly promotes delaying sex as the best and healthiest choice, while also teaching students about goal-setting, healthy relationships, refusal skills, and character buildingChoosing the Best informs students about the significant risks associated with casual sex, including unplanned pregnancy, STDs, and negative emotional consequences. Choosing the Best also emphasizes the benefits of waiting, empowering students to make an informed choice about their sexual behavior.

2. Q: Does Choosing the Best provide students with information about contraception?

A: Yes! Numerous contraceptive methods are discussed, along with complete information about the effectiveness and limitations of each in protecting against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Choosing the Best shows, for example, that when used consistently and correctly, condoms are most effective at reducing the risk of HIV (85% versus no condom at all) but are less effective in protecting against STDs such as chlamydia, herpes, and HPV.1 The facts presented are supported by the CDC, illustrating the CDC’s conclusion that “condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STD2” and teaching that only abstinence offers complete, 100% protection against both STDs and pregnancy.  Choosing the Best fully educates about contraception but does not demonstrate contraceptive use.

Please click here to view how Choosing the Best LIFE presents contraception to 8th grade students. (430KB)

3. Q: Is Choosing the Best research-based? Evidence-based?

YesA peer-reviewed study published in March 2012 found that Choosing the Best successfully delays sexual initiation. The research, which utilized a rigorous, randomized, controlled study design, evaluated the Choosing the Best high school curriculum among 1,200 9th grade students. The results showed that students who received Choosing the Best were 1.5 times more likely to delay the onset of sexual behavior than students in the control group who did not receive the program, at the end of the school year*. These results were achieved in an actual school setting among a diverse student population, and are consistent with an earlier study on a Choosing the Best middle school program, which was found to reduce the initiation of teen sex by 47% versus the control. Based on this peer-reviewed study, which provides strong evidence Choosing the Best works to delay teen sex, Choosing the Best meets the traditional criteria of “evidence-based” programs. *These results are statistically significant.

4. Q: Is Choosing the Best medically accurate?

A: Yes! The Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has completed a thorough and objective review of the medical and scientific information in Choosing the Best programs and found them to be medically accurate.

5. Q: Do teens respond well to the message to delay sex in Choosing the Best?

A: Yes! Normal adolescent curiosity is a part of growing up, and the media message that casual sex is expected, fun and has no consequences has a powerful influence on young people. However, when given the facts concerning the physical and emotional risks of sexual activity and the rewards of delaying sexual initiation – being able to pursue goals and dreams, often not possible with an unplanned pregnancy or disease – the majority of teens today are choosing to delay sexual activity. Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the rates of teen sexual activity have dropped by nearly 24 percent between 1991 and 2015, and that the majority of teens today – 59 percent – have not had sex.3

Choosing the Best also addresses the needs of students who have already been sexually active by teaching those students that they can still choose – and benefit from – choosing to delay sex from this day forward. Studies confirm that sexually active students who received abstinence-centered education are no less likely to use a condom than students who instead received sex education that primarily promoted condom use (i.e. "comprehensive" sex education).4

6. Q: What topics are presented in Choosing the Best programs?

A: Choosing the Best programs are multi-dimensional and cover a number of critical topics designed to equip teens to delay sexual initiation and avoid the risk of STDs, teen pregnancy, and negative emotional effects. Choosing the Best offers five age-appropriate programs for middle and high school students and provides sex and relationship education content in Ten areas: Risks (emotional, STDs, teen pregnancy), Risk Reduction vs. Risk Elimination (“Safe” or “Safer” Sex, contraception vs. sexual delay as the healthiest choice) Rewards (decision making, goal setting, marriage planning), Relationship Education (healthy vs. unhealthy friendships and relationships, preventing sexual abuse and date rape, dangers of sexting), Alcohol (dangers of mixing alcohol and sex), Refusal Skills (setting boundaries, developing verbal skills and assertiveness skills), Freedom Pledge (making a commitment to delay sexual initiation), Character Development (responsibility, self-respect, courage, perseverance, compassion, respect), Parent Involvement (parent training and homework interviews), and Building Self-esteem (appreciating unique qualities, interests, or skills).

7. Q: Are Choosing the Best programs “fear-based?

A: No! Organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, and SEICUS, that strongly advocate for contraceptive-focused sex education and that oppose abstinence-centered education, sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education of any kind often make the false claim that programs such as Choosing the Best are “fear-based.” Sometimes they claim that Choosing the Best programs contain “exaggerated facts about STDs and/or condom failure rates.” This is completely false. In fact, The Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has completed a thorough and objective review of all medical and scientific information in Choosing the Best and approved all Choosing the Best programs as medically accurate. This review process absolutely ensures that all facts, including STD and condom statistics presented in Choosing the Best, are accurate, not exaggerated, well-documented, properly sourced, and appropriate in tone.

It is vital that students be given complete information about the significant health risks associated with STDs, along with the benefits and limitations of condoms and other forms of contraception in reducing those risks and in preventing unplanned pregnancy, but always in the context of presenting delaying sex as the healthiest choice, consistent with medical fact.

8. Are Choosing the Best Programs “shame-based?”

A: No! As an abstinence-centered, sexual risk avoidance (SRA) curriculum, Choosing the Best encourages teens to choose to delay sex as the best and healthiest way to avoid STDs and unintended pregnancies, based on medical fact. However, Choosing the Best does not “shame” students who have had sex. The goal and tone of the curricula is to encourage and empower all students to make healthy choices. In fact, the teaching instructions in the beginning of each program’s Leader’s Guide state the following:

“Please be sensitive to the possibility that some students in your class may have already had sex. The goal and tone of this program is to provide these students with positive, encouraging messages about the benefits of making healthier choices going forward (not to create guilt or shame about past choices).

9. Q: Why does Choosing the Best promote delaying sex “until marriage”?

A: According to the CDC, the most reliable way to avoid the risk of an STD is to be abstinent until you enter into a mutually long-term, mutually monogamous relationship (as is typically found in marriage), with an uninfected partner, and remain faithful in that relationship.5 The emotional effects of being involved with someone sexually and then having that relationship end can be devastating, regardless of age. Even if a person has reached an age where they are emotionally more mature and better able to cope with these effects, the physical risks of STDs are still present – regardless of age – and can significantly affect a person’s health and life.

10. Q: Does the core message to delay sexual initiation apply to LGBTQ teens?

A: YesChoosing the Best contains universally transferable principles that are designed to help all students avoid sexual risk. Like heterosexual teens, LGBTQ teens are at significant risk of contracting STDs through casual sex. According to the CDC, “the surest way to avoid transmission of STDs (including HIV) is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected6.” This is true regardless of sexual orientation.

The universal principles contained in Choosing the Best from which all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, can benefit include:

  • Sexual delay is a protective factor for sexual health.
  • The greater number of lifetime partners a person has, the greater the risk of negative health consequences.
  • Healthy relationships have a greater opportunity to develop when they are not complicated by sexual activity.
  • Setting boundaries, learning refusal skills, and acquiring date rape prevention strategies help to prevent victimization.
  • When used correctly, every single time, condoms are most effective in protecting against STDs spread by body fluids (e.g. HIV) and least effective in protecting against STDs spread by skin-to-skin contact. (e.g. Herpes)
  • Reserving sex for a lifetime, sexually faithful, monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is the best protection against contracting STDs or sexually transmitted HIV.
11. Q: What are teachers instructed to say to students who ask a question about sex or sexuality not covered in Choosing the Best?

A: At the beginning of every program, the Leader's Guide teaching instructions state the following:

"Please note that some students may have personal questions that are beyond the scope of the materials. In these situations, please refer students to a school counselor or nurse, per your district guidelines."

