After school programs

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After school programs as a specialized setting for youth have existed in the U.S. society and culture since the end of the 19th Century. The context of after school, however, have received particular attention in academic circles during the last two decades and several studies and publications have been appeared.

  • when classes are not being held
  • extended hours for the enrichment of the children and the sustenance of the family
  • ASP are diverse, have different goals, heterogenous activities according to program providers and funders. There are different focus, from academics to development to recreation to cultural enrichment.
  • ASPs are usually combine academic, social, cultural, and recreational activities. (Dynarski et al., 2003; Redd, Cochran, Hair, & Moore, 2002; Garner et al. 2009). Are multifaceted.
  • Time commitment and resources are an important factor of difference between ASPs.

"After-school programs that meet these criteria may be provided by schools or community-based agencies, and well known examples include programs provided through 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, Girls Inc., and LA’s BEST."

Some definitions of afterschool programs such as the one developed by Garner et al, exclude "school- and community-sponsored extracurricular activities (e.g., sports teams, marching band, service clubs and activities), classes and lessons (e.g., dance classes, music lessons), tutoring (e.g., SAT preparation), and religious activities." According to the authors these activities focus in just one skill set and interest. Instead, "The broader aims of after-school programs, in contrast, are to provide youth with regular access to a safe and enriching environment during the nonschool hours."

Garner et al focus on "multi-focus formal after- school programs because policymakers and other stakeholders are currently debating the academic value of these programs, as well as the extent to which public funds should be used to support them."

General definition of ASP according to Garner et al: "a) operate on a regular basis during nonschool hours throughout the academic year; (b) are supervised by adults; (c) offer more than one activity (e.g., homework help, recreation, arts); and (d) involve other youth." (Garner et al. 2009)

funding and costs

  • Cost of running ASPs are substantial and from different sources: expenditures for staff salaries and benefits, space and utilities, administrative costs, transportation, and other costs (e.g., student stipends, snacks or meals, materials and supplies, staff training; Grossman et al., 2009).
  • Funding can come from different sources: fees paid by parents, funds from private sources (e.g., foundations, local business partners, community-based organizations), funds from public sources (i.e., federal, state, and local sources), and in-kind contributions (Halpern, Deich, & Cohen, 2000).
  • ASPs programs for low income youth depend heavily on funding from external sources. A variety of private sources, including foundation grants and partnerships with local businesses and community-based organizations
  • Public funds – particularly at the federal and state level – are also a very important source of revenue for programs that serve lower-income youth. Several Federal agencies provide support and resources to afterschool programs to help promote positive outcomes for youth.
    • Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (, 2009).
    • the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative is the only federal funding stream dedicated exclusively to after-school programs (Afterschool Alliance, 2008a). Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Authorized in 1994 under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to create school-based programs to meet the educational, health, social service, cultural, and recreational needs of rural and inner-city communities (Improving America’s Schools Act, 1994).
    • Reauthorization of 21st CCLC in 2001 under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act resulted in several major changes. First, administrative responsibilities were transferred to state education agencies (SEAs). NCLB requires that states give funding priority to programs that serve students in high-poverty and/or low-performing schools.
    • funding for after-school programs that serve disadvantaged and academically at- risk youth (e.g., federal 21st CCLC program,

Race, ethnicity and social class

  • some evidence that rates of participation in after-school programs also vary as a function of socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity.

two national studies suggest that after- school participation rates vary as a function of race/ ethnicity. Analyses of NASF data suggest that African American children and adolescents are more likely to participate in after-school programs (26%) than white (13%) or Latino (12%) youth (Wimer et al., 2006). Analyses of NHES data, on the other hand, suggest that both African American and Latino youth (32% The Campaign for Educational Equity and 23%, respectively) are more likely to participate in after-school programs than white youth (15%; Carver & Iruka, 2006).

  • Sociodemographic disparities in access to nearby after-school programs
  • there are many barriers to participation in after-school programs among low- income youth.
  • rates of participation are similarly low across all sociodemographic groups. However, reasons are different.

"rates of participation in after-school programs remain relatively low among disadvantaged and minority youth – the very youth who may be most in need of academic assistance." (Garner et al.) (Laird et al., 1998; Wimer et al., 2006).

  • there are many barriers to participation in after-school programs among low- income youth. According to Garner et al. there are three categories of potential barriers:

(a) poor availability, or a shortage in the supply of after-school programs;

(b) logistical barriers, or individual- and family-level barriers related to cost, transportation, scheduling, or other obligations (e.g., employment, taking care of younger siblings)

(c) preferences and attitudinal barriers, or a lack of interest in participating due either to negative attitudes about programs or preferences for other after-school activities.

