After-School Programs to Promote Child and Adolescent Development
When schools all over the country are dismissed each afternoon, how do the millions of children and adolescents spend their out-of-school time? Increasingly, what children and adolescents do during after-school hours has become a public concern among parents, educators, and policy makers. “Familiar activities like sports, piano lessons, religious classes, and scout troops still dot the afternoons and weekends of many children, but other youngsters are adrift after school. Too many fend for themselves in libraries, congregate in subway stations and neighborhood stores, or spend their afternoons behind the locked doors of city apartments and suburban houses” (David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 1999:4). Programs after school and during weekends and summer hours may provide an opportunity to engage these children and adolescents as partners in their own development by ensuring that they have access to the kinds of constructive learning and development opportunities that they both need and want during their out-of-school time.
On October 21, 1999, under the auspices of the Committee on Community-Level Programs for Youth, a workshop was convened by the Board on Children, Youth, and Families to review the current knowledge base about after-school programs as a strategy for ensuring the safety, security, development, and well-being of children and adolescents ages 5 to 14 and to consider the implications of this knowledge for the next generation of
after-school programs. This workshop was planned to coincide with the release of the Packard Foundation’s fall 1999 issue of The Future of Children, entitled “When School Is Out.”
To create a framework for workshop discussions, presenters were asked to address the following questions:
What are the developmental needs, challenges, and opportunities of children and adolescents ages 5 to 14?
What types of after-school programs are most likely to address those needs?
What are the components of high-quality after-school programs?
What are the different models of after-school programs?
What are the challenges in evaluating these programs?
What should the next generation of research, policy, and design of after-school programs look like?
This report summarizes the presentations and discussion that took place at the workshop. It is not intended to provide a complete review of the literature on adolescent development or after-school program evaluation literature or to be an overview of all of the different types of after-school programs. Rather, the report should be seen as a reflection of ideas expressed by workshop presenters and participants that may lead to continued and enhanced support of existing programs, new program models, additional and different research, and more collaboration among researchers, policy makers, and practitioners.
Given the limitations of both time and scope, this workshop could not address a variety of issues that are certainly important when considering how children and adolescents spend their after-school hours. There was no discussion about substantive evaluation findings that specifically demonstrate the tangible impact of after-school programs on children and adolescents. The workshop also did not examine the full range of after-school programs that exist, review the evaluation and research literature on after-school programs, nor the theory on which after-school programs are designed. Workshop participants acknowledged the importance of afterschool programs in providing opportunities for developing cross-cultural and intercultural skills, as well as the importance of staffing programs with individuals who are sensitive to issues of diversity. However, the workshop highlighted only the general developmental needs of children and adoles-
cents and did not address specific identify issues faced by children and adolescents who are ethnic minorities.
There is a large group of practitioners, researchers, and policy makers committed to improving the quality and supply of after-school programs for young people. This workshop engaged recognized leaders in the field, and consequently the discussions at the workshop and this summary report reflect only the views of those who participated.
It is important to note that there are a variety of terms used to describe activities and programs for children and adolescents during their out-of-school time. Additional discussion about these differences in terms of both terminology and function can be found later in this summary report. However, for the sake of continuity here, we have chosen to use the term “after-school program.”
Violence and Other High-Risk Behaviors
Violence among children and adolescents became front-page national news during the late 1990s. Workshop presenter Karen Hein, of the William T. Grant Foundation, pointed out that the highly publicized school shootings that occurred in the communities of Littleton, Colorado, Conyers, Georgia, and Johnsboro, Arkansas, in which children attacked their classmates and teachers, have raised questions about the influence on children and adolescents of how they spend their out-of-school time. Even more widespread, though less publicized, are episodes of violence affecting one or two young people at a time in and around schools throughout the nation. For example, in Washington, D.C., recently, two successful high school students were victims of a drive-by shooting following a basketball game at their school. This football captain and his honor-student girlfriend were just 2 of 17 high school students who met a violent death in the District of Columbia since the school year began in September. Of these 17 slayings, 8 were precipitated by an argument that started at a school and ended in gunfire on a neighborhood street (The Washington Post, February 16, 2000).
Research demonstrates that most delinquent behavior occurs during the after-school hours, from 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. In addition, police and other authorities report that risky behaviors, such as sexual activity and drug and alcohol drug use, as well as juvenile crime, increase significantly
from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. (Fox and Newman, 1997). Hein explained that after-school programs are emerging in the public consciousness as an intervention to prevent violence and other high-risk behaviors as well as to promote the healthy development of children and adolescents.
An increased interest in after-school programs as a response to violence among children and adolescents and in schools is fairly recent. There was discussion among workshop participants that organized after-school programs began, in part, as a response to increased numbers of single-parent households and working mothers and the resulting lack of caretakers at home during after-school hours. In the past 30 years there have been significant increases in the number of single parents and in the proportion of families living in poverty. About 50 percent of all children today will reside in a single-parent home before age 18, spending an average of 6 years with a single parent (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 1999b). Furthermore, workshop presenter Terry Peterson, ofthe U.S. Department of Education, explained that an estimated 28 million school-age children have parents working at least part time, including 5 million to 7 million “latchkey children” who get no adult supervision after school (Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, 1998). And 77 percent of married mothers with school-age children worked outside the home in 1996 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1997), most full time (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1997). Workshop presenter Jennifer Davis, of the Boston 2:00-to-6:00 After-School Initiative, further explained that more recently low-income parents who were previously on welfare have also joined the work force as a consequence of welfare reform. Consequently, after-school programs are increasingly being recognized as a safe and supervised place for children of parents who have to work during their children ’s out-of-school time.
School Performance and Academic Competence
Throughout the workshop, participants discussed the fact that increasing concerns about student performance and pressures to improve lagging academic achievement have also brought attention to the value of after-school programs as a means to increase educational competencies and performance. “In 1994, only 30 percent of the nation’s fourth and eighth
graders scored at proficient or advanced levels in reading in the National Assessment of Educational Progress” (David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 1999:118). Children and adolescents spend only a small part of their day in the classroom. Workshop presenters suggested that, in order for schools to meet high state educational standards, after-school programs could supplement academic learning through hands-on interactive activities. After-school programs have the flexibility to offer tutoring assistance, lessons in problem solving, practice test taking, and fun skills-building activities in a range of subjects, including math, reading, and science. All of these opportunities may enrich young peoples’ academic curriculum and lead to greater success in school.
Parents, Educators, and the Public
Various forms of after-school activities have been implemented in schools and communities for decades, but after-school programs have increasingly become the focus of solutions to practically every problem faced by children and adolescents. There is increasing public conviction that organized programs during after-school hours can prevent problem behavior in children and adolescents as well as promote their health, development, and well-being. Indeed, parents, educators, other adults in the community, and young people themselves endorse improving the supply, quality, and access to after-school programs.
