Project Descriptions: Development of a plan for a study of best practices in after-school programming


Study of Promising After-School Programs

Directors: Deborah Lowe Vandell, Kim M. Pierce, Bradford Brown
Funding: C.S. Mott Foundation

What is the purpose of this study? This is a national study that seeks to determine the short-term and long-term impacts of high-quality after-school programs on the cognitive, academic, social, and emotional development of children and adolescents who are growing up in high-poverty communities. Researchers will compare the development of children who regularly attend high-quality after-school programs with the development of selected classmates who are not enrolled in such programs.

Who is conducting the study? A research team led by Deborah Vandell of the University of Wisconsin and Elizabeth Reisner of Policy Studies Associates, Inc., will conduct this research, which is supported by grants from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Why was your program selected to receive this invitation to participate in this study? The study team first reviewed research on the characteristics of high-quality after-school programs. We then talked with national experts in after-school programming and youth development to identify a set of promising program features that are supported by strong theory and recent research findings. Finally, the study team gathered information on programs across the United States that have adopted these program features. As a result of this initial review, the study team contacted over 40 highly respected after-school programs that fit the study requirements, including: targeting of high-poverty children and youth; services at least four days a week for most of the afternoon; coordination with nearby schools that serve their participants; a trained staff; and enrichment and recreational activities and academic supports.

What information will be collected during the study? In fall 2002, two members of the WCER/PSA study team will visit each prospective program site to learn details about the program, its collaboration with the school(s) that its after-school participants attend, and its interest in joining the three-year study. Once programs, partner schools, and school districts formally agree to participate, the study will be initiated with a spring 2003 two-day information-gathering site visit. At this time, the study team will observe the program and will talk with leaders and staff to obtain an understanding of the program’s strategies, activities, and approaches. Study team members will also answer questions about planned data collection. In fall 2003, at each study site, the research team will recruit a sample of third- or sixth-graders (depending on which group the program serves) who are enrolled in the after-school program. Another group of children who attend the same or nearby school as other participants but do not attend the after-school program will also be recruited. With the consent of parents, these two groups of students will participate in the study for two years. Between fall 2003 and spring 2005, the study team will collect information about development and achievement among the youth participants, as reported by parents, teachers, after-school staff, and the children themselves. The study team also will observe the after-school programs and conduct interviews with program personnel in fall 2003 and spring 2005.

How will participating programs benefit? The findings from this study will add substantially to the knowledge base about optimal ways for after-school programs to support children’s development. Such information will allow program developers to design and operate the best possible after-school services for the children and youth for whom they are responsible. More immediately, in summer 2004, program site directors were invited to participate in a half-day seminar with the study team, to be held in conjunction with a national meeting for after-school leaders. The study reimbursed travel costs for this meeting. Program sites will also receive copies of all reports from the study.

How will the study protect the privacy of programs, survey respondents, and children? The study will assure the strictest level of confidentiality and abide by the guidelines of any relevant local Independent Review Panel. Independent Review Panels review requests to conduct research and ensure the research does not compromise the privacy of study participants. The study will never identify individuals by name in any reports. The study will not identify programs by name in public reporting except with the express permission of an authorized program representative.

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About Deborah Vandell About Deborah Lowe Vandell
Publications and Presentations Publications and Presentations
Statements and Reports Statements and Reports
NICHD Study of Child Care and Youth Development NICHD Study of Child Care and Youth Development
Do After-School Programs Affect Student Experience?: An Enhancement Study to the 21st Century CLC Evaluation Do After-School Programs Affect Student Experience?: An Enhancement Study to the 21st Century CLC Evaluation
Study of Promising After-School Programs Study of Promising After-School Programs
Study of After-School Care and Children's Development Study of After-School Care and Children's Development
Project Staff Project Staff




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