RAND researchers examined evidence-based literature on out-of-school-time (OST) programs through the lenses of content, dosage (the hours of content provided), and outcomes measured. They focused on rigorous (i.e., experimental or quasi-experimental) large-scale evaluations and meta-analyses, with a particular focus on studies of academic and multipurpose programs.
What kind of benefits for youth can and should out-of-school-time (OST) programs produce? Academic gains? Enriching experiences? Safety and homework help?
A literature review conducted by the RAND Corporation on the value of OST programs helps answer this question.
RAND researchers found that OST programs can generate multiple benefits for children. The value delivered, however, depends on the type and duration of programming offered.
This conclusion, at first glance, may seem obvious. So why does it matter? Because differences in program goals, content, and outcomes often aren't considered when evaluating OST programs. Grouping programs according to these differences can provide a clearer picture of program effectiveness.
RAND researchers suggest grouping OST programs into three categories:
1) Specialty programs that help young people develop specific skills, like soccer or coding
2) Multipurpose programs that include a mix of homework help, games, and enrichment
3) Academically-focused programs that provide curriculum-based academic instruction delivered by a certified teacher
Each kind of program tends to produce outcomes directly linked to its program content.
Additionally, the authors found that:
The authors' recommendations include:
A combination of experiences over a course of years may contribute more to youth development, academic attainment, and life success than does one individual program.