Workshop presenters Terry Peterson, of the U.S. Department of Education, and Jane Quinn, of the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, presented the results of polls and studies of voters, educators, parents, and adolescents about after-school programs that collectively argue for the need for more and higher-quality after-school services:
In a survey of the voting public conducted by a bipartisan polling team, 93 percent of respondents favored making safe daily enrichment programs available to all children; 86 percent of voters thought that organized after-school activities were a necessity; 11 percent of voters thought they were not necessary (Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, 1988).
In another survey, 84 percent of elementary school principals responded that in their communities there was a need for supervision both before and after school (National Association of Elementary School Principals, 1988). Teachers who were surveyed singled out the need for after-
school programs as critical to helping students with difficulties (Metropolitan Life, 1994).
In a survey conducted by the National Governors Association, over 50 percent of states indicated plans to increase funding and develop an interagency structure to coordinate extra learning opportunities during after-school hours (National Governors Association, 2000).
Children and adolescents also report that they want constructive activities outside school. They want safe places to go where they can prepare for their future, learn and practice new skills, and spend quality time with caring adults and other children and adolescents (Quinn, 1999).
As discussed by Peterson, in the past several years there has been a dramatic increase in the level of federal and state funding for after-school programs. For example, the U.S. Department of Education ’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program experienced a dramatic increase in funding: from $1 million in fiscal 1997 to $40 million in 1998, $200 million in 1999, and $450 million in 2000.
The focus of this school-based program, authorized under Title X, Part I, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is to provide expanded learning opportunities for children in a safe, drug-free, supervised environment. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers enable schools to stay open longer, providing a safe place for homework and tutoring, intensive mentoring in basic skills, drug and violence prevention counseling, college preparation courses, and enrichment in core academic subjects, as well as opportunities to participate in recreational activities, chorus, band, arts, technology education programs, and special services for children and adolescents with disabilities. About 16,000 rural and inner-city public schools in 471 communities—in collaboration with other public and nonprofit agencies, organizations, local businesses, postsecondary institutions, and scientific/cultural and other community entities—are now participating as 21st Century Community Learning Center programs.
Other sources of public funding also support after-school programming. A number of examples were mentioned at the workshop. The Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative will provide $3 million annually from education, mental health, and juvenile justice allocations to help 50 communities provide school-based after-school programs, mentoring, and other violence prevention activities. The DeWitt-Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund
is helping three cities—Boston, Chicago, and Seattle—develop model systems of care for children ages 5 to 14 during nonschool hours. The Child Care and Development Block Grant offers subsidies to pay for child care for low-income children in both school- and community-based settings. Many states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, and Georgia, have made significant investments in programs for school-age children (David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 1999).
Workshop presenter Joy Dryfoos added that there has also been extensive support from foundations for after-school programs, and important new public/private partnerships for after-school programs. For example, the Afterschool Alliance is an emerging consortium of public, private, and nonprofit groups committed to raising awareness and expanding resources for after-school programs. Initiated and coordinated by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the alliance grew out of a partnership between the foundation and the U.S. Department of Education. The vision of the Afterschool Alliance is to ensure that every child in America has access, if needed, to quality after-school programs by the year 2010 by raising national and local awareness about their importance.
Furthermore, the public is evidently willing to invest additional resources in after-school programs. In the Mott poll, 80 percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to use additional federal or state tax dollars to fund after-school programs in their community at a cost of $1,000 per child, even if it raised their individual tax bills by $10 a year (Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, 1998).
Given this climate, Peterson suggested that the time is right to continue to expand after-school programs and build on the current knowledge base to ensure the delivery of quality services that promote the healthy development of children and adolescents. The question therefore becomes how best to broaden this service base to serve millions of children and adolescents after school and during weekend and summer hours. And probably most important, he noted, is attention to ensuring that increased support and resources promote collaborations rather than competitiveness among service providers.
DEVELOPMENTAL CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Throughout the workshop different presenters discussed the need for after-school programs that are specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of children and adolescents. Thus, understanding the bio-
logical, cognitive, psychological, and social changes that mark the span of ages 5 to 14 is fundamental if after-school programs are to prevent negative behavior, promote healthy development and well-being, and include developmentally appropriate activities. Jacquelynne Eccles of the University of Michigan provided an overview of these developmental changes that occur in children and adolescents.
There are obvious physical changes that children experience during middle childhood and early adolescence, including dramatic physical growth. Early adolescence encompasses the biological changes of puberty, as well as sexual and psychological awakenings. Hormones controlling physical development are activated in early puberty, and children undergo a growth spurt, develop primary and secondary sex characteristics, become fertile, and experience increased sexual libido. This onset of physical growth varies among children in this age range; great variations exist between young adolescents who still look very much like children and those who look like fully grown adults. To complicate matters further, boys and girls go through stages of development at different ages. For example, research shows that girls experience the onset of puberty on average two years earlier than males (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 1999a).
The changes associated with middle childhood and early adolescence, however, are not solely physical changes. During these periods, children develop a sense of self-esteem and individuality. They develop key thinking and conceptual skills, as well as such fundamental competencies as reading and mathematics. It is during this time that children become able to retrieve information, solve problems, cope with new situations, and reflect on their ability to succeed. They move from an egocentric perspective, focused primarily on themselves, to developing an understanding of different points of view and the ability to take on the perspective of others. They experience major changes in their social context. Peer relationships and social dynamics change as children enter school, become involved in extracurricular activities, and spend time with peers and adults outside their families. They move away from relating primarily to their families to relating to their peers, schools, and communities.
Throughout these years of growth and development, children and adolescents confront high expectations for their learning, imposed by parents,
teachers, and society. In addition to the fundamental literacy and numeracy competencies, they are expected to develop social skills, independent decision-making abilities, career aspirations, and a “sense of self.” Children and adolescents receive very little formal guidance about these proficiencies. Their structured time is primarily spent in school, with learning focused on purely academic pursuits. This period of rapid growth can be daunting, but it also offers rich opportunities for after-school programs to support the healthy development of children and adolescents.
Addressing Developmental Needs
These findings suggest that after-school programs need to be designed to address age-based stages of development, including the challenges faced by children and adolescents. The content of after-school programs needs to incorporate the kinds of learning experiences that will build their academic, physical, emotional, and social competencies.
