Skip Navigation
archived information

After-school Programs
April 2019


What does the research say about the relationship between the amount of time students spend in after-school programs and changes in student outcomes (such as achievement, school attendance, and behavior)?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Beckett, M., Borman, G., Capizzano, J., Parsley, D., Ross, S., Schirm, A., et al. (2009). Structuring out-of-school time to improve academic achievement (IES Practice Guide, NCEE 2009-012). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, What Works Clearinghouse.

From the Abstract:
"The five recommendations in this guide are intended to help district and school administrators, out-of-school program providers, and educators design out-of-school time programs that will increase learning for students. These recommendations are: (1) Align the OST program academically with the school day; (2) Maximize student participation and attendance; (3) Adapt instruction to individual and small group needs; (4) Provide engaging learning experiences; and (5) Assess program performance and use the results to improve the quality of the program."

Cross, A. B., Gottfredson, D. C., Wilson, D. M., Rorie, M., & Connell, N. (2010). Implementation quality and positive experiences in after‐school programs. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45(3/4), 370–380. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Data collected during an evaluation of a multisite trial of an enhanced after-school program were used to relate quality of program implementation to student experiences after school. … The study illustrates how multiple dimensions of program implementation can be measured, and shows that some but not all dimensions of implementation are related to the quality of student afterschool experiences. Measures of quality of management and climate, participant responsiveness, and staffing stability were most clearly associated with youth experiences. The importance of measuring multiple dimensions of program implementation in intervention research is discussed."

Huang, D., Leon, S., & La Torre Matrundola, D. (2014). Exploring the relationships between LA's BEST program attendance and cognitive gains of LA's BEST students. Journal for Educational Research Online, 6(3), 34–53. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of participation in the Los Angeles Better Educated Students for Tomorrow (LA’s BEST) after-school program on positive achievement outcomes in math and English-language arts. A quasi-experimental design was utilized, and hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) was employed to examine the relations between intensity of program participation and achievement outcomes across four years of data using two cohorts of students. Results revealed that regular attendance (over 100 days per year) in the LA’s BEST after-school program led to higher achievement in California Standards Test (CST) math performance, but not in CST English-language arts performance."

Maynard, B. R., Kremer, K. P., Polanin, J. R., Vaughn, M. G., & Sarteschi, C. M. (2015). Effects of after-school programs on attendance and externalizing behaviors with primary and secondary school students: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Evanston, IL: Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness.

From the Abstract:
"Over the past two decades, the number and types of after-school programs (ASPs) have increased substantially as a result of increased federal and private spending and because ASPs are perceived to provide wide-ranging and far-reaching benefits to students, families, schools and the public. The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to synthesize the available evidence on the effects of after-school programs with at-risk primary and secondary students on school attendance and externalizing behavior outcomes."

Neild, R. C., Wilson, S. J., & McClanahan, W. (2019). Afterschool programs: A review of evidence under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Philadelphia, PA: Research for Action. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This report, a review of research from 2000 to 2017, finds 124 afterschool programs with research that meets the research requirements of ESSA’s top three tiers, and of these half—62—showed positive impacts on students. The programs, which span grades K–12, are focused on everything from academics to physical fitness to career development."

Riggs, N. R. (2006). After-school program attendance and the social development of rural Latino children of immigrant families. Journal of Community Psychology, 34(1), 75–87. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The current study investigates the influence of after-school program attendance on immigrant Latino children's (N = 94) social development. Hierarchical linear regressions indicated that after covarying for other important variables, high program dosage was related to increased social competence and decreased behavior problems. Implications of this research are that after-school programs may promote the positive youth development of immigrant Latino children, that it is important that attendance data be collected when evaluating after-school programs, and that community-funded research can lead to scientifically relevant findings."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: After school OR After-school OR Afterschool, Dose OR Dosage, Amount OR Length OR Attendance OR Duration

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.