12. Q: Are Choosing the Best programs “values neutral?”

A: Yes! The messages in the Choosing the Best programs are based on well-documented medical facts about the healthiest choices, rather than suggesting what is or isn’t morally appropriate. 

13. Q: Are the Choosing the Best programs based on religion?

A: No! Choosing the Best programs are based on well-documented medical facts and do not include any references to religion. Choosing the Best programs are about promoting health for our teens. Although some teens that choose abstinence may also be influenced by their personal religious convictions, Choosing the Best is about making healthy choices to be free from the risks of STDs, unplanned pregnancy and negative emotional consequences. It is about freedom to pursue future dreams and goals, regardless of religious preference or conviction.

14. Q: Do parents and communities really want sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education?

A: Yes! According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, over 90% of parents and teens think teens should be given a strong message about the importance of abstinence (sexual delay/risk avoidance), at least until they are out of high school.7

Parents strongly support abstinence-centered, sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education over comprehensive, SRR sex education. In a 2007 national Zogby poll:

  • Parents preferred their child receive abstinence-centered, sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education over comprehensive sex education by a 2:1 margin.
  • 8 out of 10 parents think it’s important for their teen to wait until they’re married to have sex.
  • 8 out of 10 parents want schools to emphasize promoting sexual delay over contraceptive use.
  • Parents overwhelmingly support the abstinence-centered, sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education approach toward discussing contraception:
    • 9 out of 10 parents want their teens to be taught how often condoms fail to prevent pregnancy based upon typical use and about the limitations of condoms in preventing specific STDs.
  • 2 out of 3 parents think the “wait to have sex” message ends up being lost when programs demonstrate and encourage the use of contraception.
  • 8 out of 10 parents think teens will not use a condom every single time.
15. Q: As a sexual risk avoidance (SRA) program, how does Choosing the Best differ from "abstinence-only" and/or "comprehensive", sexual risk reduction (SRR) programs?

A:"Abstinence-only" programs focus exclusively on promoting the benefits of abstinence. Unlike Choosing the Best, they do not provide any information about contraception.

"Comprehensive" programs focus almost exclusively on encouraging teens to use contraception, with little to no time encouraging teens to delay sexual activity. Some comprehensive programs provide demonstrations of condom use (e.g. condom on banana) and/or promote sexual activity alternatives to intercourse to teens as a means to avoid pregnancy. (e.g., showering together, mutual masturbation, etc.) Parents often reject comprehensive programs when they review their actual content.

In contrast, the major focus of Choosing the Best is to educate teens that their healthiest choice is to delay all forms of sexual activity and to empower them to make this choice. Students are taught about the benefits of contraception (risk reduction), but always in the context that delaying sexual activity is their best and healthiest choice (risk elimination). This approach is based on medical fact presented by the CDC, and the one preferred by most parents and teens themselves. Studies show teens think they should be given a strong message to delay sexual activity, at least until they're out of high school.

Implementation FAQs

1. Q: What are sources of funding for Choosing the Best programs?

A: Many school districts view Choosing the Best as a supplemental textbook budget item and as such fund Choosing the Best programs within their existing budget. However, there are also opportunities to apply for various federal, state, and local grants.

One of the most promising grants is the recently reinstated Title V. Now federal law as part of the recent health care legislation, Title V provides block grants to states specifically for abstinence education under A-H criteria identical to that previously required in section 510 of the Welfare Reform Act. Choosing the Bestmeets these A-H criteria, and has a documented history of success implementing Title V grants.

For more information about using grants as a source of funds for Choosing the Best programs, please contact us at 1-800-774-BEST (2378) and request to speak with the Regional Director for your state. He/she will personally assist you in determining grant opportunities.

2. Q: For what age group(s) are Choosing the Best programs targeted and what are the key differences among the programs?

A: Middle School programs include: Choosing the Best WAY (grade 6);Choosing the Best PATH (grade 7); and Choosing the Best LIFE (grade 8); High School Programs include: Choosing the Best JOURNEY (grades 9-10); andChoosing the Best SOUL MATE (grades 11-12).