  • Transportation difficulties are among the most commonly cited barriers to participation in after-school programs (Bhanpuri, 2005; Bodilly & Beckett, 2005; Grossman, Walker, & Raley, 2001; Halpern, 1999; Lauver, Little, & Weiss, 2004; Walker & Arbreton, 2004).
  • employment may also conflict with attendance at after-school programs (see Lauver et al., 2004, for summary). Like sibling care, employment may be a more salient barrier for lower-, versus higher-, income youth.
  • a multitude of factors may prevent youth from participating in after-school programs. Non-nominal costs, lack of access to safe transportation, conflicting obligations, and negative attitudes influence whether youth have access to, and are likely to participate in, the programs that exist in their communities.

"As schools struggle to meet federal achievement standards, after-school programs are also increasingly viewed as a potential source of academic support for youth at risk of school failure – a group that includes disproportionately large numbers of economically disadvantaged and ethnic minority youth. The hope among youth advocates and policymakers is that after-school programs can partially compensate for the inequities that plague our nation’s schools and play a role in efforts to narrow gaps in achievement between more and less advantaged students." (Garner et al.)

"literature generally supports the notion that disadvantaged, low-achieving students derive greater academic benefits from after-school programs than their more advantaged, higher-achieving peers" (Bodilly & Beckett, 2005; Dynarski et al., 2004; Policy Studies Associates, 2002).

After School at FHS

The after school world at FHS was very diverse and active. It provided several enrichment opportunities for students, a safety space for creative agency, youth autonomy, and programs for the pursue of interest-driven learning. Students were able to not only join existing programs but also, with the support of teachers, start their own.

After-school programs address one or more of the following functions: increase safety and supervision, enhance cultural and community identification and appreciation, develop social skills and increased competency, and improve academic achievement and skills. (Cosden et al. 2001)

"Given the broad range of program goals, it follows that activities offered in after school programs vary widely. they include academic enrichment, tutoring, mentor- ing, homework help, arts (music, theater, and drama), technology, science, reading, math, civic engagement and involvement, and activities to support and promote healthy social/emotional development." (Harvard family project)

For low-income minority youth, the after school programs have become very important given their precarious access to technology at home, and the lack of academic support in their families. Structural inequalities limit the creative engagement and learning of marginalized young people during after school hours.

Students of color found pathways towards interest-driven learning and communities thanks to the existence of the After School world at FHS.

freedom to participate in different after-school activities such as team sports and clubs, as well as to play with friends after school.


Several ASP at FHS were sponsored by the Texas ACE/21st CCLC After School Program

"Texas ACE/21st CCLC After School Program is a grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Education; known as the Striving Stars Program in Pflugerville ISD. In Year 4 of the 5-Year grant, we continue to serve seven elementary, two middle schools and one high school in the same high school feeder pattern. The Texas ACE/21st CCLC provides high-quality, extended learning opportunities in out-of-school time for students in need of academic assistance. Invitation to participate will be sent home to parents by the campus site coordinators."

  • Program Evaluation: Out-of-School Learning Opportunities

Previous research indicates that after-school programs for students in at-risk situations can significantly improve student outcomes in such areas as academic performance, student attendance rates, and incidence of disciplinary actions. Texas Education AGency (TEA) has implemented a number of state and federally funded after-school initiatives in Texas, including the Texas After-School Initiative for Middle Schools (TASI), the Optional Extended Year Program (OEYP), and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program (21st CCLC).

The Texas Education Agency focuses state and federal resources on identifying and replicating proven strategies for dropout prevention and recovery. 21st CCLC provides targeted academic support to address skill gaps and enrich the learning environment for students who are off track and struggling.

  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers


The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) serves as a supplementary program to enhance local reform efforts. The program assists students in meeting academic standards in core subjects (math, reading, science, social studies) by providing out-of-school time services to students and their families through community learning centers that offer an array of enrichment activities to complement regular academic programs. Proven Dropout Prevention Strategies

The Texas Education Agency focuses state and federal resources on identifying and replicating proven strategies for dropout prevention and recovery. 21st CCLC provides targeted academic support to address skill gaps and enrich the learning environment for students who are off track and struggling.


