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A Review of Out-of-School Time Program Quasi-Experimental and Experimental Evaluation Results

Key Message

Evaluations of out-of-school-time (OST) programs link participation in programs to improvements in academic achievement, anti-social behaviour and positive youth development.


Little, Priscilla M.D., Harris, Erin. (2003). A Review of Out-of-School Time Program Quasi-Experimental and Experimental Evaluation Results. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Family Research Project.


This brief provides an overview of the 27 evaluations in the HFRP Out-of-School Time Program Evaluation Database that used experimental and quasi-experimental research designs to make statements about program outcome. The set of evalua- tions reviewed for this Snapshot represents a range of pro- grams from small single-site programs to city- and statewide programs operating multiple sites in multiple locations to national programs such as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

Evaluators use a broad array of performance measures to assess academic outcomes.5 They range from grades to standardized testing to homework completion.

Outcomes that fall into the prevention category include changes in sexual behavior, feelings of personal safety, changes in drug and alcohol use and abuse, and overall im- provements in physical health.

Many OST evaluations assess youth development outcomes, which are broadly defined as those outcomes that assess the social and emotional development of program participants. Outcomes that fall into this category range from standard- ized measures of self-esteem, participant behavior, and inter- personal skills to decision making, goal setting, leadership, and career development.


OST evaluations found statistically sig nificant improvements in the following areas related to academic achievement:

  • Academic involvement
  • Achievement motivation
  • Achievement test scores
  • Attitude toward school or academics
  • College attendance
  • Competence
  • Educational aspirations
  • Expulsions
  • Grades
  • Homework completion
  • Lower rates of course failure
  • Overall academic performance6
  • Reduced suspensions
  • School attendance (includes dropout and tardy rates) (p2)

OST evaluations found improvements in the following areas of prevention:

  • Avoidance of delinquency (including criminal arrests)
  • Avoidance of drug and alcohol use (including cigarette smoking)
  • Avoidance of sexual activity
  • Avoidance of violence
  • Knowledge about drug and alcohol use (including per-
    ceived social benefits)
  • Knowledge of sexuality issues (including attitudes
    toward sex)
  • Reduced pregnancy rates
  • Use of safe sex practices (p3)

OST evaluations found improvements in the following positive youth development areas:

  • Communication skills
  • Community involvement
  • Computer skills
  • Confidence/self-esteem
  • Conflict resolution
  • Decision making
  • Decreased aggression
  • Desire to help others
  • Exposure to new experiences
  • General well-being
  • Goal setting
  • Interactions/relationships with adults (p3).

the 4-H Youth Development program (Cornell Cooperative Exten- sion) evaluation found that the longer youth participate in 4-H (as measured in years spent in the program), the more likely they were to have learned a specific skill from the pro- gram. Further, duration of participation was linked to higher scores on a developmental assets assessment.(p4)

seven studies that analyzed outcomes in relation to participation reported that greater frequency of participation was associ- ated with better school attendance rates, lower rates of course failure, and higher measures of academic achievement.(p4)

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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