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Experts weigh in on the value of afterschool

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Experts weigh in on the value of afterschool

Last month, we saw afterschool programs across the country open their doors to host Lights On Afterschool events, providing a firsthand look at the broad array of fun, enriching, and engaging activities students take part in at the program and the vital role programs play in their community. A newly-released research report from RAND is a fantastic complement to Lights On Afterschool, offering a research-based look at The Value of Out-of-School Time Programs.

The principal takeaway from the report, which made possible in part by The Wallace Foundation, is that there are measurable benefits to students and families when participating in afterschool and summer learning programs — but the quality and intentionality of the program, as well as a student’s regular participation in the program, influences those benefits. 

Also of note in the report is that it calls attention to the nuanced issue of what is and is not measured in afterschool and summer learning programs when evaluating a program’s success. The authors find that some of the key benefits of afterschool (such as providing students with new and differing learning experiences, helping close the opportunity gap, and supporting parents) are rarely, if ever, measured.

Additionally, when the authors examine the characteristics that influence the degree to which a program has an effect, a line of reasoning arises: drawing a distinction between measuring if a program produces an impact, and whether the program evaluated is intentionally designed to produce such an impact. All programs do not have the same goals and same focus, and it stands to reason that all programs should not be measured by the same criteria. For example, if a program does not spend time or content dedicated to building students’ problem solving and teamwork skills, should one expect to see significant effects on students’ overall social and emotional skills? The researchers explain, “From our review, we find programs tend to be evaluated without sufficient attention to the activities provided or the quality of the content and to be judged by a common metric ... When evaluation outcomes are not aligned with program content, other outcomes important for youth development and family well-being are not examined, which does not provide a complete picture of the potential benefits of OST programs.”

Based on their research, recommendations from the authors include:

  • When making funding decisions, consider all of the benefits that afterschool and summer learning programs provide. The authors point to the critical role public investment plays in increasing the availability and quality of programs for students, in particular students from low-income families.
  • Incentivize and support intentional, high-quality programs. There is a link between high program quality and improved student outcomes, and policymakers and funders can help to provide the resources that help afterschool and summer learning programs continuously improve their design, programming, and quality.
  • Work to capture and assess the range of benefits programs offer. While common assessment metrics for program evaluations include test scores and behavior in class, policymakers, funders, and researchers give short shrift to programs if they do not also capture their impact on the opportunity gap, the benefits of providing students an array of learning experiences, and the supports programs offer to parents of participants.
  • Align the outcomes measures with program content. Funders should urge researchers to design evaluations guided by a program’s activities and the quality of its content, rather than a common metric unaligned with the program.

This report underscores why public investment in quality afterschool and summer learning programs is crucial. Just take a look at the 8,000 events across the U.S. celebrating Lights On Afterschool to see afterschool in action and get a small glimpse into what afterschool means to students, families and communities. 

Data on child well-being: How does the nation measure up?

Understanding how our youth are faring is an important aspect of not only reinforcing, but also strengthening the supports that afterschool provides. Two separate reports released this summer delved into the state of child well-being across the country, measuring our nation’s progress over...

BY: Rina Moss      09/03/19

To elevate equity, diversity, and inclusion, go deeper into your quality standards

By Femi Vance, researcher at American Institutes for Research, Board President for the California School-Age Consortium, Field Consultant for the National Summer Learning Association, and editor of Changemakers! Equity and Access in Out-of-School Time Programs. Implementing high-quality...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/23/19

Evaluating afterschool: The evaluation basics, part III

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the tenth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which answers some of the common questions asked about program evaluation and highlights program evaluation best practices. Be sure to take a look at earlier posts of the...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/19/19

Evaluating afterschool: The evaluation basics, part I

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the eighth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which answers some of the common questions asked about program evaluation and highlights program evaluation best practices. Be sure to take a look at earlier posts of...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/01/19

New report on building data-driven afterschool systems within cities

A data-centric approach has potential to generate actionable information at the systematic and programmatic levels and ultimately to improve the quality and access to afterschool. The Wallace Foundation commissioned a study in partnership with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and the Gamse...

BY: Theresa Carr      06/03/19

Data sharing with afterschool leads to student success

With more than 10 million children participating in afterschool programming, the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. hold crucial potential for academic, social, and emotional development that extends well beyond the school day. So how can we ensure that more students have access to high quality afterschool...

BY: Rina Moss      11/13/18

New issue brief: Afterschool and the juvenile justice system

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BY: Erin Hegarty      05/26/20

Recommendations from BellXcell to combat negative effects of prolonged school closures

BellXcell and the Sperling Center for Research and Innovation (SCRI) recently released a brief that discusses the impact of COVID-19 on learning gaps for students. Due to these unprecedented school closures, millions of students could be left without schooling for upwards of five to six months,...

BY: Bella DiMarco      05/20/20

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BY: Guest Blogger      05/23/19

5 steps to effectively implement SEL initiatives in your community

Awareness of the importance of social and emotional learning is beginning to be reflected in policy measures. Practitioners and policymakers alike are continually recognizing that a whole-child approach is necessary for children to be well-positioned to succeed in their academic, personal, and...

