Based on a literature review, this report identifies the evaluation outcomes for after-school programs (ASPs).
ASPs generally occur outside of mandated school hours, although some programs classified as ASPs may be part of a larger program composed of elements delivered during school hours. Most current ASPs have one of three purposes that may not be mutually exclusive: improve students' academic performance, prevent problem behaviors from developing, and encourage positive youth development. One of the emerging aspects of evaluations of ASPs is the identification of program characteristics that make them most effective; however, research over the first decade of the 21st century has been divided between studies that emphasize the positive effect of ASPs and reviews that argue the research methods of most ASP evaluations are so weak that only preliminary conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of ASPs. This paper discusses the limitations of current ASP evaluation research and research results. Regarding the latter issue, several of the largest, most rigorous evaluations have found a mix of small positive effects, no effects, or small negative effects. Some positive effects of ASPs have included elementary school students feeling safer and parent reports of improved school attendance. Overall, however, the outcomes were disappointing. Moreover, there was evidence of higher levels of negative behavior (e.g., school suspensions and students being disciplined by teachers). Confirmation about the overall effectiveness of ASPs awaits more rigorous research. In the meantime, there is a group of programs, notably those that incorporate evidence-based approaches, that are available for replication. 22 references
Report (Grant Sponsored)
Date Published: October 1, 2010