FHS has a well stablished after-school and club culture that is vibrant, diverse, and student-driven. According to Mr. Lopez, high schools need organizations and clubs that are interest-driven and help students to adapt to the school environment. For a school the size of FHS (5A category : more than 2000 students) this is very important. Mr. Lopez explained to me that both students and teachers can start clubs and after-school programs at TCHS. The procedure to create a club is simple, one just need to talk to the principal, fill a form explaining the idea for the club and how it enriches student life, and find a sponsor (a teacher that can supervise the activities). Once the club is approved the school provides a place to meet. Thanks to receiving a 21st Century Grant from the District in 2010, TCHS is also able to provide financial support to few selected after-school programs (4-5 in 2011-2012, 10 in 2012-2013) that consists in providing transportation (buses), snacks, and paying teachers for the time they spent as sponsors (pays only for 2 days a week). Clubs and programs have to apply for receiving money from this grant and not all of them are selected.

The DMC existed before the 21st Century Grant arrived. It was created in 2009 by students (Christian was one of them) and teachers (Mr. Lopez and Mr. Warren) interested in digital media production. Mr. Lopez remembers that the first meeting of the club was big, almost 70 students showed up at his lab, and all of them brought their interests in gaming, video, graphic and design to the club. Since the beginning the DMC had two computer labs available. Mr. Lopez said that the whole club usually met for 30 minutes in his lab, and then some members, especially the ones interested in gaming, went to Mr. Warren lab, while the ones interested in video and sound stayed at his lab. The DMC was supposed to be run by students and they have an organizational structure with president, vice-president and other members that assumed the leadership. According to Mr. Perez, the DMC was student centered and for that reason was more fun and social than academic. The students decided what kind of activities they wanted to do. Although teachers were supposed to give them support in the development of leadership skills and help planning the activities, the help faded out as the years progressed and Mr. Lopez and Mr. Warren got busy working in other projects. Mr. Lopez thinks that the social aspect of the DMC was very important because it provided an informal space where the students were able to talk, share, and play. In his own words, "a space for playing around, not too serious, and for exploration."

According to Mr. Lopez, playing with digital media allow for exploration and a kind of "goofing off" that is productive. On the one hand, it let the students use digital media production equipment and get many hours of practice they couldn't have at home. On the other hand, it opened a social space for talking about media, using the vocabulary students have learned in formal in-school classes. Furthermore, thorough several industry tours, the DMC offered an opportunity to meet media industry professionals and interact with them. Mr. Perez said that those interactions are one of the major accomplishments of the DMC because it showed students the importance of education. Despite the success of the DMC during the first and second years (since the second year the club has been supported by the 21st Century Grant), Mr. Lopez is aware that during its third year (2011-2012) the club had many organizational problems and was displaced, at least in his lab, by the CAP. This year (2012-2013) Mr. Lopez is no longer part of the DMC, and he is not sure if it still exists. He things that Mr. Warren is running a Video Game club that is a kind of DMC.


As the DMC (and Cougars Productions -a brand name that emerged from the club) gained recognition in the school, the district, and the local community thanks to several media production services that the club offered, Mr. Lopez was able to build a network of creative industry professionals that were interested in collaborating with DMC students. In 2010, he and the owners of Midian Films (Dana and Michelle) decided to start the CAP. According to Mr. Lopez, the goals of this project were to teach students how to be successful filmmakers and producers, and to make a short film that could participate in a famous international festival. Mr. Lopez explained that the CAP was like a "primo" (cousin) of the DMC. Both were part of the same family, they shared members, sponsors, technology resources, and the space of Mr. Lopez lab. However, the CAP's learning environment was more structured, job oriented, and had deadlines for deliverables. Hence, in contrast to the casual, social, and relax environment of the DMC, the CAP environment was stressful and demanding, it required students and supervisors to be responsible and dedicate a lot of time.

Mr. Lopez said that the CAP grew too big in a short period of time and that is why it became so difficult to manage it. After a successful first year in where they finished a short film ("Fallen"), traveled abroad, and were profiled in the local media, school board members pushed the supervisors of the project to expand the CAP and include two other high schools from the district. The second year, then, the CAP became a whole district collaboration that, required lots of management and administration. According to Mr. Lopez, because he, Dana and Michelle, are all artists, the managerial aspect of the project turned out a very difficult thing to do. As a consequence, the burden of being the executive producer of the CAP has been huge and Mr. Lopez has decided to not continue working with the CAP after this year. Mr. Lopez said that the major achievement of the CAP has been to see the students grow as filmmakers and producers. He thinks that an important outcome of the CAP is that students are able to apply to colleges and universities having had already the experience of making a film. For students who want to pursue this kind of career this experience is very useful.

