Secrets of Successful Afterschool Programs
The United States is engaged in an ongoing, public discussion about how to best expand afterschool time and opportunities for children and youth, to support their learning and development across the day, throughout the year, and from kindergarten through high school. Debate continues about the range of academic, social, and other types of knowledge and skills that young people will need to succeed as workers, citizens, and family and community members in a global world.after school activity programmes
To build the knowledge base, and to support efforts to improve quality in this field, the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) has developed and maintains an accessible national database of evaluations of hundreds of afterschool programs. In 2008, HFRP issued a review of these studies to address two fundamental questions: Does participation in after school programs make a difference, and if so, what conditions appear to be necessary to achieve positive results?
The verdict: a decade of research and evaluation studies confirms that children and youth who participate in afterschool programs can reap a host of positive benefits in a number of interrelated outcome areas — academic, social-emotional, prevention, and health and wellness. These are the skills that many suggest are necessary for youth to succeed in the 21st century global economy and world.
Participation in afterschool programs is influencing academic performance in a number of ways, including better attitudes toward school and higher educational aspirations; higher school attendance rates and lower tardiness rates; less disciplinary action, such as suspension; lower dropout rates; better performance in school, as measured by achievement test scores and grades; significant gains in academic achievement test scores; greater on-time promotion; improved homework completion; and deeper engagement in learning.
Dozens of studies of afterschool programs repeatedly underscore the powerful impact of supporting a range of positive learning outcomes, including academic achievement, by affording children and youth opportunities to practice new skills through hands-on, experiential learning in project-based after school programs.
Another common thread among all of these studies is that successful programs focus not just on academic support, but also offer other enrichment activities. Thus, balancing academic support with a variety of structured, engaging, and enjoyable extracurricular activities appears to improve academic performance.
Many afterschool programs focus less on academics and more on improving young people’s social and developmental challenges, such as social skills, self-esteem and self-concept issues, initiative, and leadership skills. Research has shown that participation in these programs is associated with decreased behavioral problems, improved social and communication skills, better relationships with peers and teachers, increased self-confidence, self-esteem and self-efficiency, lower levels of depression and anxiety, development of initiative, and improved feelings and attitudes toward self and school.
Crime, drug, and sex prevention
The hours from 3 to 6 p.m. are the peak time for juvenile crime and victimization, and the time period when teens ages 16-17 are most likely to be involved in a car crash. Also, youth left unsupervised for a certain number of hours per week are more likely to be sexually active, and at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Participation in an afterschool programs gets children and youth off the streets, under supervision, and potentially prevents some risky behaviors. But beyond offering a safe haven, research and evaluation studies have demonstrated that the programs can have a positive effect on a range of prevention outcomes, such as avoidance of drug and alcohol use, decreases in delinquency and violent behavior, increased knowledge of safe sex, avoidance of sexual activity, and reduction in juvenile crime.