New Study Shows Providence Citywide After-School Effort Yields Educational Benefits for Middle-School Youth

August 18, 2011
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Laura Johnson
P/PV
ljohnson@ppv.org
212-822-2401

Contact: Lucas Held
The Wallace Foundation
lheld@wallacefoundation.org
212-251-9782

Student Participation in After-School Programs Improves School Attendance

PROVIDENCE, August 18, 2011 - Providence's citywide after-school effort, known as the AfterZone, produced educational benefits for students who attended the programs — including improved school attendance and attitudes — according to one of the first rigorous evaluations of a citywide after-school initiative released today by Public/ Private Ventures (P/PV).

The study, AfterZone: Outcomes for Youth Participating in Providence's After-School System, found that absences were 25 percent lower among middle school youth who participated in the AfterZone for two school years compared with their peers who did not participate. Results for school performance were also promising: Two-year participants earned math grades that were about one-third of a grade higher than their non-participating peers.

The study also found that the program's benefits, such as improved school attendance and attitudes, were greater if children attended the programs longer. Benefits for attendance increased in the second year; at the same time, other benefits (improved social skills and stronger connections to school), did not last past a single school year, which may be due to the short time youth participated.

With funding from The Wallace Foundation, P/PV studied the outcomes for 763 sixth-graders from six Providence middle schools to determine whether a coordinated system of citywide after-school programs helped youth. Nearly 60 percent of the students attended one of Providence's AfterZone programs (which are offered in arts, sports or skill building) from Fall 2008 to Spring 2010. On average, they attended 25 days during each school year.

Developed by the Providence After School Alliance, the AfterZone model is a partnership among local public agencies and nonprofit organizations. Unlike traditional after-school programs, AfterZones are more than single programs housed in one building. Instead, they are "neighborhood campuses," centered in communities where youth live and go to school. The "campus" is anchored by one or more schools and includes programming at recreation centers, libraries, museums, arts organizations and youth centers in addition to those offered at the school.

"It was rather striking that a network of after-school programs shrinks school absences by 25 percent after two years, a reduction that was unusually large for after-school programs that do not explicitly target school outcomes," said Tina Kauh, P/PV senior research associate and director of the study. "We also found that youth who participated in the AfterZone for two school years earned higher math grades than youth who didn't participate, suggesting that the AfterZone may have the potential to bolster academic performance. These findings suggest that after-school systems that are strongly grounded in the school context can have a positive impact on school-related outcomes, even without significant resources directed toward intensive academic support."

The study has implications for other cities trying to create their own citywide after-school efforts. "This study confirms that a citywide effort can bring about short-term positive changes in kids' lives and that more participation produces greater benefits," said Edward Pauly, director of research and evaluation at The Wallace Foundation. "It also amplifies the finding by RAND researchers in Hours of Opportunity that citywide efforts that include a focus on quality and participation can improve children's access to high-quality after-school programs, and the benefits those children reap."

The study can be downloaded without charge at www.wallacefoundation.org or at www.ppv.org. An earlier implementation study, AfterZones: Creating a Citywide System to Support and Sustain High-Quality After-School Programs, is also available on both websites.

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Public/Private Ventures is a national nonprofit research organization that works to improve the lives of children, youth and families in high-poverty communities by making social programs more effective. We identify and examine gaps in programs designed to create opportunities for people in poverty. We use this knowledge to stimulate new program ideas, manage demonstration projects, conduct evaluations, and expand or replicate effective approaches. For more information, visit www.ppv.org.

The Wallace Foundation is an independent, national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for children. The Foundation maintains an online library of lessons at www.wallacefoundation.org about what it has learned, including knowledge from its current efforts aimed at: strengthening educational leadership to improve student achievement; helping disadvantaged students gain more time for learning through summer learning and an extended school day and year; enhancing out-of-school time opportunities; and building appreciation and demand for the arts.