Eccles provided a number of examples of ways these programs might be designed to maximize their impact—by providing young people with the opportunity to develop competence in a number of different domains, to develop cross-cultural and intercultural skills, to both learn from older youth and mentor younger children, to interact with peers who are similarly benefiting from participation in after-school programs, to be contributing members of their communities, and to have the opportunity to establish close bonds with caring adults. Successful experiences in a wide range of settings can help give children a healthy positive view of themselves and a positive attitude toward learning and engagement in life’s activities and challenges.
Opportunity for Competence in Different Domains
Schools are under tremendous pressure to meet testing standards and address curriculum requirements. Most have faced funding cuts that have forced them to focus on literacy skills, to the detriment of such subjects as music and art. However, children need a whole array of skills to move through middle childhood and early adolescence into adulthood. After-school programs provide an important opportunity to help children and adolescents explore different areas of interest in which they can exercise their talents and achieve success.
Cross-Cultural and Intercultural Skills
Adolescents are developmentally faced with the need to develop a clear sense of identity issues; ethnicity is one of the more important identity issues dealt with by children and adolescents who are ethnic minorities. “Especially for minority youth, there is heightened awareness of race, biases, and their status as an ethnic minority group” (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000). After-school programs provide an opportunity for children and adolescents to interact in a diverse group of young people and develop the skills needed to positively interact and communicate with young people from diverse racial, ethnic, language, religious, and cultural groups. After-school programs can also work to incorporate activities for young people of color to successfully and confidently develop their own identity.
Opportunity to Learn from Older Children and Adolescents
As discussed by Eccles, American society and schools are largely segregated by age, with children spending most of their time with their same-age peers, separate from younger and older children and adults. After-school programs can provide a unique opportunity for children of different ages to interact and learn from one another. To develop effectively, children and adolescents need to be in environments in which they have the opportunity to feel confident, to master skills, and to acquire autonomy (Connell and Wellborn, 1991). Workshop presenters discussed the idea that participation in after-school programs with young people of different ages can create opportunities for children and adolescents to master a range of different skills and abilities.
Opportunity to Mentor Younger Children
Mentoring and tutoring of children and adolescents can also be very productive. Eccles provided an example of an intergenerational tutoring intervention, the Valued Youth Partnership Program in San Antonio, Texas (Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1989). A group of middle school students identified as being at high risk for dropping out of school (they were reading well below grade level, were skipping school, and were involved in other problem behaviors) were paired with elementary school students to teach them reading. While the older children could not read at
their own grade level, they could read at elementary school levels and therefore were valuable resources to the younger children. An evaluation of the program demonstrated that there was a significant increase in the older students’ self-esteem and a decrease in disciplinary problems. Moreover, dropout rates among the high-risk middle school youth decreased from 45 to 2 percent. This activity simply required viewing adolescents as assets and giving them an opportunity to develop and exercise their competencies. While these kinds of activities may be difficult to introduce in the classroom, they can easily be integrated into after-school programs, given that children of different ages participate in these programs and there is often more flexibility in programming.
Interaction with Other Children
Several workshop presenters and participants discussed the importance of providing children with time to play in an unstructured or semistructured environment with other children. Many neighborhoods do not have safe settings for children to play unsupervised, and consequently, in many cases, playtime among children has become less spontaneous. This may particularly be the case in urban settings. There is often a public perception that children and adolescents getting together and congregating in the neighborhood are going to cause problems and get into trouble. Unstructured play is not a priority in schools, but workshop presenters discussed that it can and should be a priority in after-school programs. According to Quinn, after-school programs can be a place where young people are encouraged to come up with fun activities of their own choice while learning social skills, moral values, and leadership skills.
Relationships with Caring Adults
Eccles and Peterson also indicated that after-school programs may give children and adolescents opportunities to relate to caring adults in a way that is different from their relationships with their parents or their teachers in a typical classroom environment. Often missing in the lives of adolescents, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods, is exposure to culturally relevant adult role models. After-school activities that engage teachers, mentors, coaches, employers, religious leaders, service providers, shop owners, and community leaders may positively affect children’s and adolescents’
perceptions of their own potential contributions and life options (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 1999b).
DESCRIBING AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS
A word is in order about how after-school programs are defined. A broad range of out-of-school activities and organizations are described as after-school or out-of school programs, creating definitional ambiguities. They may be formal licensed programs that have an explicit curriculum and structure, or they may be more unstructured, allowing young people to “drop in” anytime the program is open. The focus, substance, and purposes of school-age child care and youth development programs may overlap, but they are not always interchangeable. This lack of clarity about how to describe these activities generates confusion for parents making decisions about what type of program will best meet their children’s needs, as well as uncertainty by funders and policy makers who are making decisions about the types of programs to support and promote. Workshop presenter Jane Quinn provided some useful definitions:
“After-school programs” are usually defined by the time of day they take place. These programs usually begin between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. and end around 6:00 p.m. on school days. Their focus and content vary widely. Similarly, staffing patterns vary, depending on a program’s purpose. They may by staffed by certified teachers, trained youth workers, paraprofessionals, or even teen leaders. The term “after-school programs” is increasingly being used interchangeably with “out-of-school time programs” and often includes activities during summers, weekends, and school holidays.
“School-age child care” relates to issues of function—these programs generally have an explicit understanding with parents that they are accepting responsibility for children’s care and well-being during specific time periods, which may include the time before school, after school, on weekends, and during summers. Many of these programs are subject to state and/or municipal licensing requirements that cover such issues as facilities and staffing.
“Youth development programs” also relate to function—that is, promoting young people’s positive development in one or several domains,
such as developing caring relationships, self-expression, or creative expression. Youth development also refers to an approach that views young people as active agents of their own development, builds on strengths, and focuses on skills and competencies.
There is overlap among after-school programs, school-age child care, and youth development programs, but not all after-school programs serve a child care function, and not all after-school programs take a youth development approach.
Responsibility and Location
After-school programs are offered by a range of providers and in many different settings—school districts, libraries, national youth-serving agencies, parents’ groups, independent community-based organizations, religious organizations, community parks, youth sports organizations, museums, licensed child care centers, and family home providers. All of the workshop presentations reflected the importance of increasing the supply and quality of after-school activities, although the question of who should be fundamentally responsible for after-school programs —community-based organizations or schools—generated divergent viewpoints.
Historically, community-based organizations, ranging in size and scope, have been the primary providers of after-school activities for millions of children and adolescents. The National Collaboration for Youth, an interagency council of the nation’s 25 major youth-serving organizations, indicates that its member agencies alone serve more than 30 million young children and adolescents each year (Quinn, 1999). Community-based providers of after-school programs vary in their goals, content, structure, and target population. Some take a youth development approach, with a vast array of services, while others focus on prevention of a certain behavior, such as smoking or crime. Some programs are organized around a short-term intervention with a specific group of children or adolescents, while others focus on year-round programming in the community. Quinn outlined five basic categories of the sponsors of community-based after-school programs:
National youth-serving organizations represent the largest category of youth programs. Examples of these familiar, long-standing programs include the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; the YMCA and YWCA; Camp Fire Boys and Girls; Girls Incorporated; and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
Public agency-sponsored programs include public libraries, parks and recreation departments, and public housing associations.
