After School Programs in the 21st Century: Their Potential and What It Takes to Achieve It

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Harvard Family Research Project

Research tells us that participation in after-school programs improves academics, school attendance rates, punctuality, grades and scores on math and reading achievement. However, many studies evaluate programs based almost entirely on how much they improve standardized test scores, which is too narrow an evaluation, according to this report. Additionally, many after-school programs have difficulty getting children to participate consistently, which is crucial for achieving program goals.

One underappreciated strategy, the authors write, is to focus on having children practice new skills through hands-on, experiential learning in project-based after-school programs. They suggest that programs encourage inquiry and critical thinking, that they be judged on more than standardized tests, and that communities focus on what can be done in after-school programs to complement school learning.

Support for the study came from the C.S. Mott Foundation, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the W.T. Grant Foundation, The Wallace Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Free, 12 pages. (617) 495-9108,