Evaluator: Durlak, J. A.(1), Weissberg, R. P (2), & Pachan, M.(1) 1.Department of Psychology, Loyola University Chicago; 2. Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago and Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
Evaluation Methods: The meta-analysis included results from 75 reports evaluating 68 different afterschool programs, including student outcomes. The meta-analysis only included evaluations of afterschool programs serving students between 5 and 18 years of age that included a control group, focused on outcomes of at least one personal or social skill (which included “problem-solving, conflict resolution, self-control, leadership, responsible decision-making, or skills related to the enhancement of self-efficacy or self-esteem”) and were located in the U.S. Reports for the meta-analysis were located using four main procedures: (1) computer searches of databases—such as ERIC, PsycInfo, Medline, and Dissertation Abstracts—using search terms including after-school, out-of-school-time, students, social skills, youth development, and children, (2) hand searches of the contents of three journals publishing the most outcomes studies (American Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Community Psychology, and Journal of Counseling Psychology), (3) inspection of the reference lists of previous afterschool program reviews, and (4) review of the Harvard Family Research Project database.
Evaluation Type: Experimental
Summary of Outcomes: The study found that students participating in a high-quality afterschool program—programs that provided a sequenced set of activities, used active forms of learning, focused appropriate time and resources on student instruction and skill development, and explicitly targeted a specific set of skills (SAFE practices: sequenced, active, focused, and explicit)—showed improved behavior, received higher grades, and performed better on standardized tests than non-participating students.
Regarding behavior, the study found that quality afterschool programs succeeded in improving youths’ feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem, bonding to school, and positive social behaviors. They also reduced problem behaviors, which included aggression, noncompliance and conduct problems, and drug use.
Additionally, authors of the study found that the test scores for students in SAFE afterschool programs were an average of 12 percentile points higher than those of the control group. Students participating in SAFE programs also had better school attendance rates than their non-participating peers; however, there was not a significant positive finding.