Youth sports organizations include Little League and the American Youth Soccer Organization, as well as more informal sports activities run by community organizations or parks departments.
Multiservice organizations may have a particular focus on children and adolescents but often provide many other services. These organizations include religious institutions; adult service clubs, such as Rotary and Kiwanis; museums; and ethnic/cultural organizations, such as community action agencies.
Independent youth organizations are often initiated at the grassroots level and offer a wide array of services.
Until recently, most after-school programs were administered primarily by community-based organizations. Now, schools are rapidly redesigning themselves as providers of after-school programs. The new 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program has helped many schools play more of a leadership role in designing and implementing after-school programs. Workshop presenter Joy Dryfoos predicted that in the future all schools would remain open during afternoon and evening hours and on weekends. Terry Peterson observed that parents and other adult community members want schools to be involved in the administration of programs. And because of the recent shootings in and around schools, the public is increasingly turning to individual schools and school districts to deliver after-school programs or to partner with community-based organizations that deliver such services. Dryfoos organized school-based after-school programs into three categories:
School-administered programs tend to focus more on academic enrichment and tutoring and are staffed largely by teachers. Such programs may align their activities with their school district’s learning stan-
dards or curriculum goals to enhance the classroom lessons during after-school hours.
Community-based organization-administered programs are administered by community-based organizations but located in schools, such as the Beacons schools started in New York City.
School-community partnerships, commonly referred to as “community schools,” represent partnerships between a school and a community-based organization and offer after-school programs in the context of “total school reform. ” Examples are the programs of the Children’s Aid Society Community Service Schools in New York and the West Philadelphia Improvement Corps.
For many years, schools have provided after-school, “extended-day care” for younger children and have offered structured after-school activities for older children, such as sports practice and drama rehearsal activities. However, school-based after-school activities are changing; schools are being transformed into full-time community centers that offer activities to residents of all ages. Dryfoos explained that school-community partnerships create new kinds of social institutions. They build on the strength of school systems to foster a learning environment during school hours and the ability of community-based organizations to bring into the school the best in youth development practice, integrated with whatever health and social supports are needed in a particular community.
Diversity in Scope, Focus, and Structure
Whether they are school based, community based, or derived from school-community partnerships, there is considerable variation among after-school programs. The scope, focus, and structure of programs are expected to respond to the variety of priorities identified by different constituents, as well as the cultural and developmental needs of children and adolescents. Parents indicate that they want after-school programs to include activities that involve technology and computers, art, music, drama, basic skills, tutoring help, mentoring, and community service (Datta and deKanter, 1998). While the public expresses some interest in tutoring and homework help, people tend to place more emphasis on the goals of providing young people with a safe place to go, adult supervision, a structured environment, and opportunities to learn how to resolve conflicts with other children (Metropolitan Life, 1994). Children and adolescents indicate that
they want after-school programs to provide opportunities to have fun with their friends while learning new skills and preparing for their futures (Quinn, 1999). It has not been established that a single program can be all things to all people, and therefore understanding the diversity in scope, focus, and structure of programs is useful. Collectively, the workshop presenters provided a description of some of the differences:
Scope: Some programs are comprehensive in scope and some are topic specific. Some address multiple content areas, including academics, career development, health, recreation, and culture, while the scope of others, such as a sports program or an arts program, is one content area. Programs may serve a limited age range, while others engage all school-age children and adolescents in a given community or geographic area.
Focus: Some programs focus on remediation, others on enrichment. There is a trend in many new school-based after-school programs to taking a remedial approach, while many community-based organizations have a long history of providing enrichment programs that allow children and adolescents opportunities to practice and further develop their academic skills through applied activities. Examples include using cooking, woodworking, arts, and sports to learn math and reading; learning problem-solving and decision-making skills through community service; and practicing critical thinking and analysis skills with checkers, chess, computers, and strategy games. Programs for older adolescents may also incorporate community service and ways for young people to work and earn money.
Structure: Some programs allow children to “drop in” to the center, while others have a formal enrollment process. Programs also vary in the extent to which they supervise young people. This is an important difference, particularly for parents who are looking for supervised child care and need to ensure that a program is monitoring attendance. Some programs offer daily activities, including weekend and school vacation events, while others are more limited to after-school hours (e.g., 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.).
Workshop presenter Karen Hein highlighted the importance of understanding these distinctions in focus, structure, and scope and how programs are being designed. She pointed out the importance of being cognizant of the political environment in which this discussion is being conducted and ways in which it can change the scope, focus, and structure of programs, funding opportunities, and the resulting support for children and families. She posed some important questions for practitioners, par-
ents, policy makers, and funders to consider as they design and support after-school programs. How can we ensure that after-school programs are designed to meet the developmental needs of children and adolescents? Should programs be designed to prevent problems, promote positive developmental outcomes, or both? Should they be designed to address deficits or to build assets? How can programs engage the larger community and parents? How can they be designed to address the needs of a diverse group of young people and families?
COMPONENTS OF HIGH-QUALITY AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS
Workshop presenters discussed essential ingredients that appear to characterize high-quality after-school programs. They indicated that while each of these components may not be present in all high-quality programs, programs that include some or all of them are more likely to attract and retain young people’s interest and be supported by parents and the community.
Clear goals and intended outcomes. It is important for programs to be clear about their intended goals and desired outcomes and to have a commitment to assessment and continuous quality improvement. High-quality programs are purposeful and self-critical, and their goals, activities, and outcome measures are aligned.
Content that is both age appropriate and challenging. Promoting child and adolescent development requires a combination of content and process. The content should aim to be enriching and challenging, building on young people’s current knowledge, skills, and interests; programs should seek, respect, and respond to their input. The content should reflect the varied interests of young people, change as they move into adolescence, and provide a range of choices, allowing for a healthy diet of constructive activities.
Opportunities for active learning processes. Quality after-school programs actively engage children and adolescents by providing opportunities to practice new skills through hands-on experiences, cooperative learn-
ing, structured reflection, and peer leadership. After-school programs can provide opportunities to teach children and adolescents how to make responsible decisions, how to manage risk, and how to respond to conflict. These programs can incorporate activities that help children and adolescents deal with racial, ethnic, and language differences among their peers and in their communities.
