Shared Features of High-Performing After-School Programs: A Follow-Up to the TASC Evaluation

Authors: Jennifer Birmingham, Ellen M. Pechman, Christina A. Russell, Monica Mielke

Price: Available free online
• Published: 2005    • 69 pages   

Available online: PDF

This study examined high-performing after-school projects funded by The After-School Corporation (TASC), to determine what characteristics, if any, these projects shared. Evaluators reanalyzed student performance data collected during the multiyear evaluation of the TASC initiative to identify projects where the TASC after-school program was especially likely to have contributed to improvements in students' academic achievement. Once these 10 projects were identified, evaluators visited each project to learn more about program structures and practices and whether the 10 projects shared common features. Interview and observational data revealed that, while these high-performing after-school projects were identified through their participants' achievement gains, the projects did not primarily focus on academics. Across the 10 projects, evaluators found shared characteristics around programming, staffing, and support systems. These include:

  1. A broad array of enrichment opportunities
  2. Opportunities for skill building and mastery
  3. Intentional relationship-building
  4. A strong, experienced leader/manager supported by a trained and supervised staff

These study findings can offer a guide to new and struggling after-school projects about program features that may be most important when developing or refining an afterschool project. For established projects that find themselves under duress to increase their focus on academics or hire more academically focused staff, this study reinforces the viability of an after-school model that emphasizes a wide variety of compelling youth-oriented activities, a staff with diverse backgrounds and skills, an experienced site coordinator with strong ties to the community, the administrative and fiscal support of a committed sponsoring organization, and ongoing communication and relationship-building with the host school and participant families.

This resource was published by Policy Studies Associates, Inc. for Southwest Educational Development Laboratory and The After-School Corporation.