CDC Released Sexuality Education Score Card for U.S. High Schools, Middle Schools

December 11, 2015 — A CDC report published Wednesday finds that fewer than 50% of high schools and about 20% of middle schools address the 16 sexuality education topics recommended by CDC, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report (Preidt, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/9).

According to "Science Now," the findings on sexuality education were included in CDC's School Health Profiles report, which uses information from a survey conducted every two years (Kaplan, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 12/9). The survey included information on schools in 44 states.

Key Findings by State

According to the report, the percentage of schools in 44 states that address all recommended sexuality education topics for grades nine through 12 ranges from 90% of schools in New Jersey to 21% in Arizona. New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York compose the only three states in which more than 75% of high schools address all 16 recommended topics (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/9).

Further, the report found that New Jersey and Vermont were the only two states where more than 90% of high schools taught students how to use condoms correctly. In contrast, fewer than 33% of high schools in Arizona and South Dakota showed students how to use condoms.

According to the report, 100% of high schools in Delaware, New Hampshire and New Jersey addressed abstinence, as did 95% of high schools in another 15 states. Meanwhile, 56% of high schools in Arizona and 60% of high schools in Alaska addressed abstinence ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 12/9).

The report found that the percentage of middle schools that teach students about all recommended topics in sixth through eighth grade ranges from 46% in North Carolina to 4% in Arizona. According to the report, in no state did more than 50% of middle schools address all topics, and the majority of states reported that fewer than 20% of middle schools taught all of the topics (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/9).

Key Findings by Topic

When broken down by topic, the report found that 94% of high schools addressed abstinence in their sexuality education curricula; 92% taught students about how family members, friends and society overall affected sexual behavior; and 88% said there were benefits to having fewer sexual partners.

Further, 95% of high schools addressed how sexually transmitted infections are spread and how they affect individuals' health. Eighty-five percent of schools informed students about how they could access materials and services that would help them protect against STIs and avoid pregnancy. According to the report, 70% of high schools addressed the importance of using condoms properly and consistently, while 54% showed students the correct way to use a condom and 60% taught students how to access them.

Among middle schools, the report found that 77% addressed abstinence in sexuality curricula for students in sixth through eighth grade. Meanwhile, 75% of middle schools taught students how STIs are spread, 27% told students where they could obtain condoms and 23% demonstrated the proper use of condoms.


Jonathan Mermin, head of CDC's HIV and STI prevention programs, said, "We need to do a better job of giving our young people the skills and knowledge they need to protect their own health."

Stephanie Zaza, director of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, said, "Lack of effective sex education can have very real, very serious health consequences." She added, "School-based sex education is a critical opportunity to provide the skills and information [young people] need to protect themselves" ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 12/9).