City-wide Coordination of After-School Programs Helps Kids

Hours of Opportunity
The RAND Corporation

Coordination among institutions that provide after-school activities to youths might be the key to better and more accessible programming, this new study says.

The Wallace Foundation granted funds to Boston, Chicago, New York, Providence and Washington, D.C., tasking each with coordinating institutions involved with after-school programs in an effort to curb the fragmentation of services. The idea: More coordination will improve quality and expand opportunities.

In a fragmented system, the report says, cities rarely provide programming in neighborhoods where it is most needed, and the programming that is provided is of a poor quality. It says the key to high-quality programs is the coordination of resources in those cities, “strong leadership from their mayors … and rich data systems to assess and deliver their programs.”

The study indicates that cities that apply quality standards to all after-school programs, along with staff training and incentives to meet attendance targets, often have better out-of-school-time activities. The computerized collection of data about these programs is an important element, the study says.

While cities that employed these overarching system-building strategies were able to increase participation in out-of-school-time programs, the report cautions that such efforts and their results were “too new to have withstood the test of time.” 

What’s more, the Wallace funding has ended, at a time when state and local governments are making budget cuts across-the-board. Whether comprehensive coordination is financially possible as governments are tightening their belts has yet to be answered.

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