After School Programs Fail to Deliver

Disappointing academic results have led to closer scrutiny of 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the nation’s largest federally funded after-school program. The report, When Schools Stay Open Late: The National Evaluation of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, First Year Findings, 2003, is described as one of the most comprehensive studies of after-school care ever conducted.

The First Year Findings report was prepared by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. for the U.S. Department of Education. The report gathered data on more than 5,000 elementary- and middle-school students, in 96 after-school programs. The authors say that “[t]he study was designed to examine the characteristics and outcomes of typical programs,” without any attempt to select a “best” program from the group.

The Community Learning Centers were funded by Congress to boost academic achievement. A variety of academic and cultural enrichment activities have been part of the center’s approach. But the Mathematica study shows that the programs don’t generate academic gains.


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