Positive and safe environment. As in classrooms, in quality after-school programs children and adolescents are treated with respect and encouragement. Providers aim for a climate that balances a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere with adequately structured and clear limits in which the young people believe they are safe and secure and that the supervisors are competent to handle emergencies and care for their needs.
Adequate materials and facilities. High-quality programs pay attention to safety as well as effective use of their physical space. They have abundantly rich educational materials that support program goals, and the physical environment includes both space for activities and space for quiet “down time. ” Program staff understand the ecology of the community and the rhythm of the neighborhoods. Programs carefully consider where to locate so that children and adolescents perceive them to be safe and desirable places. Young people know where the unsafe territories are and they know where the welcoming places are. When a program seems to have all the right elements but no one shows up, that is a clue that something in the community’s ecology was not considered.
Well-prepared staff. Well-prepared and effective staff, whether they are paid or volunteer, understand the basics of child and adolescent development and the principles of interacting positively with young people. They have good social skills for working with groups, strong communication skills, and experience in conflict resolution and behavior management. They genuinely like young people and have skills and knowledge they want to share. They conceptualize their roles as facilitator and guide rather than as dominant authority. Flexibility and a sense of humor are critical. As discussed by workshop presenter Robin Jarrett of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, effective program administrators are often people who view this work virtually as a calling. They have an unusual love and passion for what they do. Throughout the workshop, participants empha-
sized that attracting and retaining high-quality staff members requires competitive wages and benefits and ongoing, high-quality training.
Culturally competent staff. High-quality staff are sensitive to all aspects of diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender, language, family income, and sexual orientation. These are all key issues as children and adolescents are finding their own identities. For example, Jarrett has found in her research that it is important for programs to include culturally relevant symbols, artifacts, pictures, and murals in their facilities. Program administrators also need to be sensitive to the different family configurations of the children and adolescents with whom they work. Particularly in high-risk neighborhoods, family configurations can include households headed by a grandparent or foster parent. Children may also have a variety of nonfamily adults involved in their lives; in some cases an older sibling may be functioning as the parent. It is important that caregivers, defined broadly, are invited to participate in these programs.
Outreach to diverse groups of children and adolescents. Quality programs engage a diverse group of children and adolescents and provide activities that both interest young people and meet their needs. Providers know that the target population for their program may not be the first group to walk in the door, so they need to be proactive by reaching out to other children and families. There are particular populations of children and adolescents, such as those who have grown up in poverty, disabled young people, or teen parents, who have particular needs that after-school programs can assuredly address. Young people who have grown up in poverty often have been exposed to violence and drugs and many are caring for younger siblings. After-school programs can help engage and challenge these children and adolescents beyond the appeal of street life or early sexual activity and give a sense that there is hope and real and meaningful opportunities in their future. Children and adolescents with disabilities or chronic illnesses may have unique physical, educational, and social needs. After-school programs should seek to understand and address the particular needs of these children and their families. Teen parents involved in after-school programs may also benefit from opportunities to learn how to make decisions and how to parent. After-school programs may provide them with learning opportunities that could lead to increased confidence and motivation in school and as a parent.
Willingness to work with other community resources and partners. Providers of high-quality programs see themselves as partners in a larger service delivery network, and they understand that children are best served when families, schools, community resources, and young people themselves are working toward a common goal. This is often difficult in the competitive, resource-poor environment in which many programs operate, but it is important for success.
Parental involvement. Workshop presenters discussed the importance of involving parents in programs. The more competent parents are the better their children will function in school and after-school endeavors. Parental competence also influences academic achievement. There is renewed interest in acknowledging that parents themselves frequently need many services; they are more likely to come to a program that offers ways to help them and their children achieve success.
Willingness to continually improve. High-quality programs constantly seek to improve their services and respond to new community concerns and changing interests of the children and adolescents involved. Some programs choose to seek accreditation by such organizations as the National School-Age Care Alliance, which in conjunction with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time has developed a structured self-assessment approach to program improvement. Others may continuously poll the young people and families participating in their programs to ensure that their needs are adequately served.
THREE INNOVATIVE APPROACHES
Three programs were presented at the workshop as examples of innovative approaches to after-school programming. Each was described by presenters as having a set of ingredients important in promoting the health and well-being of children and adolescents during after-school hours. Together they represent some of the diversity of after-school programs in terms of population served, geography, approach, and scope. The presenters of these programs at the workshop were asked to address a set of specific questions around program design and implementation.
Children’s Aid Society
Richard Negron of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) Communities Schools Technical Assistance Center explained that CAS is New York City’s oldest and largest youth-serving organization. Founded in 1853, it serves about 120,000 children and families each year with a broad array of child welfare, family service, and youth development programs. In 1992 CAS formed a unique partnership with the New York City Board of Education to establish a new model of public schools called community schools, which combine academics with full services to children and families. The CAS community schools, of which there are now 8 in New York City and another 25 adaptation sites around the country, are open up to 15 hours a day, 6 days a week, all year round.
CAS community schools offer medical, dental, and mental health services; recreation; supplemental education; teen programs; parent education; and camp programs on site. They seek to provide a seamless program without clear boundaries between what happens during the school day and what happens after school. CAS community schools are funded by a variety of public and private sources, including the New York City Board of Education.
Carla Sanger, president and chief executive officer, described LA ’s BEST, which aims to provide a safe and supervised after-school education enrichment and recreation program for children in kindergarten through grade 5 in the city of Los Angeles. Founded 11 years ago, LA’s BEST stands for “Better Educated Students for Tomorrow.” LA’s BEST currently serves 53 schools, with some 10,000 children and adolescents participating each school day. The program is expanding to serve 69 schools in the near future.
This program includes four basic components, which are offered 5 days a week, 3 hours a day: an hour of homework assistance, an hour of educational enrichment, an hour of activities chosen by the children, and a healthful snack. LA’s BEST is a partnership between the city government, particularly the mayor’s office, the school district, and the private sector. As
a nonprofit organization, it receives funding from the city of Los Angeles and a variety of other public and private sources.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Founded in 1860, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America is one of the country’s oldest and largest youth-serving organizations. Described by Senior Director of Education Programs Carter Savage, its mission is to inspire and enable all children and adolescents, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens. Clubs currently serve more than 3 million children and adolescents in more than 2,300 sites.
The Boys & Girls Clubs provide diverse activities that meet the interests of all youth. Based on the physical, cultural, and social needs and interests of girls and boys and recognizing developmental principles, the clubs offer program activities in five areas: character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills; the arts; and sports, fitness, and recreation.
