ERIC Identifier: ED482765
Publication Date: 2003-12-00
Author: McComb, Errin M.,Scott-Little, Catherine
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services
A Review of Research on Participant Outcomes in After-School
Programs: Implications for School Counselors. ERIC Digest.
After-school programs that provide additional learning opportunities
for children are
seen as potentially powerful opportunities to improve student learning
other positive youth outcomes (Miller, 2001). Recognition of the potential
after-school programs has been the catalyst for tremendous increases
in funding for
such programs over the past decade. Significant funds have been invested
after-school initiatives at the local, state, regional, and federal
level. As a result,
considerable attention has been given to the need for studies to document
associated with after-school programs to justify the program expenditures
Institute on Out-of-School Time, 2000). A recently released study by
Mathematica (U.S. Department of Education, 2003) suggested that outcomes
associated with the 21st Century Community Learning Centers after-school
program might be limited.
This digest summarizes a research synthesis conducted by the Regional
Educational Laboratory at SERVE (McComb & Scott-Little, 2003). The
synthesis summarizes research and evaluations conducted on a variety of
after-school programs in order to shed light on the overall status of research
on after-school programs.
Following a process outlined by Cooper (1998), an extensive search was
conducted to identify impact evaluations of after-school programs. A wide
variety of key words were used, including: after school, 21st Century Community
Learning Centers, instructional support, homework, and tutoring. These
terms were combined with key words such as outcomes, evaluation, and results.
Databases searched included ERIC, PsychINFO, Dissertation Abstracts International,
and SSCI. An extensive search was conducted on the World Wide Web. Links
to sites were followed and searched thoroughly. The initial search process
yielded a total of 75 articles, reports, conference presentations, and
dissertations disseminated between January 1997 and April 2002. Documents
that failed to provide a description of a specific program or initiative
and documents that did not report on student outcome data were eliminated.
A total of 27 documents were judged to meet the criteria for being included
in the synthesis. The full report on the synthesis is entitled After-school
Programs: Evaluations and Outcomes (McComb & Scott-Little, 2003) and
is available at www.serve.org/ELO/research.html. See the reference list
for a complete listing of studies included in the synthesis.
CHILDREN SERVED IN THE PROGRAMS
The programs examined in this synthesis served primarily children from
families who were typically enrolled in elementary and middle school.
Five of the
programs served only children in elementary grades; 11 served children
elementary and middle school; and three served children in only middle
one study examined a program serving high school students, while three
results from programs serving children in elementary, middle, and high
enrolled in these programs can be characterized as young, from limited-income
families, and at risk for some type of negative outcome.
The synthesis included a total of 27 reports from research conducted
programs. The programs ranged in size, setting, and intensity. The
served seven high school students classified as juvenile delinquents.
program served 97,000 children. The programs were relatively evenly
school-based and community-based settings. With the exception of two
served both urban and rural areas, all of the programs were based in
The nature of services varied greatly from program to program. Children
programs an average of 13.33 hours per week, with the shortest program
and one-half hours of service per week and the most intense program
20 hours per week during the school year and 30 hours per week during
Although activities offered for children ranged from recreational activities
and cultural arts activities, the most common activity was homework
help or tutoring. All of the programs that provided descriptions of their
services provided help with homework or tutoring except one. One after-school program provided
The overarching research question for this study was "What outcomes
with participation in after-school programs?" Findings suggest that
programs are associated with positive student outcomes, particularly
in the area of
psychosocial and youth development. Studies looking at social and emotional
outcomes tended to use the most rigorous designs, such as random assignment
and control groups. These studies also provided the most consistent evidence
outcomes. Participation in after-school programs was associated with
outcomes such as positive attitudes toward school, lower incidence of aggressive
and other risky
behaviors, and pro-social attitudes. Two studies looking at psychosocial
reported no effects.
Results from studies looking at impact on academic outcomes provide
Several studies found that students participating in after-school programs
positive academic outcomes, such as more regular attendance in school
grades. Evidence from studies looking at outcomes on standardized measures
student achievement is less conclusive. Several studies do report that
after-school programs score higher on measures of reading and math
skills, although a
few studies found effects for math but not reading and vice versa.
The most striking pattern seems to be the interaction between student
and scores on standardized tests. A number of studies report effects
were greater for
children with limited proficiency in English and for children who were
in the lowest group of achievers at the beginning of the program. A second
and more consistent finding related to student characteristics is that
students who attend after-school programs more regularly and for longer
periods of time seem to benefit the most. In all cases where data was examined
by the "dosage" a student received of the program, results favored students
who had participated in more of the program.
Results from this research literature provide insights but are not conclusive.
varied in the design used, with a number using research designs that
did not lend
themselves to causal conclusions. Furthermore, the studies provided
about actual program features, so inferences could not be drawn about
features might be related to specific outcomes. Thus the findings of
the review, while
shedding some light on the outcomes associated with participation in
programs, do not yield conclusive causal evidence.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR SCHOOL COUNSELORS
Based on the above discussion, the following conclusions may be made
school counselors can play a vital role in contributing to the effectiveness
of after school programs in improving student achievement.
1. Research on achievement motivation has long supported the important
social and emotional factors play as enabling variables in academic
(Bleuer, 1987). Since this is the area in which positive outcomes from
after school programs have been most clearlydocumented and it is an
area in which
school counselors have a high level of expertise, it would be beneficial
administrators of after school programs to involve school counselors
both in program
design and as ongoing consultants.
2. The "dosage" effects suggest that after school programs should be
an integral part of
the school's academic and student development program so that students
and frequently participate in them. After school programs provide an
ideal setting for the integration of regular school counseling services
(group guidance, personal counseling, study skills training) without adding
to the already overloaded school counselor's responsibilities.
In summary, if a formal collaboration can be established between after
school programs and the school counseling program, school counselors can
provide services that can significantly increase the probability that after
school programs will result in improved student achievement.
Bleuer, J. C. (1987). Counseling Underachievers. Greensboro, NC: ERIC
and Personnel Services Clearinghouse.
Cooper, H. (1998). Synthesizing research: A guide for literature reviews
Applied social research methods series, Volume 2. Thousand Oaks, CA:
McComb, E.M. & Scott-Little, C. (2003). After-school programs: Evaluations
Outcomes. Greensboro, NC: The Regional Educational Laboratory at SERVE.
Available at http://www.serve.org/ELO/research.html
Miller, B. (2001, April). The promise of after-school programs. Educational
Leadership, 58(7), 6-12.
National Institute on Out-of-School Time. (2000). Measuring what matters:
Meeting the high-stakes accountability challenge on our own terms. After
School Issues, 1, National Institute on Out-of-School Time.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Under Secretary. (2003).
Stay Open Late: The National Evaluation of the 21st-Century Learning
Program, First Year Findings, Washington, D.C.