Multiple Choices After School
Findings from the Extended-Service Schools Initiative
How we did this
The study was conducted by the research organizations Public/Private Ventures and MDRC. They adopted a multi-method approach to understand the breadth of programming experiences and delve deeply into specific issues. Methods included observational assessments of program activities, interviews with participating youth and their parents, in-depth site visits, and organizational surveys.
The Extended-Service Schools Initiative supported the creation of 60 afterschool programs in 20 communities around the country. The effort provided an opportunity to identify and examine overarching issues in providing afterschool opportunities to youth. The initiative was launched in 1997 by the predecessor to The Wallace Foundation, the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds.
- School-based, afterschool programs can be put in place fairly quickly and improve over time.
- Demand for the programs was high. Among the 10 programs that were intensively studied, eight considered themselves to be operating at capacity by their second year of operations.
- Locating afterschool programs in schools serving low-income families is an effective means of targeting services to children who need them most. However, special efforts are required if programs are going to be able to attract older youth and the most high-needs students in those schools.
- Different kinds of activities provided opportunities for youth to develop in different areas. By participating in a range of challenging and interesting activities, young people have the chance to develop new skills and interests, build positive and supportive relationships with adults and peers, and develop a sense they matter through making decisions and taking on leadership roles.
- Program characteristics affect participation patterns. For example, programs that served, in part, as childcare for parents were more likely to mandate five-day-a-week enrollment. Programs that required tutoring as a daily activity might have discouraged attendance from youth who felt frustrated with academics.
- Cost varied considerably, depending as much on program choices, opportunities, and local conditions as on the number of children served.
Given the increasing challenges to children’s lives and the increasingly more complex sets of skills and abilities that are required for success in the workplace of the twenty-first century, we may need to revisit how and where we make investments in our nation’s children.
- There is no single approach that meets all young people’s needs when it comes to providing afterschool programs.
- Afterschool activities have the potential to provide a wide range of developmental supports and opportunities to children and youth. It is how staff deliver the activities, not the topic or skill being addressed, that determines the strength of those opportunities.
- Participation in the afterschool programs was associated with improved school attitudes and behaviors and with a greater likelihood of staying out of trouble.
- Schools and school districts are essential sources of support.
Extended-Service Schools Adaption Sites
Materials and Downloads
What We Don't Know
Afterschool programs could benefit from more information on attracting and serving older youth. Also, at the time of the study it was too early to know whether afterschool programs had an impact on students’ grades and test scores. Because most of the initiative's programs were new and students participated, on average, fewer than two days a week and only for a year, the researchers did not expect to find changes in grades. Thus, they instead examined indicators of academic improvement, such as youth’s sense of competence in school.