A project of the Afterschool Alliance.

Arkansas 21st Century Community Learning Centers Statewide Evaluation, 2014-2015 Annual Report

Year Published: 2016

A statewide evaluation of 21st CCLC programs in Arkansas examining student achievement and social emotional skills and parents’ satisfaction with the program.  The evaluation used student, parent, and staff surveys, as well as annual performance reports and found that programs provided an environment where students felt that they were supported academically and were able to develop positive social and emotional skills and good work habits. Similarly, parent satisfaction with Arkansas’ 21st CCLC programs was high. Parents felt as though their children were safe when they were at the program and felt that their child’s participation in the program encouraged better communication with the schools. Program staff felt as though they related content of the program to school-day academics and that they had effective communication between supervising staff directing student youth workers. Overall, staff at Arkansas 21st CCLC programs came to the program with sufficient training, were trained sufficiently upon start at programs, and stayed at the program for a reasonable time.

Program Name: Arkansas 21st Century Community Learning Centers

Program Description: Arkansas’ 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program is a federal grant program designed to serve high-needs communities with afterschool and summer programming. The program helps students meet state and local student standards on core academic subjects and offers students a broad array of enrichment activities to complement their regular academics. There were a total of 89 21st CCLC grantees during the 2014-15 program year.

Scope of the Evaluation: Statewide

Program Type: Afterschool

Location: Arkansas

Community Type: Rural, Urban, Suburban

Grade level: Elementary School, Middle School, High School

Program Demographics: 56 percent of youth survey respondents were students of color, which included African American (37 percent), Native American (5 percent), Hispanic (12 percent), Arab American (.5 percent), and Asian (2 percent) students. 3 percent of students identified with another race or ethnicity. 47 percent of student respondents were male.

Program Website: http://www.arkansased.gov/divisions/public-school-accountability/federal-programs/21st-century-community-learning-centers

Evaluator: Gersh, A., Smith, C., & McGovern, G. The David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, Forum for Youth Investment.

Evaluation Methods: This evaluation conducted surveys of students grades 4-12. Parents of all students attending the afterschool programs, regardless of grade level, were also surveyed. Surveys were also distributed to program directors, site coordinators, and staff directly responsible for providing youth programming. A total of 4,382 youth, 2,950 parents, 127 program directors, and 808 afterschool teachers and youth workers completed the surveys. Program Quality Assessments (PQAs) were completed via observation and program quality self-assessments from the program staff. External assessments were conducted on program sites in their first and second year of the 21st CCLC grant. Annual Performance Reports were also evaluated to assess students’ program attendance and progress on academic achievement.

Evaluation Type: Non-experimental

Summary of Outcomes: The statewide evaluation found that the programs provided an environment where students felt that they were supported academically and were able to develop positive social and emotional skills and good work habits. Similarly, parent satisfaction with Arkansas’ 21st CCLC programs was high.

Student survey responses were scored on a scale of 1-5 with 5 representing “almost always true,” 3 representing “true about half of the time,” and 1 representing “almost never true.” Overall, students in the program agreed that they learned things in the afterschool program that helped them in school (3.75), the staff helped them with their homework (3.85), and they were interested in the content covered by the program and felt they were using the skills they learned in the program with average scores for each category of 3.74 and 3.84.

The most impressive academic gain was reported among high school students regularly attending the program, where regular attendance is attending the program for at least 30 days. Among regularly attending high school students, 69 percent improved their GPA from the 2013-14 program year to the 2014-15 program year. Regularly participating high school students who qualified for the free or reduced price lunch saw a greater gain, with 71 percent improving their GPA. Examining the Benchmark Exam in Literacy and Mathematics, the report found that 35 percent of all regular participants improved in reading and 7 percent improved in math.

Students additionally self-reported on their social and emotional competencies, with responses indicating that they felt socially and emotionally competent. Students reported that that they could make friends with other kids (4.28), stay friends with other kids, (4.30), felt comfortable working with other kids (4.10), could communicate effectively in groups (4.10), and were able to tell other kids what they thought even if they disagreed (4.10). Apart from academics, students reported that they felt like they mattered at the program (3.75), and that they belonged at the program (3.80). 

Parents strongly agreed that their children were having a positive experience in the program (4.61), that the afterschool program was helping their children in school (4.51), and that they did not have to worry about their child when at the afterschool program (4.46). They also reported that their children have better work habits (4.12) and more confidence in math (4.02), reading (4.07), and science and/or technology (4.01) as a result of participating in the afterschool program. Furthermore, parents agreed that their child’s participation in the program has helped the family get to know the school and teachers better (3.92).

Surveys for directors, site coordinators, and program staff evaluated the programs’ content and administration of programming.  Overall, program providers knew what their students were learning during the school day and administered relevant programming on similar topics in afterschool (3.7).  Program staff were also found to be accountable for the quality of their programming (4.76), and program staff were familiar with the standards of quality for their programs (4.71). Programs scored 2.97 for community engagement with local partners to work with students in the program and 2.91 in including students in program decisions. Youth workers said that their supervisors challenged them to try new ideas and clearly communicated the program goals and priorities to them (3.99 and 4.32).  Program capacity showed an aggregate score of 4.40, with staff coming to the program with adequate training experience, staying at the program, having enough time to complete their work, and having the students in mind when designing programming.