The Power of Afterschool
In Massachusetts, there are currently 274,176 children and youth alone and unsupervised in their after school and out-of-school time (ASOST) hours. Expanded learning opportunities (ELO) afterschool, before school and during the summer months play an important role in determining a child’s future success, particularly among low-income students and special
student populations. Lack of funding for programs has led to a serious achievement gap, which grows wider with each missed opportunity.
The need for access to high quality afterschool and summer learning programs is clear: 41% (16,389) of the 40,180 children on the Department of Early Education and Care’s (EEC) waitlist are school age children.1 Since children and youth spend only 20 % of their waking hours in the traditional classroom, many of the Commonwealth’s students do not have access to the critical programming that takes place beyond the school day and supports their academic success.
Nine out of ten parents want more out-of-school time (OST) programming in their community.2 Parents have seen firsthand the value of expanded learning opportunities and now, new and innovative research is available to support them in communicating the impact ASOST programming has on their children’s academic success and overall social and emotional development: New research shows that afterschool is a real solution linked to closing the achievement gap and further demonstrates that more consistent time spent in afterschool activities during the elementary school years is linked to narrowing the gap in math achievement at grade 5.
Summer enrichment programs have the potential to help children and youth improve academic outcomes. Students who do not participate in summer learning programs lose substantial knowledge and skills during the school year. Summer learning loss disproportionately impacts low income children, is cumulative over a child’s lifetime and substantially contributes to the widening of the achievement gap. Expanded learning opportunities afterschool, before school and during the summer months are linked to gains in social skills, increased social behavior, academic motivation and reduction of aggression, drug use, and misconduct.
The most telling evidence to date, however, is a meta-analysis of 68 studies conducted in 2011 revealing that afterschool programs seeking to enhance the personal and social skills of children and adolescents were successful. Compared to control programs observed, the research concludes that high quality afterschool programs were associated with significant improvements in students self-perceptions and bonding to school, positive social behaviors, significant reductions in conduct problems and drug use; and significant increases in achievement test scores, grades, and school attendance.
The unmet demand for afterschool programs has steadily risen over the last 10 years. In 2014, approximately 19.4 million children (41 percent) not currently in an afterschool program would be enrolled in a program if one were available to them, according to their parents. By comparison, in 2009, parents of 18.5 million children (38 percent) said they would enroll their child in an afterschool program if one were available, up from parents of 15.3 million children (30 percent) in 2004.
Participation in afterschool programs has consistently increased over the past 10 years, rising by nearly 2 million children in the last five years alone. In 2014, nearly one-quarter of families and 18 percent of children rely on afterschool programs to provide a safe and supportive environment, inspire learning, and fill the gap between when the school day ends and when the workday ends.