Hey afterschool enthusiasts, have you heard? The C.S. Mott Foundation is supporting a new initiative under the leadership of Terry K. Peterson that will share the opportunities and potential of expanded learning opportunities in an upcoming compendium of more than 40 articles. In one of the compendium’s March articles, written by Joseph Durlak and Roger P. Weissberg, the two respected researchers summarize and explicate the highlights from their recent research findings. Durlak and Weissberg’s article entitled “Afterschool Programs That Follow Evidence-Based Practices to Promote Social and Emotional Development Are Effective” surveys the previous evidence base on afterschool and contends that the value of high quality programs to society is undeniable. The authors also show that early studies that were critical of afterschool programs were misguided in their attempt to collectively group all afterschool programs together, as not all programs are made in the same mold and offer a vast array of services to students. Instead, they argue, we should look at “what research-based design elements should be included to make [afterschool programs] more successful.” In their research, Durlak and Weisberg were able to identify four evidence-based practices that were predictive of academic and social success for students:
- Sequenced step-by-step staff training approach (S)
- Active forms of learning (A)
- Focused specific time and attention on skill development (F)
- Explicit, defined skills that are being promoted (E)
Afterschool programs that followed all four practices were known as SAFE programs and were associated with significant improvements in a range of social, behavioral and academic outcomes. Durlak and Weissberg argue that afterschool programs that follow these skill training approaches are proven, worthwhile interventions for youth, and therefore we should spend time in the future developing strategies to expand upon these programs, not argue about their merits. Certainly this is an encouraging article for those of us interested in afterschool research. Hopefully programs exhibiting these exemplary practices can expand and share their successes with the field so that children have even greater access to high quality afterschool programming.