Integration with the Schools
For CAS community schools, planning for and implementation of after-school programs is done jointly by CAS staff and each school. The goal is to create and build on what goes on during the school day while expanding children’s learning opportunities. The joint planning ensures that the program will have a balance between academics and enrichment opportunities, often combining the two. For example, the “Recycle a Bicycle Program” involves young people and discarded bikes; the young people learn to put broken bikes back together and then have an opportunity to take them home, donate them, or sell them.
LA’s BEST is managed in conjunction with the schools. The program is comanaged by the chief executive officer of LA’s BEST and the chief operating officer from the Los Angeles Unified School District. There is an effort to work hand in hand to make sure the program is not overmanaged or underled and that it has a balance between cognitive and youth development activities. The mantra of LA’s BEST is “nothing that we do is as important as the effect it has on the child.” Mindful of the need to help
improve test scores and grades, the program is also careful that activities appeal to and are supported by the children and adolescents involved. Staff is trained to see if a planned activity—whether it involves science, mathematics, computer skills development, literacy, or art—engages young people. No matter how useful it may seem, if the children are not engaged, the staff is encouraged to stop the activity. The children may, for example, be preoccupied with what happened in the regular school day and need to talk about that instead.
Great value is placed on informal communication with the regular teaching staff. The program finds that memos and formal meetings cannot define the relationship between LA’s BEST staff and the teachers. Much value is also placed on serendipitous idea sharing in the parking lot, down the hall—wherever the staff can find the teachers and ways to involve them.
Boys & Girls Clubs, located in community-based facilities, have historically focused on a range of activities designed to help children and adolescents build a positive identity, develop competencies, engage in community and civic activities, make responsible decisions that support their health and well-being, and develop moral reasoning skills. Boys & Girls Club staff work with teachers to develop individualized plans for club members to promote academic success. Most importantly, the program strives to strike a balance between educational activities and youth development activities. The clubs offer a range of activities, including sports, recreation, and arts. A new addition to the program is Project LEARN, an educational enrichment offering that involves children and adolescents during nonschool hours in activities that reinforce the skills and information needed to do well in school. Project LEARN has five components: homework help and tutoring, high-yield learning and leisure activities, parental involvement, collaboration with schools, and goal setting and incentives.
CAS community schools strive to reflect their school-community partnership focus in their staff. CAS provides career opportunities for people in the community to work in the schools and also hires teachers certified by the board of education. The program recognizes that people living in the community can have a positive influence on children; they are people who remain in the neighborhood after many of the teachers leave at the end of the day. With such a range of staff, it becomes important to provide training and staff development to build capacity. Training opportunities are
developed for all staff members, including certified teachers, on topics ranging from elements of after-school programs to working effectively with parents. For community residents and high school and college students, the goal is to provide career opportunities and job ladders while also supporting and encouraging pursuit of their own education and credentialing. The presence of community residents in the program also sends a strong message to the children, while helping to create a family and community-centered atmosphere.
LA’s BEST recruits staff primarily from the areas immediately surrounding the schools in which they are located in order to have staff members who are psychologically, physically, and socially close to the children. In recruiting staff, close attention is paid to where the action is in a neighborhood, recruiting people who are the most motivated and who have the biggest stake in the community. Credentialed teachers and college students are also a focus of staff recruitment, but the primary focus is on community members.
The program resists efforts to mandate academic credit unit requirements for staff and focuses instead on providing training for people who can learn, who relate well to children, and who have a presence in the community. At the same time, 59 percent of LA’s BEST staff are currently enrolled in college classes for credit. This strategy requires significant responsibility for training, including intensive preservice and regular in-service training. For every seven schools there is a curriculum consultant who works on site to do practice-oriented training. Sanger reported that this strategy has resulted in staff turnover rates of less than 20 percent a year, compared with national averages in after-school programs of 40 to 60 percent a year. LA ’s BEST also explicitly recruits male staff members to ensure that the ratio of male to female staff parallels the ratio of boys to girls in the program.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America has found that it is most important to hire staff who have been educated and can teach children from their own educational experiences and therefore encourages individual clubs to recruit staff directors with college degrees. The programs are always led by paid full-time professional staff and supplemented by part-time people and volunteers, such as college students and parents. These programs also place priority on recruiting people who can relate to the children and understand the importance of developing a relationship with their parents.
Access and Outreach
The CAS community schools are school based, so their priority is to enroll children and adolescents in the schools. There is open enrollment for young people in the schools, and the program also provides opportunities during Saturday activities and summer camp for children from the community who attend other schools. Outreach is done in collaboration with school administrators to recruit hard-to-reach children in need of services. There is an interest in involving all young people, independent of their academic success.
Occasionally the program intentionally seeks to attract children and adolescents who are either not doing well academically or who have quit going to school—the young people who are the most difficult to reach and who may also be involved in problem activities in the community. In one case a community near one CAS community school was having serious gang problems; young men had been expelled from school because of gang involvement. The CAS community school established an off-site educational program. It was an important message: even though some of the adolescents had lost their privileges to participate in activities in the regular CAS community school, CAS continued to work with them outside the school and eventually welcomed them back. This was a very successful community intervention, providing these troubled adolescents with an opportunity to further their education, surrounding them with comprehensive multifaceted services and programs, and presumably protecting the school from continued gang problems.
LA’s BEST has had to develop consensus among the Los Angeles Board of Education, the city council, the nonprofit organization’s board of directors, and an advisory board representing community constituents in determining which schools and which children would be invited to participate in the program. The groups agreed to have geographic representation across the city and to select schools based on the following criteria: lowest test scores; lowest income; highest vulnerability to drugs, gangs, and crime; and the presence of no other after-school program. Each elementary school is given slots for about 200 children. The school principal and counselors are involved in identifying children for participation, which is followed by an open invitation for enrollment. Every school has a waiting list because the program cannot serve all of the families that want to be involved.
The Boys & Girls Clubs are open to youth 6 to 18 years old, but there is a special focus on children and adolescents who are at risk or from disad-
vantaged circumstances. A key to attracting these young people is strategic placement of the clubs wherever there are at-risk children and adolescents—in and around public housing, on military bases, in detention centers, and in homeless shelters. Success also requires interaction with parents—going door to door, talking to parents, giving parents confidence and assurances that the club is a safe place and that there are reliable staff who will be responsible for the children’s well-being. Attracting children and adolescents also involves talking to them about things that are happening at the club. Recruitment is also done in the schools, by encouraging teachers and administrators to refer children to the club.
Challenges Facing the Programs
These after-school programs face a variety of challenges. All of the programs identified the challenge of remaining flexible and responding to changing societal and socioeconomic factors. After-school programs must respond to a variety of social dynamics, including changing welfare laws, immigration laws, and family structures. The needs of young people and their families may change when their family employment, economic, or housing situation changes.
