Thursday, May 11, 2017

Afterschool Program Quality and Effectiveness: 25 Years of Results!!

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
It is important that afterschool supporters have access to studies that have shown that afterschool is an effective strategy to support young people’s success in school, work, and life. This is especially important because the Trump Administration has proposed the elimination of the 21st CCLC because they “lack strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.”

Are afterschool programs effective? We asked our colleagues at Policy Studies Associates (PSA), a leading organization that has studied this question. Below are remarks from Christina Russell, Managing Director at PSA. 

Christina Russell,
Managing Director at PSA
“Through our partnerships over the last 25 years with afterschool programs throughout the U.S., our evaluation team at PSA has seen that afterschool programs can benefit youth, families, schools, and communities in many ways. We have seen evidence that high-quality afterschool programs:

  • Keep students safe
  • Engage students in learning
  • Improve students’ academic performance
  • Develop students’ core competencies for success in life and careers 
  • Support working families 
  • Are in demand

As the afterschool field has matured, we have evaluated the implementation and impact of various program models, technical assistance interventions, and system-building efforts designed to improve the capacity and quality of programs. The research shows—and programs know—that quality matters. Afterschool providers have engaged in continuous improvement initiatives to become more intentional in program planning and to increase program participation, through internal assessment and tracking systems as well as through external evaluation.

We also know that afterschool programs play important, varying, and evolving roles in education. Effective afterschool programs are not cookie-cutter:  they strategically partner with schools and communities to identify gaps and the priority needs of students, and to design services to meet those needs.  As a result, some programs may focus on strengthening the academic outcomes of students, some on the development of essential life skills, and others on closing the opportunity gap through enriching, experiential experiences that expand the school day.   

Our brief entitled, Afterschool Program Quality and Effectiveness, curates the key, policy-relevant findings on the implementation and effectiveness of afterschool programs. In addition, the brief links to some of our most important reports on afterschool initiatives implemented throughout the U.S. 

We hope that the brief makes our research findings accessible. For any of the topics touched on in the brief, there is a wealth of existing data as well as new questions to be explored, and we encourage you to reach out to discuss how PSA’s evaluation expertise can support your efforts as you continue to advocate for and strengthen afterschool.”

Christina Russell is Managing Director at Policy Studies Associates (PSA) and leads studies focused on expanded learning opportunities and their role in promoting positive social and educational outcomes for youth in grades K-12. Ms. Russell also directs evaluation projects designed to inform efforts to improve program quality and capacity. Ms. Russell has extensive experience designing and managing studies that employ both quantitative and qualitative research methods to assess the implementation and impact of education and youth development initiatives.

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