The Boys and Girls Club state that their mission is "to enable all young people, especially those who need [them] most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens." They Club at Walter P. Taylor Homes provide a safe and positive refuge for approximately 75 elementary school-aged children of our community. Located in one of the most impoverished areas of Knoxville, one of the main benefits provided by the club is academic assistance. As students of the University of Tennessee of Knoxville, we felt compelled to aid the Boys and Girls Club in their mission to fuel a passion for education.
We made it our goal to raise funds to purchase school supply packages for the children at the Walter P. Taylor Homes Club in time for the start of their next academic school year. Our goal is to raise $1000 by May 31st, 2017. Help us enable the children who need us most!
Below is a summary of our research on after-school programs and their effects on participants, followed by who we are, our individual reflections about the project, and a huge thank you to all who have shown support!
EVALUATING AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS’ EFFECTS ON PARTICIPANTS
Our research was geared toward discovering the effects of after-school programs on adolescents. We specifically explored their effects on academic abilities, social skills, at-risk behaviors, and long-term success. Furthermore, we researched what the most successful programs had in common and what the unsuccessful programs lacked.
Academic Retention: Emily Soule
Based on the research shown in multiple scholarly sources and studies, there is a constant and stable trend between afterschool programs and the improvement of academic skills. Afterschool organizations are having rapid rates of success because of the immense support that mentors and volunteers give to the attending students. Not every child is fortunate enough to have a built-in support system at home, so these volunteers are vital in their development as students and as people. Considering that some of these children come from areas that may not have the best school systems, having volunteers that focus on the positive growth and progress of youth, can help them in the long run. These clubs stress the importance of staying off the streets, respecting authority, staying in school, and making good choices.
Once children start to spend more time in these afterschool groups, the benefits that come with attending these programs appear quickly. An easily trackable trend that correlates to the improvement of academics within students at after-school groups is the increase in test scores and grades. The improvement of test scores and grades is seen over time by the majority of student’s who attend after-school groups. Based on an annual performance report data from the 21st CCLC, there is a 43% improvement in reading grades as well as a 42% improvement in math grades by students who attend afterschool programs regularly (After School Alliance 1). Also, students ranged from elementary school to middle school who have regularly attended well organized after-school programs for two years “demonstrated significant gains in standardized math scores, compared to their peers who were routinely unsupervised during after school hours” (Reisner and Vandell). In addition to this, these same students who participated in these “high-quality” programs also “had significant gains in self-reported work habits, relative to unsupervised students (effect sized of .20 to .41)” (Reisner and Vandell). This information shows that developing students, regardless of social or economic factors, prosper academically when given structured options for their time spent out of school. Having positive things to do after school such as playing sports, reading books, getting tutored, and performing in group activities is proven to help students with their academic based skills in the long run. This structured environment creates a more disciplined foundation for their future endeavors and will carry over positively to their adult life as well.
In addition, once academic skills are improved, pupils often develop a new found positive outlook on not only the educational system as a whole but also on their abilities as students. Yokley-Busby stated that students who reported an increase in their academic performance due to afterschool organizations also experienced “better attitudes toward school, higher school attendance rates, lower tardiness rates, less disciplinary infractions, lower dropout rates, and significant academic achievement gains” (21). This data reflects that the increase in academic success brought on by attending afterschool programs is not only exhibited in an overall increase in grades and test scores, but also in overall school performance. Once these students start to see the results of their efforts, such as them passing a class that they might have failed without help from additional programs, it inspires them to stay in school. By choosing to remain in school, these students will be able to hit significant milestones such as graduating from high school and even possibly graduating college. These opportunities may not have been possible for them without the assistance of afterschool programs.
Overall, from the research collected, it is clear that afterschool programs help regularly attending students improve their academic abilities by giving them needed structure, stressing the importance of staying in school, providing a stable and safe environment for children to learn and develop in, and providing tutoring and homework help when needed. Even though it can be easily assumed that these factors would help a student’s overall academic performance, this assumption has also been backed up by facts. Based on studies conducted and data collected, there is a trend of increased grades and test scores and also a trend of decreased dropouts on average. In summation, it is clear that there is a direct correlation between attending afterschool programs and increased academic performance.
Social Development: Nick Snodgrass
There are a magnitude of after school programs that have a series of positive effects on young children throughout the world. Based on research shown in multiple articles there is a trend between after school programs and the improvement of social skills in the children that attend.
For example, “These programs can be a great way for kids to enhance their academic skills while at the same time improving self-esteem and social skills” (Hollins). Most children go into these after school programs with extremely little experience socializing with other kids and or adults. From personal experience on mission trips in Honduras and Guatemala, with children in after school programs people have seen how socially awkward and incapable some of these kids are when they come in contact with someone outside of their family. Yet through the constant help, activities, and pursuit of interacting with the children, they themselves grow stronger socially and by the end of the couple weeks they don't want to see the group leave and are begging the missions teams to stay. In the exact same way, after school programs are building a same kind of relationship with the children that attend. “Programs with a strong intentional focus on improving social and personal skills were found to improve students’ self-esteem and self-confidence” (Durlak & Weissberg). There are a significant amount of families that are unable to afford high paying private schools for their children, and therefore after school programs are where their children get the best teaching.
