Closing Opportunity and Achievement Gaps through Out-of-School Time Programs

With a deep history of supporting out-of-school-time programs nationally, Metis evaluators continue to examine how these initiatives help level the playing field for children and youth in under-resourced communities.

Furry Friends reading program, an innovative component of a Metis-evaluated afterschool learning program in Dayton, Ohio. Photo Courtesy of East End Community Services Corporation.

Afterschool and summer learning programs provide essential supports to students and families who may not have access to quality care and enrichment opportunities during out-of-school times.  They are particularly crucial for low-income families. These programs provide free or reduced-cost access to supervised programming that keeps kids safe, inspires them to learn, and helps support parents’ employment goals. Studies have shown that students in afterschool attend school more often, do better in school, gain skills for success, and are more likely to graduate from high school.  While participation in afterschool programs has increased over the past ten years, the demand for affordable out-of-school-time (OST) programming continues to rise nationwide.

Government Investments in Out-of-School Time Initiatives

The Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program is the only federal funding source dedicated to supporting OST initiatives. Established in 1998, the 21st CCLC program supports the creation of community learning centers. These centers provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly for students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.  Today, the 21st CCLC program offers free out-of-school time services for nearly 2 million youth in all 50 states through grants administered by state education agencies. 

Individual states and local municipalities are other sources of government funding for out-of-school time initiatives. Many state departments of education and children and family services sponsor grant programs. Larger cities and towns offer contracting opportunities for non-profit organizations to provide free or fee-based options for children and youth. These programs help satisfy local demand for affordable afterschool and summer youth development programs. They also seek to reconnect young people to school, and better prepare them for college and careers.

Metis Evaluations Support Quality Afterschool Programs

Metis’s experience with evaluating afterschool programs dates back to the first 21st CCLC grant cycle in 1998 when the U.S. Department of Education administered the discretionary grant program. Since then, Metis has collaborated with more than 20 school districts and community organizations to evaluate 21st CCLC programs. This work spans six states, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.

We also have a senior researcher at Metis that holds certification from the Weikert Center for Youth Program Quality. She is certified to serve as a reliable external assessor in using and scoring the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA). The YPQA is a research-validated assessment and evaluation tool used by youth development programs and external evaluators across the nation to strengthen program services.

In addition to more than two decades of experience evaluating 21st CCLC programs, Metis has extensive experience evaluating other publicly- and privately-funded afterschool and summer learning initiatives. For example, we have partnered with Classroom Inc. and Boys & Girls Clubs of America to help them determine the effectiveness of their out-of-school-time efforts. 

Across all of our OST evaluations, Metis evaluators have examined: 

  • Fidelity of implementation through program observations, analysis of program participation data, interviews with program staff, and reviews of program documentation
  • Academic achievement outcomes through the study of standardized test scores and report card grades in reading, math, and other subject areas
  • Non-cognitive skill attainment through the administration and analysis of pre/post instruments with known psychometric properties (e.g., Developmental Assets Profile, Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scales) or locally-developed surveys
  • Neighborhood-level data and questionnaires of community residents 

Overall, we have found that OST learning programs are essential supports for students in ways both tangible and intangible. Specifically, these programs provide:

  • Supper for students who would not otherwise have a warm, nutritious meal
  • Homework support and individualized instruction for students
  • Activities to promote college and career readiness
  • A safe and nurturing environment to learn and grow academically and emotionally

Our extensive experience evaluating these programs points to the need to continue to expand these supports as well as bolster evaluation to identify best practices in the field further.