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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 teach about contraception?
  3. Does Choosing the Best cover sexual violence prevention? Consent?
  4. Is Choosing the Best research-based? Evidence-based?
  5. Is Choosing the Best medically accurate?
  6. What topics are presented in Choosing the Best programs?
  7. Do teens respond well to the message to "delay sex" in Choosing the Best?
  8. Is Choosing the Best inclusive to all teens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity?
  9. Are Choosing the Best programs “fear-based”?
  10. Are Choosing the Best Programs “shame-based”?
  11. Are Choosing the Best programs “values neutral”?
  12. Are the Choosing the Best programs based on religion?
  13. Why does Choosing the Best promote delaying sex “until marriage”?
  14. What are teachers instructed to say to students who ask a question about sex or sexuality not covered in Choosing the Best?
  15. Do parents and communities want abstinence-centered, sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education?

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 promotes sexual delay as the best and healthiest choice for teens, while also teaching about goal-setting, decision-making, healthy relationships, refusal skills, and character buildingChoosing the Best educates students about the significant risks associated with teen sex, including pregnancy, STDs, and potential 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 teach about contraception?

A: YesChoosing the Best provides medically accurate information about various contraceptive methods, including condoms, 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 pregnancyChoosing the Best fully educates about contraception without demonstrating or distributing various methods.

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

Q. 3. Does Choosing the Best cover sexual violence prevention? Consent?

A:Yes! Choosing the Best has for many years covered sexual violence prevention, addressing topics such as rape/date rape and child sexual abuse.  Students have long been taught the meaning of these terms, facts about their occurrence, and about the significant trauma suffered by victims. Perhaps most Importantly, students are given steps to get help if they or someone that they know has been a victim. A key teaching point that has always been explicitly stated and emphasized is that it is NEVER the victim’s fault

The topic of consent occurs within the discussion on preventing sexual violence.  For example, students are taught that if a person forces another into having sex without their consent, even if they know each other and even if they may have been dating, this is an act of sexual violence known as rape (or date/aquaintence rape) and is a crime. Students are taught that both males and females can be victims of sexual violence if sexual activities occur without mutual consent.

Further, Choosing the Best programs have always provided lessons on resisting sexual coercion. Videos of real-life teens discussing sexual pressures, along with exercises and student role plays, ensure students learn how to set personal boundaries, are equipped to say “no” to unwanted sexual pressures, and are able to be assertive verbally and through non-verbal communication in order to protect their health and safety. 

Recently, Choosing the Best has added additional information about preventing sexual violence and the topic of consent. Students will benefit from an expanded understanding of what sexual violence entails (beyond child abuse/date and/or acquaintance rape), what consent is and isn’t, and how to get help if they or someone they know is a victim.

A summary of what the expanded lesson/new material provides:

  • An expanded section on what sexual violence entails, so that students understand it includes unwanted sexual touching, coercion, etc. as well as child sexual abuse and date and/or acquaintance rape.
  • An expanded discussion of consent that outlines the 5 components of consent, why it’s important, and outlining what doesn’t imply consent and when it cannot occur, under any conditions.
  • A new discussion about teen dating violence, including how to recognize the 4 types.
  • Expanded resources for how to get help.

This additional information will be available for schools late November 2018.

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

A: Yes! A 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.

5. 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.

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

A: Choosing the Best offers five age-appropriate programs for middle and high school students.  All programs are multi-dimensional and cover a number of critical topics, providing sex and relationship education content in Ten areas: Relationship Education (preventing sexual violence, the role of consent, and help for victims, developing healthy vs. unhealthy friendships and relationships, online safety), Risks of teen sex (emotional, STDs, teen pregnancy), Risk Reduction, Risk Elimination (“Safe” or “Safer” Sex, contraception vs. sexual delay as the healthiest choice) Rewards (decision making, goal setting), Risks of teen alcohol use, Refusal Skills (setting boundaries, developing verbal skills and assertiveness skills), 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: Do teens respond well to the message to "delay sex" in Choosing the Best?

A: Yes! Through emails and post-course surveys, Choosing the Best receives feedback from hundreds of students each year who say how much the program has positively impacted their lives. Many say that prior to receiving the program, no one had ever explained to them the reasons they should NOT become sexually active as a teenager, and most say they now plan to wait to become sexually active.

Normal adolescent curiosity is a part of growing up, and the media messages that teen sex is expected, fun and has no consequences has a powerful influence on young people. However, when given the facts about the risks of sexual activity and the rewards of sexual delay – the majority of teens today are choosing to delay sexual activity. Recent reports from the CDC show that the rates of teen sexual activity have dropped by nearly 24 percent between 1991 and 2015, and that the majority of today’s high school students – 59 percent – have not had sex. Nearly 70 percent of 15-17-year-olds 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 condom usage rates among sexually active students are the same, regardless of whether those students received an abstinence-centered or a contraceptive/condom-centered (“comprehensive”) sex education program.4

8. Q: Is Choosing the Best inclusive to all teens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity?

A: YesChoosing the Best contains universally transferable principles that are designed to help all teens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, 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 uninfected.5

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 sexual violence 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.
9. 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 strongly oppose any and all abstinence-centered sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education often make the false claim that SRA programs are “fear-based,” using “exaggerated facts about STDs and/or condom failure rates.” This is completely false. Choosing the Best sources STD and condom facts directly from the CDC, and these facts are updated regularly and end noted. 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 medical facts, 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.

10. 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 absolutely 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).

11. 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. 

12. 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 choosing sexual delay 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.

13. 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.6 The emotional effects of being involved with someone sexually and then having that relationship end can be devastating, especially for an adolescent. 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.

It’s important to remember that the longer a teen delays becoming sexually active, the better. Sexual delay reduces the number of sexual partners and the longer a teen delays sex, the more likely they are to use contraception when they do become sexually active.7 Conversely, research reveals that when teens do have sex, the following negative life outcomes are more likely to occur, often persisting into adulthood:

  • Decreased general physical and psychological health, including depression.8
  • More involvement in other risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and drugs.9
  • More likely to participate in anti-social behavior or delinquent behavior.10
  • Less financial net worth and more likely to live in poverty.11
14. 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."

15. Q: Do parents and communities want abstinence-centered, 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.12

Parents strongly support abstinence-centered, sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education over comprehensive, sexual risk reduction (SRR) education that focuses on teaching kids how to use and obtain contraception (often without parental consent). “Comprehensive” SRR education spends little to no time teaching about the importance of sexual delay or strategies to achieve it. In a 2007 national Zogby poll:

  • Parents preferred their child receive abstinence-centered, sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education over comprehensive (SRR) 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.

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 Best meets 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); and Choosing 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, a 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 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 detailed 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 approved and being used in numerous states throughout the country. However, each state varies in the approval processes it requires. 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 CDC, National Health Statistics Reports, Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Use Among Teenagers in the U.S., 2011-2015, No. 104, June 22, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr104.pdf

8 Sandfort, T., et al. (2008) Long-Term Health Correlates of Timing of Sexual Debut: Results from a National US Study, American Journal of Public Health. 98:155-161.

9 Kastborn, A., et al. (2015, May 4) Sexual Debut before the Age of 14 leads to poorer psychosocial health and risky behavior later in life. Acta Paediatricia 104:91-100

10 Armour, S., (2007) Adolescent Sexual Debut and Later Delinquency. J Youth Adolescence 36:141-152.

11 Scott, M., et al. (2011) Risky Adolescent Sexual Behaviors and Reproductive Health in Young Adulthood.  Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 43(2):110-118.

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