Making Afterschool More Effective With Evaluation
For at-risk and low-income students, a high-quality afterschool program can prove the crucial difference in school success. SEDL combines a national reputation in afterschool with evaluation expertise to help educators assess afterschool programs. With the results, education leaders and program directors can better target improvements, guide policy and funding, and keep stakeholders informed.
Louisiana Afterschool Evaluation
Afterschool programs in Louisiana serve more than 50,000 students, many of them economically disadvantaged. To ensure the programs’ quality, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) asked SEDL to conduct a 3-year evaluation. In 2011, we completed the first year, which involved collecting and analyzing LDOE and afterschool program data. SEDL evaluators matched afterschool participants to students not in afterschool on 10 variables and then compared academic performance, attendance, and discipline for both groups. To make the results easy to access and understand, we not only provided traditional reports but also designed secure online data profiles for each afterschool provider and site.
The results, showing that students in afterschool generally fared better than other students, are already helping LDOE and afterschool staff set a higher standard for their programs. LDOE, for instance, has changed its afterschool evaluation framework and performance rating system to emphasize greater student academic improvement.
Girlstart Afterschool Evaluation
A group of girls gather around a computer as they create a 3-D reconstruction of a forensics crime scene. The hands-on afterschool activity is offered through Girlstart, an informal education program in Austin, Texas. The program is dedicated to empowering and equipping K–12 girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Although many girls show an interest in and aptitude for these subjects, women remain underrepresented in STEM fields in higher education and the workforce. Girlstart seeks to change that, and SEDL evaluators are helping the group accomplish its goal.
In 2011, we evaluated Girlstart’s survey instruments and the program’s uniqueness nationwide. The aim was to help staff boost fundraising and guide planning. Our evaluators reviewed more than 100 similar programs and identified four that met the criteria for best practices based on research. We then collected data and compared each program to Girlstart. The results indicate the program is the largest of its type in the nation and uses many best practices, findings that are strengthening relationships with stakeholders and driving funding. Just as Girlstart empowers and equips girls, our evaluation has empowered and equipped its staff to excel in their mission.