A Good Afterschool Program Will Ensure Your Child Won't Be Home Alone

August 14, 2007
Austin, Texas

Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556
Email: laura.shankland@sedl.org

Home Alone may have been a cute movie, but the reality is that kids left home alone after school everyday can get into big trouble when they get bored. Research suggests that the hours of 3–6 p.m. are when kids get into trouble most. Instead of spending afterschool hours just hanging out or watching television reruns, your child can attend a great local afterschool program, but it may take a little research on your part.

Catherine Jordan, the director of the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning at SEDL, says, “Research has shown that high-quality afterschool programs share a number of characteristics. For one, successful programs provide both structured and unstructured time for students. This usually means a good program uses a variety of experiences to spark and expand student interests. It also means a good program has knowledgeable staff to help students strengthen their skills in academic areas.”

Good afterschool programs also coordinate with the regular school staff. They might work with teachers to find out what kids are learning during the day and what homework assignments they have in order to provide tutoring to reinforce what is taught during the school day. Though the coordination is important, Jordan says, “A good afterschool program goes beyond what is offered during the school day—it isn’t more of the same.”

High-quality afterschool programs also offer a variety of engaging activities so that kids have a voice and a choice in which activities they will participate. Some programs concentrate on the arts, others may focus on science or sports, while others have a menu of activities from which to choose. It is important to consider your child’s interests when selecting a program.

Other questions you might ask when selecting a program include
  • Is there an adequate staff-to-child ratio to ensure all children are supervised?
  • Are staff members screened before they are hired?
  • Are staff members considerate of all children in the program?
  • Are guidelines in place for authorizing only certain adults to pick up the children?
  • Are the playground and other areas where activities held clean and safe?
  • Are healthy snacks provided?
  • Is transportation provided from school to the afterschool program?
  • Is the program adequately staffed when parents are late to pick up their children?
  • Does the staff have good relationships with parents and keep parents informed regarding activities, behavior problems, or other important issues?

When it is all said and done, though, how do you know you have selected the right program for your child? SEDL staff member Deborah Donnelly says, “Your child is the best barometer. Listen to your child—what is his or her level of excitement about attending the program? Is he or she happy and engaged? An enthusiastic, happy kid is the best endorsement for any program.”


More Afterschool Resources:

National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning

National AfterSchool Association

Communities in Schools After-School Program Toolkit

Afterschool Alliance

Austin area:

Heart House


The Jewish Community Association

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 http://www.sedl.org/afterschool/about/.

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 http://www.sedl.org/about/.