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Program Evaluation

Program Evaluation

Program Participation

Monitoring participation is important for determining the extent to which a school-based dental sealant program is serving its target population. Program participation can be measured in several ways.

If the total number of consent forms returned is low compared to the total number of students eligible for the program, program administrators can gain insights into the perceived value of the program; the effectiveness of the program’s marketing to principals, teachers, parents, and students; and the clarity of the language used in the consent form. For example, a low percentage of returned forms might indicate that the forms are confusing or that they are written at an inappropriate reading level.

Each returned consent form either grants (positive) or declines (negative) permission to apply dental sealants. After comparing the number of students assessed to the total number of positive consent forms, program administrators may want to re-examine their policies and practices that affect the rapport of program staff with school personnel, the effectiveness with which schools are scheduled, and the manner in which the program operates within schools. If insufficient attention is given to scheduled school activities such as special programs and field trips, some students who return positive consent forms may not be available for sealant application. Variables that cannot be controlled, such as bad weather, school closings, and outbreaks of illness in schools, also affect participation.

Program administrators can use participation information to determine whether the method for targeting students for the program is appropriate. If there is a large discrepancy between the number of students assessed and the number who receive dental sealants, it is possible that the teeth of students targeted for the program are not sufficiently erupted. This problem can be solved by targeting the program to students in a different grade. Based on an analysis of data from Ohio school-based dental sealant programs, the following formula was developed:

Table 10.2. Formula for Estimating the Percentage of Students Eligible with Positive Consent Forms That Receive Dental Sealants

55% of students eligible returned a positive consent form (e.g., of 100 students eligible 55 will return a positive consent form)


92% of those students were assessed (e.g., of the 55 students who returned consent forms approximately 51 will be assessed)


84% of those students needed dental sealants (e.g., of the 51 students assessed, approximately 43 will need sealants)


95% of those students received sealants (e.g., of the 43 students needing sealants, approximately 41 will receive sealants)


overall, 41% of students eligible received sealants

Program participation rates provide additional information if they are analyzed by age or grade and if they are compared to the participation rates of other school-based dental sealant programs with similar targeting criteria. Significant differences in participation rates among schools or changes in participation rates within a school from one year to the next merit further investigation.

Information collected on the student record is useful to determine the oral disease experience of students participating in the program and their dental sealant needs, as well as how well the program is meeting those needs. For example, see Cincinnati Ohio’s student record.

Table 10.3 can help school-based dental sealant program administrators with evaluation. When making comparisons among programs, the method of targeting used should be considered. Most programs initially target either specific schools or individuals that meet criteria, which usually relate to age, income, disease experience, or the availability of oral health services.

By monitoring program participation in the ways discussed above, a program administrator can evaluate the impact of a program in a community, Sharing this information among programs can provide program administrators with a frame of reference not previously available.

Table 10.3. School-Based Dental Sealant Program

Participation and Assessment Information


(Check all that apply)

(Check all that apply)


Free or reduced-price meals program


Grade level


Population-to-dentist ratio in community


Free or reduced-price meals program


Federal poverty levels


Family income


High caries rates (survey)


High caries activity


No criteria


No family dentist






Targeted Grades

Consent Number of:

a)   Students eligible ***

b)   Given consent**

c)   Refused consent*

d)   Unreturned consents

(a = b + c + d)

Assessment Number of:

a)   Students assessed

b)   Students with history of dental caries

c)   Students with untreated caries

d)   Students with one or more dental sealants

Dental Sealants Number of:

a)   Students needing sealants

b)   Students receiving sealants

c)   Teeth sealed

***   Students eligible refers to students who receive consent forms.
**    Positive consent refers to students eligible whose parents granted permission to participate.
*      Negative consent refers to students eligible whose parents denied the opportunity to participate.