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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. 

Mapping afterschool in New Mexico

By May Sagbakken, executive director of the New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network All children and youth deserve access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs that prepare them for school, college, careers, and life. While many students across the country are receiving valuable...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/05/18

New resources! National and state-level fact sheets on afterschool

As spring finally arrives in Washington, D.C., so does a suite of new resources highlighting key facts and stats on afterschool!   The first resource is a new fact sheet on afterschool, which summarizes positive outcomes for students who participate in programs, as well as the supports...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      04/13/18

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...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/27/17

Looking for evidence on the impact of afterschool?

Look no further! Adding to the research conversation discussing the value of afterschool and summer learning programs, the Afterschool Alliance has released two new fact sheets that provide a sampling of evaluation findings demonstrating the positive impact programs have on students, with subjects...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/09/17

Evaluating afterschool: What my toddler taught me about evaluation

By Allison Riley, PhD, MSW, Senior Vice President, Programming and Evaluation at Girls on the Run International. Girls on the Run is a physical activity-based positive youth development program that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/08/17

New poll finds 9 in 10 parents support schools providing afterschool programs

Last night, the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) released the 2017 Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) Poll of Public's Attitudes Towards Public Schools. The overall takeaway from this report, which is PDK’s 49th annual report on Americans’ views toward public...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      08/29/17

Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher, part II

Welcome to part II of our Q&A with Neil Naftzger, American Institutes for Research (AIR), about his evaluation work related to 21st CCLC programs specifically and the afterschool field broadly. Below are answers to oneof the questions we asked, with our emphasis added in bold, which...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/18/17

Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher

In May, the proposed FY2018 budget eliminated funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the only federal funding stream dedicated to before-school, afterschool, and summer learning programs. In the budget, a justification given for the elimination of funding was that...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/28/17

Evaluating afterschool: Building an evaluation advisory board

By Jason Spector, Senior Research & Evaluation Manager at After-School All-Stars The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the sixth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which answers some of the common questions asked about program evaluation and...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/05/17

Evaluating afterschool: Answering questions about quality

By Jocelyn Michelsen, Senior Research Associate at Public Profit, an Oakland, California-based evaluation consultancy focused on helping high-performing organizations do their best, data-driven work with children, youth, and families. The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the fifth...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      06/06/17

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

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

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

"Building Workforce Skills in Afterschool" highlights promising practices for all ages

The next generation of the American workforce is growing up right now and afterschool programs are vital partners in helping young people discover new passions and work towards their dreams. As in so many other subjects, the variety and versatility of afterschool programming offers opportunities...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/14/17

How does afterschool contribute to military readiness?

In 2016, the Council for a Strong America released America Unprepared, showing data that more than 70 percent of young adults in the United States would not qualify for military service due to obesity and other health issues, poor academic performance, drug abuse, or involvement in crime. As a...

BY: Leah Silverberg      08/14/17

5 ways afterschool prepares kids to succeed in the workplace

Cultivating tomorrow’s workforce remains a central part of the discussion about America’s economic future. As today’s children begin to develop the skills they will need in the workplace, experts in the education and afterschool fields are turning their attention to the ways that...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      05/04/17

What is "The State of Girls" in 2017?

Since the Great Recession, the United States has experienced many demographic, social, economic, and technological changes. A new report from the Girl Scout Research Institute, "The State of Girls 2017: Emerging Truths and Troubling Trends," tracks resulting trends in...

BY: Leah Silverberg      02/17/17

When talking about social and emotional learning, what language works best?

We all know that high quality afterschool and summer learning programs provide kids with the skills that they need to succeed in school and life. While the concept sounds simple, finding the best way to describe these skills and their development is anything but. Some people use phrases such...

BY: Dan Gilbert      01/05/17

New polling shows America is for afterschool

Just in time for Lights On Afterschool, the only national rally celebrating afterschool, a new national poll is out that shows strong public support for afterschool. Nearly 9 in 10 adults (89 percent) agree that afterschool programs are important to their community, with bipartisan and nationwide...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      10/22/18

Why invest public funds in afterschool?

A new infographic released by RAND draws our attention to the key benefits of public funding for afterschool and summer learning programs. Based on their 2017 research report The Value of Out-of-School Programs, which we covered here last year, the infographic reflects the evident need for...

