After School Programs: Expanding Access and Ensuring Quality

Chrisanne L. Gayle, Progressive Policy InstituteJuly 2004

This short PPI report argues on behalf of federally funded after-school programs, which made the news last year when President Bush proposed cutting the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program (see Gadfly, Volume 3, Number 6; Congress ultimately kept the funding intact). A study by Mathematica kicked off the controversy, as it concluded that the program not only has scant academic merit but actually worsened students' behavior in some cases. But PPI says it's rash to judge a program on a single study, particularly when other studies of out-of-school time programs have revealed "small positive effects on student achievement in reading and math." So rather than cut funding, PPI recommends determining what's wrong with the 21st Century program and fixing it. One would hope that the program must eventually yield measurable gains in student learning. PPI agrees in part, arguing that such programs also have merit because they "help children develop social skills" and improve their attitudes toward school. Thus Ms. Gayle would prefer to "evaluate the effectiveness of after-school programs based on the entire range of benefits to children, families, and communities, while maintaining a strong emphasis on student learning." Well, maybe. The paper is available by clicking here.

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