This report documents an examination of the literature about OST programming to clarify and inform the key issues in ongoing discussions about services.
What are ways to increase the positive impact of out-of-school-time (OST) programming—and make sense of the research about the field? To help answer that, this report examines, organizes, and summarizes knowledge about OST programs as of 2005. It also identifies areas that need more research.
The report assesses research in several key areas:
Demand for OST services. The review found only a limited number of studies suggesting unmet demand for services. In contrast, research on existing programs revealed a significant number of open slots in programs and student absentees.
Outcomes. The analysis suggested that these programs had, at best, modest positive effects on academic achievement, academic attainment, and reducing risky behaviors. Results also might have differed according to grade level, program content, site context, and other elements.
Improving participation. Researchers found empirical evidence that participation varied by participant background. For that reason, targeting services might increase participation. For example, lower-income families might be more attracted to subsidized programs located in their neighborhood.
Boosting capacity. Suggestions ranged from joint planning by providers and funders to giving providers incentives for offering improved services.
Key success factors. Researchers found a growing consensus about program factors associated with improved youth outcomes, such as having high expectations, a clear mission, a safe, healthy, and supportive environment, and a small total enrollment.
Researchers make a variety of recommendations for improving OST programming and the level of debate. They include:
The available evidence suggests improving the quality of existing programs is more important than the rapid growth of new ones, the authors say. Designing and implementing effective programs will involve careful planning and attention—and significant funding.
[I]mprovement in program quality could have the effect of increasing demand.