These programs also identified challenges around staff recruitment, training, and retention. This can be particularly difficult when staff is intentionally recruited from different backgrounds and levels of experience and education. Staff may begin with different skill levels and have different personal, family, and educational responsibilities. While the programs acknowledge the importance of competitive salaries and benefits to appropriately attract and retain staff, these programs have limited budgets and so, unfortunately, salaries remain low.
CAS identified lack of space in the schools as a problem. Negron explained that it requires a great deal of creativity to implement the program in the space available in the schools. Many urban schools have overcrowded classrooms for their regular classes. Establishing independent space for the CAS programs in schools is a constant challenge.
The Boys & Girls Clubs find that meeting the specific needs of at-risk, underserved, or unserved children a challenge. It is a challenge to design and implement programs that respond to the various needs of these young people as well as to recruit and train appropriate staff to meet their needs. Local organizations also struggle to raise operating and capital funds to reach out to these children and adolescents.
CAS indicated that partnerships are difficult. Working closely in the school and trying to connect everything is extremely hard to do and requires constant attention with frequent formal and informal meetings. It requires building relationships with the principal, the custodian, the kitchen personnel, the school safety officers, and the parent-teacher association.
LA’s BEST has also found protecting the infrastructure of comanagement a challenge. LA’s BEST historically received the funding for its program and consequently was responsible for developing staff positions —identifying the qualifications, writing the job descriptions, and determining salaries. Funding streams have changed, and much of the funding is now coming through the school. It is a challenge to preserve this infrastructure that the program was built around.
Finally, LA’s BEST has found it a challenge to resist mandates that require training to count toward a licensing requirement, credential, or degree. The program has found that credentialing or educational requirements of staff eliminates consideration of some community members as staff, and the program has found such people to be some of the most successful and competent members of their team.
EVALUATING AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS
In a world of limited resources and increasing problems among young people, after-school programs are under a great deal of pressure to attract the interest and involvement of children and adolescents, demonstrate results, be accountable to funders, and ensure that their intended outcomes are met. For these reasons many programs are undergoing evaluations. Workshop presenter Robert Halpern, of the Erikson Institute for Graduate Study in Child Development in Chicago and the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, facilitated a discussion about program evaluation. He suggested that there is a complicated set of objectives in after-school programs, which makes evaluating youth development programs a challenge. Evaluators are under pressure to get results compiled quickly and written in an easily digestible form. These demands impose a number of challenges on evaluators and program operators.
Two individuals presented their experiences as after-school program evaluators. Constancia Warren, of the Academy for Educational Development, leads an evaluation of the New York City Beacons program, which provides community-based organizations grants to open community centers in school buildings; after-school programs are an integral part of these
community centers. Elizabeth Reisner, of Policy Studies Associates, Inc., directs the evaluation of after-school programs under the auspices of the After-School Corporation, a program intermediary established by the Open Society Institute in collaboration with other public and private funders. Reisner also serves as an adviser to the evaluation of the after-school YouthPlaces initiative of the Baltimore Safe and Sound Campaign. Warren and Reisner identified the following challenges faced by evaluators in evaluating after-school programs.
Goals and Outcomes
Warren explained that evaluators must develop a tight and logical evaluation design that is based on the program’s goals and outcomes, otherwise the design is meaningless. However, there are often varying degrees of clarity and logic in program goals and outcomes, and sometimes the goals do not relate well to the outcomes. There also may often be differing perspectives on goals and outcomes from the perspectives of the program director, staff, and funders. Reisner added that given programs are usually supported by a range of funders with different priorities and that programs often struggle to meet the interests of different stakeholders and consequently have a large set of objectives, some of which may be in conflict. To effectively evaluate a program, it is important for the evaluator to understand all of these dynamics.
Evaluators struggle to use instruments and methods that can adequately capture child and adolescent growth and development. Data and indicators do not always measure child and individual-level outcomes that are targeted by the program goals. For example, academic achievement can be measured by assessing test scores, but it is less clear how to measure the extent to which children are developing social competencies. Evaluation tools that measure program features and characteristics, such as quality, collaboration, the integration of youth development and educational activities, and the presence of caring and supportive adults are difficult to design and apply. The structure of these programs also makes it very difficult to determine for whom each program service is most effective or the amount or “dose” of program service required to achieve desired outcomes.
Quality Data and Indicators
Warren pointed out that after-school programs collect few data that are helpful in evaluating after-school programs. For instance, most after-school programs cannot quantify how many young people are participating, how long they are staying in the program, and what they are doing while they are in the program. To evaluate outcomes from participation in a program, it is relevant to know if a young person played basketball every day after school or if he or she was engaged in tutoring or community service. When programs do collect data, it is more likely to be information on the number of participants and the activities delivered rather than information on youth outcomes associated with their participation. In many cases, to participate in an evaluation, children must get consent forms signed by their parents, which is often difficult and time consuming. Finally, there are very few standardized measures that allow comparisons across programs or a common set of measures that are shared by multiple programs.
Reisner explained that there is also a lot of pressure to apply traditional education indicators to after-school programs. Certain program characteristics may relate to academic indicators, but it is very difficult to isolate the contribution of an after-school program to academic achievement. Evaluators also struggle with the problem of causal attribution. It is a challenge to determine the extent to which after-school programs account for observed outcomes in young people or whether they are a response to other activities or interactions.
BRIDGING THE GAP IN RESEARCH, POLICY, AND PRACTICE
The final session of the workshop focused on strategies for bridging research, policy, and practice with respect to the design and evaluation of after-school programs. Between the ages of 5 and 14, children and adolescents experience dramatic biological, cognitive, psychological, and social changes and face a wide variety of challenges and opportunities. Workshop presenters discussed the important role of organized programs during after-school hours in engaging young people in activities that may support their development and well-being, develop competence and confidence in different domains, and prevent violent and high-risk behaviors. Whether it is because there are more working parents, riskier streets, concerns about aca-
demic achievement, increased public appreciation of the need for structured developmental opportunities, or new findings from programs that show positive results, there is a trend toward formally organizing after-school programs.
This trend is being driven in part by the needs of working parents, but, as Karen Pittman of the International Youth Foundation suggested, it is also driven by political momentum. Given the current opportunities and support for expansion of after-school programs, she observed, it is critical to figure out how to seize the moment to support expanded after-school programming as well as increased and higher-quality research. To do that, researchers, policy makers, and practitioners must work together. Workshop presenters discussed areas in which future policy development, program design, and evaluation would further enhance after-school programs.
Design and Implementation
In designing and implementing after-school programs, workshop presenters observed that it is important to avoid uniform “cookie cutter” programs that do not respond to the needs of different communities, children, and adolescents. Care is needed to do good community assessments, involve the community in identifying and documenting needs, and designing programs that are responsive. The comprehensive plan that Boston has employed in designing and implementing an after-school program citywide was highlighted at the workshop as an excellent example of this process.
Workshop presenter Jennifer Davis of the Boston 2:00-to-6:00 After-School Initiative described the steps that were taken to develop and implement this effort to expand high-quality, affordable, after-school opportunities for children and adolescents in the city of Boston. A comprehensive study was conducted of the current after-school programs and their ability to serve children and families. The study assessed needs, identified priorities, evaluated current facilities and resources, considered costs and funding alternatives, and defined goals around quality and program outcomes. A very clear set of goals was developed. They included expanding after-school programming in every neighborhood, leveraging new resources to support programs, opening school buildings for after-school use, improving program quality, focusing on program outcomes for children, and expanding learning opportunities for children by linking after-school programming to Boston public school goals.
Davis explained that the city has made significant progress in its efforts
around this initiative. As of September 1998, 33 new school-based sites in elementary and middle schools were started. In partnership with other city agencies and organizations, $3 million has been leveraged from public and private sources to expand the number of children served and to support quality improvement efforts. And there are proposed increases in both the city and the state budgets for after-school programming. Creative activities have been incorporated into the after-school program, which link to the city and state’s learning standards for literacy, math, and science. A number of community partnerships have been established with local organizations, such as the Children’s Museum and the Boston Aquarium.
Workshop presenters also noted that the institutionalization of after-school programs should not jeopardize existing programs that have been diligently delivering programs with limited support, funding, or training. It is unfortunate that, in the midst of increased funding, innovative ideas, and political excitement, programs that exist at the grassroots level, that are often struggling for funding, have not been formally evaluated, do not necessarily engage large numbers of children, and are often forgotten and not well supported.
Several workshop presenters also expressed concern that after-school programs and policies are often too clearly identified as activities for young children. Older adolescents have not been as well engaged in after-school programs, particularly ones that are designed around a youth development approach rather than being topic specific. As these children move into adolescence, when they most need guidance, positive adult mentors and role models, and enjoyable and productive activities, after-school programs should be designed and implemented to respond to their changing needs.
Staff need to be well prepared to be effective “teachers” in after-school programs. As articulated by several workshop presenters, there is clearly a range of perspectives on whether such factors as education or credentialing influence the effectiveness of staff. In any case, training is a fundamental part of supporting and preparing these program staff to be successful. Pittman pointed out that there are useful models of youth worker training in other countries. Great Britain, for example, has a system of training and credentialing for programs and for what are called “youth and community workers ” or “play workers.” The salaries of these workers are also all com-
mensurate with teachers’ salaries, sending a message that after-school activities are as important as those offered during the school day.
Several workshop presenters, including Heather Weiss of the Harvard Family Research Project and Joan Lombardi of the Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy, expressed concern that the benefits of the additional resources being allocated to after-school programming are being blown out of proportion. Weiss suggested that the situation can be viewed as a glass that is both half full and half empty: it is very exciting that additional resources are being allocated for after-school programs, and these resources should be well utilized, but for every several hundred children being served by after-school programs, there are thousands not being served.
Lombardi suggested that the financing of after-school programs should also not rely on copayments from the participants. She explained that this would be detrimental to low-income families, many of whom have both younger children and adolescent children. Families that are already paying a significant share of their income for their younger children to be in child care usually do not have resources left to make copayments for older children. Many parents may make the decision to leave young adolescents alone after school simply because they cannot afford an after-school program copayment.
Developing Strong Leadership and Coordination
The continued growth and success of after-school programs are dependent on strong, coordinated leadership among researchers, policy makers, and school- and community-based practitioners. Michele Cahill, of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, suggested that leaders need to understand theories of change and be able to assess whether programs are on the right track. Leaders also need to help reconcile the tension between evaluation results and the real needs in communities driving program design.
Lombardi discussed the importance of also coordinating state and federal support for after-school programs. With funding opportunities at both the federal and the state levels, programs are often faced with different accountability systems with varying reporting requirements and measurable outcomes. It is important to capitalize on success by creating a system for sharing resources, accessing best practices and program models that
have been developed. State and federal officials can play an important role in assembling ongoing results and using them to inform policy development. Lombardi suggested that this could be accomplished by bringing together stakeholders of different groups to develop a strategy for learning across the after-school field. It also might be helpful to develop a database of ongoing evaluations and through this provide evaluation models for local programs that traditionally do not have the resources or expertise for evaluation.
Research and Evaluation
A final and very important overarching theme of the workshop was the importance of additional high-quality evaluations to the development and enhancement of after-school programs. Workshop presenters suggested that without such evaluations growth and long-term investments in programs would be limited. They noted that evidence of effectiveness and impact of after-school programs on the health, development, and well-being of children and adolescents is needed, not only from large “flagship” evaluations but also from smaller local programs. There is increasing pressure to develop strategies that are affordable and that help local communities with performance measurement, evaluation, and accountability. Workshop presenters suggested that an evaluation strategy should be more than just an evaluation of a particular program model; it should extend to a system of community services that includes practitioners, policy makers, parents, researchers, and children and adolescents themselves. It might address questions that cut across models and become a strategy for the after-school field. Workshop presenters repeatedly emphasized the importance of such an evaluation strategy as an important goal for evaluators, policy makers, and practitioners.
Increased funding for after-school programs, as well as growing efforts in school-based, community-based, and school-community partnerships, are likely to result in the involvement of more children and adolescents in organized activities during after-school hours. As public and private agencies develop or enhance after-school programs and strategies to respond to this growing demand, it will be useful for individuals and groups designing,
funding, delivering, and evaluating these programs to pay attention to the themes sounded by presenters at this workshop.
Presenters discussed how the policy environment in which children and adolescents live affects the demand for and design of after-school programs. They emphasized the importance of after-school programs intentionally designing activities to address the age-based stages of child and adolescent development. Presenters offered examples of the diversity of after-school programs, in the ways in which they are administered, designed, structured, and staffed. They suggested that there is a set of essential ingredients that appear to characterize high-quality after-school programs but emphasized that all programs cannot be all things to all children and that programs must respond to the diversity of children and adolescents in their communities. Workshop presenters applauded efforts to coordinate leadership among researchers, policy makers, and school and community-based practitioners around after-school programming and suggested that continued opportunities such as this workshop would further enhance the success of this field. Finally, workshop presenters called attention to the value of research and evaluation to the continued development and enhancement of high-quality after-school programs for children and adolescents.