All five curricula utilize Best Practices to most effectively provide abstinence-centered, sexual risk avoidance (SRA) and relationship education. However, the emphasis of WAY, PATH, LIFE, and JOURNEY is on empowering students to delay having sex, while SOUL MATE focuses on teaching valuable relational skills necessary for a successful marriage, of which sexual delay is a component.

WAY, PATH, LIFE, and JOURNEY each cover the risks of teen sexual behavior, the rewards of delaying sex, peer pressure and refusal skills, an Freedom Pledge, character education, building self-esteem, relationship education, and include parent interview assignments. PATH, LIFE, and JOURNEY also cover Risk Reduction vs. Risk Elimination (“Safe” or “Safer” Sex, contraception, and delaying sex as the healthiest choice). However, the information in each of these programs is presented in a manner that is age-appropriate and maximizes learning for students given their stage of development. The key differences are the videos used, classroom exercises and the age-appropriate way the issues are discussed and presented. For example, the CTB WAY program, for 6th graders, covers making good decisions and developing the qualities of a good friend, important topics for the younger age groups. CTB PATH, for 7th grade students, provides a strong emphasis on teen role models who are choosing to delay having sex. Both WAY and PATH utilize experiential learning techniques to capture the attention of these young students. Choosing the Best LIFE, for 8th graders, provides an in-depth discussion of key issues affecting the sexual decision making of this age group, such as the use of alcohol, while JOURNEY for 9th graders expands the discussion to topics such as date rape and pornography. Choosing the Best SOUL MATE inspires upper high school students to develop the communication skills and personal qualities essential for successful relationships of all kinds – with parents, peers, co-workers, teachers – and ultimately, for a lasting marriage. A logical sequel to CTB abstinence-centered programs for younger teens, SOUL MATE continues to emphasize that delaying sexual initiation is critical to preparing for a lifelong, lasting relationship.

For maximum impact, it is recommended that all five programs (including SOUL MATE) be used simultaneously and consecutively (referred to as a “scope and sequence” approach) to give students an age-appropriate, consistent, compelling messages during their critical adolescent years.

3. Q: Is teacher training required?

A: No, but it is highly recommended.  Each curriculum includes a detailed Leader’s Guide that provides teachers with a comprehensive lesson plan on how to cover each topic; therefore training is not required to teach any of the Choosing the Best curricula. However, post-training feedback from teachers consistently indicates that the training is extremely helpful in familiarizing them with the materials, provides a needed opportunity to practice teaching the class exercises, and ignites a passion for teaching the subject matter.  So to achieve the best results in the classroom, teacher training is highly recommended.

4. Q: Does Choosing the Best fulfill all state requirements? (i.e., is it state-approved?)

A: Choosing the Best is being used throughout the country, currently in 47 states. However, in some states, particular approval processes are required. To obtain more information about the requirements in your state, please contact our office at 1-800-774-BEST (2378).

5. Q: How do I present Choosing the Best to a school or school board?

A: Please contact our office at 1-800-774-BEST (2378) and request to speak with the Regional Director for your state. He/she will personally assist you in the best way to present Choosing the Best to your school or school board.

6. Q: How do I get parents involved?

A: Choosing the Best offers a parent education program (PARENT PREP) that provides a great overview of abstinence-centered, sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education and the CTB curriculum, as well as a parent book (The BIG TALK Book). Both have produced excellent results with parents in communities across the country.


1 National Institutes of Health, 2001.  See also CDC, “Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases”.

2 CDC, “Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.”

3 CDC, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Summaries 2015.

4 Jemmott, et. al. Efficacy of a theory based abstinence only intervention over 24 months, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. February 2010. http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?volume=164&issue=2&page=1

5 CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/STDFact-MSM-Syphilis.htm

6 Ibid.

7 NCTPTP, With One Voice 2007, http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/pubs/WOV2007_fulltext.pdf