In our conversation, it became clear that Mr. Lopez sees the after-school programs as an enrichment opportunity that is connected to the formal learning they do in the classes they take with him. For Mr. Lopez, the learning environment of the classes he teaches is also student-centered and focuses on hands-on projects. He thinks that the major difference between the after-school programs and the elective classes that he teaches is the existence of guided activities and projects he has structured in the form of curriculum. In his opinion, during the after-school students seem to be more passionate because they are more relaxed, doesn't have deadlines, and feel more comfortable to hang out and socialize with their peers. It became clear in this interview that Mr. Lopez's major goal is to teach students how to be critical, think by themselves, and be active media producers capable of communicating with their own voice. When I asked him about the technical aspect of the elective classes and after-school programs, he said that he doesn't see them as vocational and emphasized the fact that he is more interested in teaching students how to think and how to tell stories, than teaching how to use software and production equipment. He also emphasized that one of his goals is to prepare students for college.

After almost 6 years in TCHS, Mr. Lopez couldn't avoid expressing his frustration with the Texan schooling system. Although since the 21st Century Grant arrived to TCHS, the after-school programs he supervised have had support, the payment is not enough for all the work that he has to do (it just pay for 2 days of work). He expressed his frustration with the low payment teachers receive in compensation of lots of hours of work with children. According to him the major problems at TCHS are the budget cuts, the lack of enough technology resources, the testing emphasis, and the pressure on teachers (to get students pass the tests). In general, he described the TCHS learning environment as stressful.


After school programs have been the focus of research and evaluation studies during the last two decades. Scholars have assessed and analyzed these kind of programs across all its variety of goals, structure, and participants. There is potential in these extracurricular activities, but not everything works. Several factors influence the success of after school programs in terms of learning, opportunities, and development. A range of academic, social, and other skills are acquired through participation in after school programs. Researchers have asked how does participation in after school programs make a difference and have tried to figure out what are the conditions necessary to achieve the potential and positive results.

complex challenge of measuring the effects of program participation on outcomes—on children's development.

studies contrast the social adjustment and school success of children who attend programs with outcomes for children who spend their afternoons in other care settings

a broader context of family and community influences the after-school arrangements that are available to particular children and conditions children's responses to their after-school experiences.

"after-school programs may be more beneficial for children in low-income families and high-crime neighborhoods than for children in suburban neighborhoods and middle-income families."

SEveral studies have found that Formal after-school programs can serve as a safe haven within neighborhoods in which crime rates are high and the time after school exposes youngsters to deviant peers, illegal activities, and violence

variable program effects according to families, class, neighborhoods, child development. Context matter for this programs. Might be more beneficial for low income youth and for immigrants.

General agreement among scholars that supervised after school time help in academic development, socialization, and cultural competencies. (Hayes, Palmer & Zaslow 1990)

Since 1991, an increasing number of research studies on ASPs have been conducted and available data on their outcomes is available. The interest in ASPs has grown.

evidence reviewed below suggests that after-school programs do have the potential to boost academic performance somewhat, particularly among disadvantaged children.

potential role that formal after- school programs can play in narrowing achievement gaps for youth from different sociodemographic backgrounds.

Specifically in relation to digital media and learning:

  • How have digital media and technology been incorporated into youth programs within afterschool programs?
  • What types of participation and learning do digital media and technology support and/or complicate within after school programs?
  • How can research in the area of digital media and learning contribute to better integration of technology within after school program?


  • a long-standing institution in the U.S. for child care and development, usually serving low- and moderate-income children. (Halpern 2002)
  • History of ASPs have gone from being programs and spaces for youth and children protection and caring to spaces for development, academic achievement, and support.

The origins of after school programs (ASP) can be traced back to the turn of the 19th century in the U.S. and to a context of rapid industrialization and urbanization that transformed the nature of work and public schooling. Changes such as the disappearance of children labor, public health and safety concerns about children, the creation of universal and compulsory education, urbanization and the perception of dangerous neighborhoods, and the believe that children required supervision during the free time that followed formal schooling (supporting learning, well being, etc) contributed to the emergence of ASPs. (Halpern 2002, Kleiber & Powell 2005, Mahoney et al. 2009, 2010).

It is related to the creation of the category of youth as a transitional period between children and adulthood, as well as to the emergence of youth cultures.

The first programs to appear in the late 1800s were called "boy clubs" with the intention of filling the free time and providing child care. However, they were not structure as the ones that appeared in the first decades of the 20th century, with clear goals such as provide support to working families, develop social and academic skills, etc. (Mahoney et al. 2009).

Since its origins, transformation in family and labor force participation have been related to the growth of ASP. Rise of women labor, parental employment (particular maternal), single-parent families, and economic necessity (particularly in low income working class families) created a need for child care outside home and family. (Halpern, 2002; Kleiber & Powell, 2005).

Urbanization and changes in the neighborhood, especially in relation to the safety of children play's environment raised concerns about safety and health, exposure to violence, gangs and crime, and the effect on academic and social development.

