Assessing the benefits of an after -school program for urban youth: An impact and process evaluation

Sherri Christine Lauver, University of Pennsylvania


After-school programs have gained national attention as a means to provide additional academic, social, and recreational opportunities for youth. Poor, inner-city communities are especially in need of these programs because urban youth often lack the safe parks, sports teams, clubs, and other enriching opportunities that are typically offered in middle-income and affluent communities. For these reasons, public support is especially strong for urban after-school programs. The primary research question for this dissertation is whether an after-school program administered by an urban public middle school, with limited funding support and technical assistance, can make meaningful improvements in academic and social outcomes for young adolescents (ages 10–14) living in poverty-impacted neighborhoods. The project is an impact evaluation and process analysis of an urban middle school after-school recreation program. It is hypothesized that the after-school program will increase students' time spent in positive extracurricular activities and increase their academic grades and test scores. It will also reduce their time spent in self-care and watching television. The study sample includes 227 students who applied to the after-school program and were subsequently randomly assigned to the program or to a control group. The findings from the process evaluation suggest that the relationships between staff and students involved in the after-school program were overwhelmingly positive, and the students and their parents were satisfied with the program. The main challenges observed were the students' lower than expected utilization of the program, the staff's irregular attendance during the first year of the evaluation, and the difficulties in ensuring facility space and dedicated storage for program supplies. The findings from the impact study demonstrate that the program had a significant and positive effect on program participants' time spent doing homework and on their educational aspirations. It also resulted in youths' spending significantly more time participating in strength training exercises at a fitness center than would have been the case otherwise. There were no measurable benefits of the after-school program on other extracurricular activities; academic grades or standardized test scores; in-school behavior or attendance; or on time spent watching television or in self-care.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Academic guidance counseling|Recreation

Recommended Citation

Lauver, Sherri Christine, "Assessing the benefits of an after -school program for urban youth: An impact and process evaluation" (2002). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3043903.