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The Evaluation of Enhanced Academic Instruction in After-School Programs
NCEE 2009-4077
September 2009

Executive Summary

The primary purpose of this study is to determine whether providing structured academic instruction in reading or math to students in grades two to five during their after-school hours — instead of the less formal academic supports offered in regular after-school programs — improves their academic performance in the subject. This is the second and final report from the Evaluation of Enhanced Academic Instruction in After-School Programs — a two-year demonstration and random assignment evaluation of structured approaches to teaching math and reading in after-school settings. The study is being conducted by MDRC in collaboration with Public/Private Ventures and Survey Research Management.

The study was commissioned by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance at the U.S. Department of Educationís Institute of Education Sciences (IES), in response to growing interest in using out-of-school hours as an opportunity to help prepare students academically (Bodilly and Beckett, 2005; Ferrandino, 2007; Miller, 2003). The federal government has been making an investment toward this goal through its 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) funding.1 A distinguishing feature of after-school programs supported by 21st CCLC funds has been the inclusion of an academic component. Yet, findings from the National Evaluation of the 21st CCLC program indicate that, on average, the 21st CCLC program grants had limited effects on studentsí academic achievement (Dynarski and others, 2003; Dynarski and others, 2004; James-Burdumy et al., 2005). One possible explana-tion for this finding is that academic programming in after-school centers is typically not sufficiently intensive, usually consisting primarily of sessions in which students received limited additional academic assistance (such as reading/math tutoring or assistance with homework). In response, IES decided to fund the development, implementation, and evaluation of instructional resources for core academic subjects that could be used in after-school programs.

As part of this study, enhanced after-school programs providing instruction in either reading or math were implemented in after-school centers during two school years. In the first year of the demonstration (2005-2006), the enhanced programs were implemented in 50 after-school centers — with 25 after-school centers offering the enhanced math program and 25 centers offering the enhanced reading program. The study was then extended to include a second year of operations (2006-2007). This report focuses on the 27 after-school centers that agreed to participate in the study for both years — 15 of which implemented an enhanced after-school math program, and 12 of which offered the enhanced after-school reading program.2

The purpose of this report is to address questions that are relevant to both years of im-plementation, such as whether one-year impacts are different in the second year of program operations and whether students benefit from being offered two years of enhanced after-school academic instruction. Therefore, this report presents findings from the 27 centers that have data to address all these study questions.


1 The 21st CCLC program is a state-administered discretionary grant program in which states hold a competition to fund academically focused after-school programs. Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the program funds a broad array of before-and after-school activities (for example, remedial education, academic enrichment, tutoring, recreation, and drug and violence prevention), particularly focusing on services to students who attend low-performing schools, to help meet state and local student academic achievement standards in core academic subjects (U.S. Department of Education, 2007).
2 Findings from all 50 centers are summarized in Appendix A of this report and are presented in the first-year report (Black et al., 2008). The 27 continuing centers are not statistically representative of all 50 centers so the findings from the 27 sites should not be generalized to all 50 centers.