BY: Rina Moss      10/05/18

Mapping afterschool in New Mexico

By May Sagbakken, executive director of the New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network All children and youth deserve access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs that prepare them for school, college, careers, and life. While many students across the country are receiving valuable...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/05/18

New resources! National and state-level fact sheets on afterschool

As spring finally arrives in Washington, D.C., so does a suite of new resources highlighting key facts and stats on afterschool!   The first resource is a new fact sheet on afterschool, which summarizes positive outcomes for students who participate in programs, as well as the supports...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      04/13/18

AFT poll shows opposition to federal funding cuts to education

The clear message coming out of a recent national poll on attitudes toward federal education spending is that voters are overwhelmingly opposed to the federal government cutting funds for public education. In the poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates for the American Federation of...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      08/02/17

Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher

In May, the proposed FY2018 budget eliminated funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the only federal funding stream dedicated to before-school, afterschool, and summer learning programs. In the budget, a justification given for the elimination of funding was that...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/28/17

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

An Ideal Opportunity: The Role of Afterschool in Social and Emotional Learning

High school students in The Possibility Project, New York, N.Y., tackle issues close to their heart, taking on leadership roles to enact change in their communities through performing arts and community action. At Girls on the Run councils located in all 50 states, plus D.C., girls run with their...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      05/04/18

New research on easy, affordable SEL practices

As the prominence of social and emotional learning (SEL) to support students’ development in school and beyond continues to grow in education circles, challenges implementing SEL programming have also arisen. The latest issue brief in a series supported by The Wallace Foundation, Kernels of...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      02/20/18

Research shows the benefits of early childhood programs

Over the years, research surrounding participation in early childhood programs—such as preschool, home visiting programs, and parent education programs—has continuously shown improved outcomes for children and families. A research report...

BY: Leah Silverberg      01/25/18

"Building Workforce Skills in Afterschool" highlights promising practices for all ages

The next generation of the American workforce is growing up right now and afterschool programs are vital partners in helping young people discover new passions and work towards their dreams. As in so many other subjects, the variety and versatility of afterschool programming offers opportunities...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/14/17

New report from the Wallace Foundation: Strategies to scale up

The question of how to scale up—taking a successful program, project, or policy and growing it to expand its reach and therefore its impact—has been an important one when thinking about systems change. It is a key component in efforts to make sustainable, positive social gains; a...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      10/06/17

New polling shows America is for afterschool

Just in time for Lights On Afterschool, the only national rally celebrating afterschool, a new national poll is out that shows strong public support for afterschool. Nearly 9 in 10 adults (89 percent) agree that afterschool programs are important to their community, with bipartisan and nationwide...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      10/22/18

Looking for evidence on the impact of afterschool?

Look no further! Adding to the research conversation discussing the value of afterschool and summer learning programs, the Afterschool Alliance has released two new fact sheets that provide a sampling of evaluation findings demonstrating the positive impact programs have on students, with subjects...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/09/17

Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher, part II

Welcome to part II of our Q&A with Neil Naftzger, American Institutes for Research (AIR), about his evaluation work related to 21st CCLC programs specifically and the afterschool field broadly. Below are answers to oneof the questions we asked, with our emphasis added in bold, which...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/18/17

AFT poll shows opposition to federal funding cuts to education

The clear message coming out of a recent national poll on attitudes toward federal education spending is that voters are overwhelmingly opposed to the federal government cutting funds for public education. In the poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates for the American Federation of...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      08/02/17

Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher

In May, the proposed FY2018 budget eliminated funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the only federal funding stream dedicated to before-school, afterschool, and summer learning programs. In the budget, a justification given for the elimination of funding was that...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/28/17

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

An Ideal Opportunity: The Role of Afterschool in Social and Emotional Learning

High school students in The Possibility Project, New York, N.Y., tackle issues close to their heart, taking on leadership roles to enact change in their communities through performing arts and community action. At Girls on the Run councils located in all 50 states, plus D.C., girls run with their...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      05/04/18

The prevalence of adverse childhood experiences

Close to half of children (45 percent) in the U.S. have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE)—an experience that could have negative and lasting effects on one’s health and wellbeing, such as depression, drug abuse, and poor physical health. One in 9 children...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      03/09/18

"Building Workforce Skills in Afterschool" highlights promising practices for all ages

The next generation of the American workforce is growing up right now and afterschool programs are vital partners in helping young people discover new passions and work towards their dreams. As in so many other subjects, the variety and versatility of afterschool programming offers opportunities...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/14/17

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

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

How does afterschool contribute to military readiness?

In 2016, the Council for a Strong America released America Unprepared, showing data that more than 70 percent of young adults in the United States would not qualify for military service due to obesity and other health issues, poor academic performance, drug abuse, or involvement in crime. As a...

BY: Leah Silverberg      08/14/17

New report sees how state policies can promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

This post was originally published by the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition. A new report from RTI International examines an emerging trend that uses state policy to promote healthy eating and physical activity in afterschool and other out-of-school-time (OST) programs. Based on...

BY: Robert Abare      11/28/16