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A statewide evaluation of Indiana’s 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) programs finds that higher levels of participation in the afterschool program is associated with improved academic performance and school-related behaviors. More than 7 in 10 students with high program participation (90+ days) maintained a B or higher in math (73 percent) and English language arts (72 percent), higher than students attending less frequently. Students who attend 21st CCLC programs at high levels also have higher school day attendance and lower suspension rates. In addition, teachers report that a majority of students in need of improvement improved their academic performance (73 percent), class participation (64 percent), and classroom behavior (57 percent).
This quasi-experimental study examines students who attended Aim High, a voluntary summer learning program that provided academic and social and emotional learning (SEL) supports, during 2013-2014 and/or 2014-2015 to middle school students in the San Francisco Unified School District. The study analyzes how students’ participation in the program impacts both behavioral engagement and academic achievement. Evaluators found that program participants were significantly less likely to be chronically absent and suspended, as well as have slight improvements in English/language arts state assessments and school-day attendance than their peers who did not participate in Aim High. Additionally, this study found that these effects are greatest for Aim High participants who are boys and Latinx students.
This quasi-experimental study of Girls Inc.—a year-round program located in more than 350 cities for girls ages 5-18 that focuses on healthy living, academic enrichment, and building positive life skills—found that girls who participated in the program reported more positive attitudes and behaviors than a comparison group of girls across the 27 outcomes that were measured in the categories of healthy living, academic engagement and success, and life skills. Girls Inc. participants also had higher math achievement test scores and school-day attendance rates than matched non-participants. By year two of the program, 23 of the 27 outcomes were statistically significant in the positive direction, including outcomes such as school engagement; finding school fun in areas like reading, math, and science; getting excited about science; engaging in physical activity; leadership; positive relationships with adults; and postsecondary readiness.
This study of 1,364 families followed children from birth through age 15 to examine how early life experiences affect adolescent development. The study found that participation in both early child care and out-of-school time activities during middle childhood were linked to higher reading comprehension and math achievement at age 15, suggesting an additive effect. Additionally, participation in more organized activities in the elementary years was associated with higher vocabulary scores at age 15 and greater social confidence.
A statewide evaluation of Kentucky’s 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) programs during the 2018-19 school year found that regular program attendees improved their math and reading/ELA grades from the fall to spring, and a majority reached proficient/distinguished on the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP). Based on teacher surveys, among those who needed to improve, an overwhelming majority of both elementary and high school students improved in academic performance, class participation, and homework completion. Students also reported benefits of the programs, including helping them complete their homework, get better grades, and challenge them to do their best.
A longitudinal study of voluntary summer learning programs, led by five school districts located in urban communities across the country, followed students from 3rd to 7th grade and found positive academic gains among the randomly assigned students to the program compared to the control group of their nonparticipating peers. After the first and second summer of program participation, program attendees outperformed control-group students. Statistically significant differences were found in math achievement after the first summer, and math, language arts, and social and emotional skills after the second summer. Researchers followed up on program participants three years after the second summer of program participation and found that while academic gains compared to average gains made in a year were no longer statistically significant, they were still large enough to be meaningful.
A 2020 evaluation of Ohio's 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs found that there was a statistically significant positive impact on academic and behavioral outcomes among students regularly attending the program. Regular program participants scored higher on math and English language arts assessments compared with similar non-participating youth, as well as saw reductions in both unexcused absences and disciplinary incidents. Youth surveys revealed that students agree that their program is beneficial, including helping them make new friends and prepare for their future.
A statewide evaluation of Massachusetts’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program during the 2017-18 program year found that, based on teacher ratings, program participants made gains in math and reading/English language arts achievement. Teachers and program staff also noted increases in outcomes including students’ critical thinking skills, perseverance, and communication. English language learners, students receiving special education services, and economically disadvantaged students made particularly strong gains for certain outcomes.
A 2019 evaluation by Education Northwest of Alaska’s 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) afterschool programs found that students who participated more regularly in programs saw greater academic and behavioral gains. Teachers surveyed reported that an overwhelming majority of students attending the program for at least 60 days saw improvements in their academic performance (72 percent), participation in class (71 percent), and ability to persevere through challenges (66 percent), as well as their ability to form positive relationships with adults (70 percent) and work collaboratively with peers (68 percent).
This 2019 evaluation of Washington’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program found that students who consistently attended programs had a higher percentage of credits earned, cumulative GPA, and a lower number of school day absences and disciplinary incidents compared to non-attendees. Additionally, most students reported that it was completely or mostly true that the program helped them improve their academic behavior (81 percent) and self-management skills (77 percent). Students who regularly attended programming for two years had statistically significant higher reading and math test scores, lower school day absences, and a higher percentage of credits earned compared to students who did not attend at these levels. This finding suggests the importance of regular and continued program participation.