1 in 5 Kids Participates in Afterschool STEM

A new survey from Change the Equation finds that only one in five United States households with children in K-12 have any children enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) afterschool programs. It also found that in U.S. rural areas, students in K-12 receive few out-of-school-time opportunities to study and apply science.

STEM afterschool participation is especially low among elementary and high school students. The brief notes, “This finding should trouble us. Early exposure to STEM is critically important, especially given the dwindling time elementary schools have been devoting to science over the past two decades. Participation in high school is no less important in light of the evidence that out-of-school programs can combat the widespread disengagement from school that fuels high dropout rates.”

Lost Opportunity affirms many of the afterschool participation trends the Afterschool Alliance found in its America After 3PM research. For instance, both surveys find:

  • Urban students are more likely to attend an afterschool program than rural students.
  • African-American and Asian youth are more likely to participate in afterschool compared to youth from other ethnic backgrounds.
  • Lower-income youth are more likely to attend an afterschool program than higher-income youth.

Jen Rinehart, Afterschool Alliance vice president, research and policy, wrote in the Afterschool Snack, “The report raises two overall questions—how good are programs and why is participation low? Obviously there is more work to be done to ensure that all programs are of high quality, but there’s lots of evidence that shows STEM afterschool programs are effective. And, it’s clear that we need heightened advocacy to ensure that more kids have opportunities to participate.”

Change the Equation, with the pro bono support of Nielsen, surveyed more than 17,000 U.S. households with children in K-12 to find how many children and teens in the U.S. participate in STEM programs outside of the school day. The online survey was conducted in September and October 2011. Read the brief online.

This story originally appeared in the Afterschool Advocate (Vol. 13, Issue 7).

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