New Study Shows High-Performing Afterschool Programs Share Five Characteristics

Published in SEDL Letter Volume XVIII, Number 1, May 2006, Time for Achievement - Afterschool and Out-of-School Time

Recent research conducted by Policy Studies Associates for The After-School Corporation (TASC) and the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) echoes what several researchers in the afterschool field have found over the past decade—afterschool programs can contribute to increased student achievement. Perhaps surprisingly, the study found that afterschool programs that help lead to higher achievement don’t necessarily focus on academics. Successful programs had a variety of arts, recreation, and literacy activities and allowed the students free time as well.

Catherine Jordan, director of the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning at SEDL, said, "Successful afterschool programs do not replicate the school day. Policy Studies Associates found that instead, these afterschool programs are safety zones where students receive homework help and are able to explore new ideas and interests. Students also are able to develop long-term supportive relationships with adults and peers."

The study focused on 10 high-performing TASC-supported afterschool programs in New York City. Researchers first analyzed mathematics and literacy standardized test scores, examining differences in gains between students who actively participated in TASC programs and those who attended the TASC host school but did not participate in the school’s afterschool program. The afterschool programs that were successful, based on participant achievement data increasing over a 2-year period, were identified as high-performing. The research team then conducted interviews and observations at each of the 10 schools to identify commonalities among the successful programs.

The study found the high-performing programs shared the following five characteristics:

Shared Features of High-Performing After-School Programs: A Follow-Up to the TASC Evaluation
  • A broad array of enrichment opportunities such as arts, crafts, homework help, and sports and recreation
  • Opportunities for participant skill building and mastery
  • Intentional relationship building with host schools, participants, and families
  • A strong, experienced site coordinator who is supported by a trained and supervised staff
  • Full administrative, fiscal, and professional development support from the program’s sponsoring organization

The TASC/SEDL study is important in a number of ways, says Jordan. "It can serve as a guide to new or struggling afterschool programs, helping them refine certain areas of their programs. It also helps emphasize a need for future research related to afterschool programming—more systematic information across large, diverse program samples is needed to shed light on practices that will lead to the greatest gains for students."

To download a copy of the full report, Shared Features of High-Performing After-School Programs: A Follow-Up to the TASC Evaluation, visit the SEDL Web site at or the TASC Web site at

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