  • protecting poor youth from the dangers in their communities (Bodilly & Beckett, 2005; Halpern, 2002).

After- school programs are a response to the concern about how children spend their discretionary/free/leisure time and have been a part of the child-care landscape for more than 100 years (Halpern, 2002). Child labor reforms created vast expanses of leisure time for youth.

After-school programs were primarily viewed as a way to protect youth – particularly poor youth – from the dangers in their communities (Bodilly & Beckett, 2005; Halpern, 2002).

The increasing numbers of maternal employment, single parent families, around the 1970s and 1980s, put the topic of child self-care at the center of the needs.

Child care and after school programs support have been the subject of political debates since the 1960s, given the needs of working families and low-income families, and the institutionalization of child care policies.

One of the most successful legislation according to researchers has been the one the 21st-Century Community Learning Center’s (21CCLCs) afterschool initiative developed during the Clinton administration’s. (Halpern 2002, Mahoney et al. 2009, 2010)

Since 1991, the interest in ASPs has grown consistently given social and political factors, and the federal support increased during Clinton administrations and the 21CCLCs. During Bush administration funding has been reduced and the demand of programs can not be met.The topic of child care has become important even in presidential campaigns given its popularity among voters.

The reduction of Federal funding since the bush administrationhave pushed state and city governments to create their own initiatives to support ASPs.

As a result ASPs remain under funded. Several scholars agree that the demand for ASPs exceed the supply (Halpern, 1999; Hayes et al., 1990).

Several social and political factors during the past 15 years help to account for the recent growth.

Increasingly, policymakers have recognized the potential for after-school programs to play a broader role in promoting healthy growth and development for all youth, and for economically disadvantaged youth in particular (Pittman, Irby, & Ferber, 2000).

  • Increasing number of programs.Government-funded, foundation grant sponsored, community groups supported.
  • "Following home and school, after school programs are coming to be a third critical developmental setting for low and moderate -income children." (Halpern 2002, 179)
  • Renewed societal interest and growing participation since the 1990s.
  • Evolution of ASPs role in low-income children lives. Usually aged 6-14.
  • Objectives and practices have changed in different eras. Likewise formative influences, implementation challenges, and pressures.

ASP field "has struggled to define and remain true to coherentassumptions and purposes. (Halpern 2002, 179)

Harvard Family Research Project

The Harvard Family Research Project has been one of the most compelling efforts to systematize the research findings produced in the last 10 years. One of the conclusions of this study is that participation in after school programs does make a difference and its outcomes could be analyzed according to four categories.

Academic achievement

When activities foster the development of good attitudes towards school, higher educational aspirations, higher school attendance, less disciplinary actions, and lower drop-out rates, better grades and test scores, improved homework completion, and engagement in learning.

evidence suggests that after-school programs do have the potential to boost academic performance somewhat, particularly among disadvantaged children. (Garner et al.)

Review of the literature suggests that programs that offer a strong academic component – beyond homework help – are associated with the greatest academic gains (Durlak & Weissberg, 2007; Lauer et al., 2006; Redd et al., 2002). Based on this evidence, after-school initiatives for disadvantaged, low-achieving youth have begun to adopt program models that include a strong academic focus. (Garner et al.)

Halpern (2006) confront the focus on academic achievement boost. He argues the urgent need to abandon that expectation, step back, and undertake the basic, grounded research that might yield a more consonant set of expectations and might shed light on the range and size of program effects for children of different dispositions, ages, and life situations and for different types and qualities of programs.

Social and developmental outcomes

This is related to the behaviors, social and communication skills, and relationships with others (peers, parents, teachers, etc)




the quality of after-school programming for disadvantaged youth may be inferior to the quality of programming available to more affluent youth (though more research is needed), and that the quality of programming has implications for youths’ academic ains. Consequently, it is important that we learn more about the processes through which after-school programming can be improved. (Garner et al.)

we need experimental research to determine which program components are most strongly linked to children’s academic outcomes, we need research – ideally experimental research – to identify the most effective methods of improving program quality. (Garner et al.

"the extent to which program dosage has differential benefits for youth from different sociodemographic groups and youth at different levels of academic risk (Birmingham & White, 2005; Reisner et al., 2004). This is a question that has important implications for educational equity. We must know how much participation is necessary to elicit academic gains before we can provide the kind of access to after-school programs that is necessary to boost academic performance among disadvantaged, low-achieving youth." (Garner et al.)

current funding mechanisms may not facilitate the development of sustainable programs. Initiatives at the federal and state level often provide only time-limited support for after- school programs (Langford, 2001; The Finance Project, n.d.).


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