BY: Erin Hegarty      02/08/19

Afterschool, community partners featured in Aspen Institute’s "Nation At Hope" report

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BY: Dan Gilbert      01/15/19

New issue brief: A big-picture approach to wellness

From empowering students to take charge of their health to training staff to model healthy behaviors, afterschool and summer learning programs across the country are offering safe and supportive environments that promote young people’s healthy eating and physical activity, as well as build...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/07/18

Engaging the Arts Across the Juvenile Justice System: New report outlines opportunities for engagement

Arts education programs can play a significant role in preventing youth from getting involved with the juvenile justice system and supporting the mental wellbeing and successful transition out of the system for those already involved, according to a new report released by the Education Commission...

BY: Erin Hegarty      05/22/20

Afterschool turns the peak time for crime into a time of opportunity for young people

For close to 20 years, we at the Afterschool Alliance have been dedicated to the cause of expanding afterschool opportunities because we know the life changing impact programs can have on children, on families, and on communities.  Today, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a new report that...

BY: Jodi Grant      10/16/19

New issue brief: Afterschool fostering protective factors

In Colorado, the Montrose Recreation District’s Summer Enrichment Program creates a welcoming environment to help students feel safe to share their feelings. At Jóvenes de Puerto Rico en Riesgo, Inc. (JPRR), also known as Puerto Rico Youth at Risk (PRYR), one-on-one...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/24/19

Afterschool after 30 years: Q&A with Dr. Milbrey McLaughlin, part II

By Sam Piha, founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development who are serious about improving the lives of young people.  Milbrey McLaughlin has been a leading...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/26/18

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By Sam Piha, founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development who are serious about improving the lives of young people. Milbrey McLaughlin has been a leading...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/25/18

New issue brief: Afterschool and the juvenile justice system

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BY: Erin Hegarty      05/26/20

Engaging the Arts Across the Juvenile Justice System: New report outlines opportunities for engagement

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BY: Erin Hegarty      05/22/20

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BY: Erin Hegarty      12/19/19

Afterschool turns the peak time for crime into a time of opportunity for young people

For close to 20 years, we at the Afterschool Alliance have been dedicated to the cause of expanding afterschool opportunities because we know the life changing impact programs can have on children, on families, and on communities.  Today, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a new report that...

BY: Jodi Grant      10/16/19

New issue brief: Afterschool fostering protective factors

In Colorado, the Montrose Recreation District’s Summer Enrichment Program creates a welcoming environment to help students feel safe to share their feelings. At Jóvenes de Puerto Rico en Riesgo, Inc. (JPRR), also known as Puerto Rico Youth at Risk (PRYR), one-on-one...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/24/19

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BY: Guest Blogger      11/01/19

New issue brief: Afterschool fostering protective factors

In Colorado, the Montrose Recreation District’s Summer Enrichment Program creates a welcoming environment to help students feel safe to share their feelings. At Jóvenes de Puerto Rico en Riesgo, Inc. (JPRR), also known as Puerto Rico Youth at Risk (PRYR), one-on-one...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/24/19

New report: Community programs important in preventing childhood obesity

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BY: Marisa Paipongna      11/26/18

Afterschool suppers and afterschool programs key to student success

By Clarissa Hayes, child nutrition policy analyst at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Research shows that afterschool programs provide measurable benefits to students academically, socially, and behaviorally, and serve as an important resource for families and communities. In addition...

BY: Guest Blogger      10/12/18

New issue brief: A big-picture approach to wellness

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/07/18

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BY: Guest Blogger      05/26/20

Recommendations from BellXcell to combat negative effects of prolonged school closures

BellXcell and the Sperling Center for Research and Innovation (SCRI) recently released a brief that discusses the impact of COVID-19 on learning gaps for students. Due to these unprecedented school closures, millions of students could be left without schooling for upwards of five to six months,...

BY: Bella DiMarco      05/20/20

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Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, ourBRIDGE for KIDS (ourBRIDGE) is an afterschool program that works with immigrant and refugee students new to the United States. The program—whose three core pillars are academic support, trauma-informed care, and cultural pride—serves...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      05/15/20

While collaboration between youth-serving organizations continues, gaps in service still exist

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BY: Bella DiMarco      05/14/20

New poll: 3 in 4 programs have changed how they operate during COVID-19

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BY: Charlotte Steinecke      04/20/20

Afterschool turns the peak time for crime into a time of opportunity for young people

For close to 20 years, we at the Afterschool Alliance have been dedicated to the cause of expanding afterschool opportunities because we know the life changing impact programs can have on children, on families, and on communities.  Today, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a new report that...

BY: Jodi Grant      10/16/19

Afterschool Spotlight: YWCA New Britain - House of Teens

Adapted from our November 2018 issue brief Promoting Civic Engagement Through Afterschool, developed in partnership with the Asia Society Center for Global Education. Civic engagement starts with our nation’s young people. The afterschool field is an essential partner in ensuring...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      08/16/19

New issue brief showcasing afterschool promoting civic engagement

Earlier this week on my way into work, a father and his daughter, who couldn’t have been older than an elementary schooler, were at the bottom of the metro escalator greeting metro riders with a huge sign that read “VOTE!” That sight brought a huge smile to my face; it was...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/01/18

Reaching 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020

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BY: Leah Silverberg      07/10/18

Afterschool's lasting impact: Q&A with Dr. Milbrey McLaughlin

By Sam Piha, founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development who are serious about improving the lives of young people. Milbrey McLaughlin has been a leading...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/25/18