The study uses a case-study approach. The researchers conducted extensive phone interviews and made site visits to each of six cities between October and December 2007 to gather data on systems investments. Wherever possible, they supplemented the information gathered from a series of structured interviews with budgets and other documentation. The researchers also conducted follow-up calls to verify data, probe for hidden costs, and gather additional information as needed.
Out-of-school-time (OST) programs play a vital role in many children’s academic and social development. To address the growing demand for and interest in these programs, a number of U.S. cities have initiated efforts to create OST systems. These systems bring together program providers, schools, municipal agencies, and others with an interest in OST. The idea is to put in place a coherent, shared infrastructure to support, coordinate, and sustain OST programs citywide.
The study looks at the investments six cities made in building OST systems during the early 2000s. The cities were Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, New York City, and Seattle.
Using a case-study approach, the study explores:
The researchers find that cities invested in four major components of OST infrastructure:
Improving program quality and expanding access accounted for the largest share of system-building investments, while financing and sustainability accounted for the smallest.
The study finds there is no single blueprint for building successful OST systems or for helping local leaders project the relevant costs of developing and maintaining them. Costs depend on factors including the desired scale of the system, strategies and activities employed, available resources, and whether the effort needs to be built from scratch.
The experiences of the six cities can provide other localities with useful ideas and information. In particular, they can increase understanding of the potential functions of OST systems, the range of resources they need, and the variety of funding sources that can be tapped to support them.
We define a 'system' as the overarching, city-level infrastructure that supports and helps sustain quality OST programming.
Each city’s approach is unique and reflects the city’s political, historical, and economic context as well as the system-building stage it was in during the study. Given the ever changing nature of OST systems, the cities’ landscapes have continued to evolve since the researchers were on site.
This study raises a number of questions for future research. Some of those are: