New Study Shows High-Performing After-School Programs Share Five Common Characteristics

February 15, 2006
Austin, Texas

Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556

Recent research conducted by Policy Studies Associates for The After-School Corporation (TASC) and the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) echoes what the after-school field has found over the course of the past decade, that after-school programs can contribute to increased student achievement. But, perhaps most interesting, the study found that after-school programs that helped lead to improved achievement don’t necessarily focus on academics.

Catherine Jordan, director of the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning at SEDL says, "Successful after-school programs do not replicate the school day. Policy Studies Associates found that instead, these after-school programs are safety zones where students received homework help and were able to explore new ideas and interests. And students were able to develop long-term supportive relationships with adults and peers." Successful programs had a variety of arts, recreation, and literacy activities and allowed the students free time as well.

"This research underscores the importance of after-school programs offering a wide variety of youth-oriented activities, a staff with diverse backgrounds, experienced site coordinators, partnerships with community-based organizations, strong relationships with the day school staff and ongoing communication with participant families," added TASC President Lucy Friedman.

The study focused on 10 high-performing TASC supported after-school programs in New York City. Researchers examined the change over a one-year period in mathematics and literacy standardized test scores for low-achieving students who actively participated in TASC programs and those who attended the TASC host school but did not participate in the school’s after-school program.

The 10 high-performing programs for the study were identified based on this analysis and information about the current implementation of the TASC program. The research team then conducted interviews and observations at each of the 10 schools to identify commonalities among the successful programs.

The study found the high-performing programs shared the following five characteristics:

  • A broad array of enrichment opportunities such as arts, crafts, homework help, sports and recreation.
  • Opportunities for participant skill building and mastery.
  • Intentional relationship building with host schools, participants and families.
  • A strong, experienced Site Coordinator who is supported by a trained and supervised staff.
  • Full administrative, fiscal, and professional development support from the program’s sponsoring organization.

The SEDL/TASC study is important in a number of ways, says Jordan. "It can serve as a guide to new or struggling after-school programs, helping them to refine certain areas of their programs. It also helps emphasize a need for future research related to after-school programming—more systematic information across large, diverse program samples is needed to shed light on practices that will lead to the greatest gains for students."

To download a copy of the full report, visit the TASC website at or the SEDL website at

About TASC

TASC supports more than 200 school-based after-school programs in New York City serving more than 35,000 students.

About the Partnership

The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning provides assistance, training, and tools to help local afterschool programs build capacity to strengthen learning. It is supported by the Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education under contract number MRED-03-CO-0048 and includes the following partners:
  • Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), primary contractor
  • National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST)
  • Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning
  • Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL)
  • SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • WGBH Educational Foundation
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
For more information about the Partnership, visit

About SEDL

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit