A mixed -methods study of the impacts and processes of an after -school program for urban elementary youth

Susan Goerlich Zief, University of Pennsylvania


The amount of after-school programming in the United States has grown tremendously in the last decade as increasing numbers of working parents require supervision for their children. Furthermore, mounting research correlates unsupervised time with negative outcomes for youth. After-school programs have been promoted as a means to provide supervision, reduce negative outcomes, and promote positive experiences and improved academic outcomes for youth, especially those in low-income, poorly performing schools. Yet large investments in programming have occurred before research has documented program impacts and explained how programs could be better designed or implemented to meet their goals (Zief & Lauver, in press). This mixed-methods study contributes to the limited knowledge base on after-school programming. The experimental-design impact evaluation measures whether an elementary after-school program in an urban school changes student supervision; engages youth in activities; improves student academic, behavioral, and social and emotional outcomes; and alters parental outcomes. The study sample includes 104 youth who applied to the after-school program and were then randomly assigned to either the program or control group. The qualitative component of this study contextualizes the impact findings and investigates stakeholder responses after the long-standing, school-based program of study unexpectedly ended. While this study measured 35 outcomes from multiple sources, few significant outcomes were found. After 1 year of program enrollment, program youth watched television and spent time with friends in the neighborhood less frequently and saw a tutor more frequently than control youth during the after-school hours. After the program was no longer available, program youth and their parents were then more concerned about their safety than were their control counterparts, yet the majority of program parents did not report a negative impact from the loss of programming. The qualitative analysis focuses on understanding students' unenthusiastic response to the program and reasons the enacted program differed from what was planned. Suggestions are made for improving similar programs and for considering alternate program models to achieve outcomes that are of greater interest to parents and policymakers.

Subject Area

School administration|Recreation

Recommended Citation

Zief, Susan Goerlich, "A mixed -methods study of the impacts and processes of an after -school program for urban elementary youth" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3165777.