Through the research found, the most successful programs at enhancing social skills were pushing their children to be involved in different games, activities, and lessons throughout the program, “Another finding of note is that there is more engagement in academic, youth development, and arts activities and explained a majority of the variance in student engagement, separately from engagement in athletic and physical activities. These engagement scores were validated by their relationship with teacher ratings of academic skills and social competence” (Grogan). It is amazing to have people willing to put countless hours into these children to give them the help and interactions that they deserve. It has been known that if one can heighten their social abilities, that alone will help them go far in the real world, therefore having these children focus on building and strengthening their social skills is key. Recently there have been a magnitude of surveys done to see what some of the top skills obtained through after school programs are, and social skills and performance falls near the top. For instance, “A meta-analysis to evaluate the magnitude of effects obtained from 73 programs was conducted. Outcomes were examined in three general areas: feelings and attitudes, indicators of behavioral adjustment, and school performance. Highlighted findings include: (1) Youth who participate in after-school programs that promote personal and social skills benefit across all three outcomes” (Durlak). With this all being said, the positive effects of after school programs cannot be overlooked. The children that attend these programs gain a magnitude of helpful life and personal skills, one major one being social skills and social awareness.
Long-term Success: Kate Murphy
After school-care programs have the ability to greatly impact our youth as they grow up. Many children start attending programs like these during their early elementary school years. However, research shows that as they grow older, attendance numbers start to decrease. This is for several reasons, one of them being that many of these programs are poorly designed. As Jane David (2011) states in her study, “the strongest programs complement, rather than duplicate, school activities, and knit families, schools, and community agencies together around student interests and needs.” For the programs that meet this standard, the impact on the youth can be monumental and contribute to future successes that others in high risk neighborhoods would not likely have.
The literature pertaining to this subject has found that out-of-school programs were more beneficial than in-school programs. According to Apsler (2009), this is because out-of-school programs typically implicate strategies that differ from the learning experiences that happen in a traditional classroom setting. As students enter high school, homework and projects become more rigorous, often incorporating elements like technology. Acquiring information technology skills is a crucial element in today’s society, whether a student hopes to attend college or enter directly into the working world after high school. Research has shown that students that go to school in higher risk neighborhoods, may not have access to the latest software and technology (Evans & Leung, 2012). This literature supports the idea that out-of-school programs have a more beneficial effect on high school aged students.
The initial goal of most after school care programs is to create a safe environment for students during unsupervised hours. The first step to achieving this is to establish a level of trust between mentors and the youth. Conclusive evidence among researchers has shown a correlation between the success of after school-care programs and the adults that work directly with the students. Positive relationships between mentors and students have been shown to improve academic performance and engagement in school, as well as lead to higher educational and future aspirations (Anderson-Butcher, Newsome, &Ferrari, 2003). This illustrates how much of an impact mentors have on these types of programs. Teenagers that were raised in low-income areas often lack positive role models, turning to drugs and other illegal activity as means for survival. Pierre (1992) found that students that attended programs such as the Boys & Girls Clubs after school, were 50% less likely to use drugs or alcohol during the school week. By providing teenagers with a strong support system, after school-care programs help pave the way to a successful future for students as they enter adulthood.
For many underprivileged youth, college is out of the question for several reasons. Besides the inability to pay, many feel like they are not smart enough to continue their education past a high school degree. In his research, Hindawi (2014), found that over half of high school seniors never considered college because an adult never had a constructive conversation with them about furthering their education. This is something that out-of-school programs attempt to incorporate in their curriculums. The YMCA Youth Institute has a College Readiness Program that exposes students to the realities of preparing for college. The program consists of university tours, information about course selection, and assistance in filling out financial aid andscholarship forms (O’Donnell & Kirkner, 2014). This research further illustrates the positive impact that after school-care programs can have on students and their future successes.
Lowered At-Risk Behavior: Christina Zimmerman
As discussed above, afterschool programs have been shown to increase social skills. Evidence shows that this increase in positive social relationships directly correlates with a decrease in crime and at-risk behaviors including assault, theft, unprotected sex, and drug use. However, only certain afterschool programs can boast these results. Programs that lack structure, proper funding, and consistent attendance also lack significant results in changing the behaviors of its constituents.
Sources show that teen crime peaks in the hours between 2-6PM, plus or minus an hour. Teens are also more likely to be in car crashes, be victims of crime, smoke, drink, use drugs, and participate in unprotected sex during these hours, otherwise known as the “after-school gap.” This time adds up—children are estimated to be left unsupervised approximately 20-25 hours a week. These research results boosted interest in afterschool programs, and, as a result of “lobbying and grass roots efforts,” boosted private and government funding in the early 2000s (Apsler, 2).
This surge of investment produced an influx of afterschool programs, and, with them, decreased delinquency rates (Anderson-Butcher, Dawn, Newsome, Ferrari, 40). A meta-analysis of afterschool programs showed that participants demonstrated “increases in their self-perceptions and bonding to school, positive social behaviors, …and significant reductions in problem behaviors” (Dulak, Weissberg, 294). Program youth are significantly less likely to be suspended from school, and those with a delinquent past are significantly less likely to reoffend. In New York City, Boys and Girls Clubs in certain public housing developments reported lowered rates in drug use, presence of crack cocaine, reports of drug activity ( 22%), juvenile arrests ( 13%), and vandalism ( 12.5%). According to the Afterschool Alliance, results similar to NYC’s are seen across the nation, and America’s police chiefs say afterschool programs are essential to preventing crime. Furthermore, an independent study of 73 afterschool programs showed that children who participated regularly had improved feelings and attitudes as well as reduced aggression and noncompliance problems (Evans, Leung, 1). Similar, positive results are found in several studies. Students who participate in the constructive activities provided have more time to engage in supervised, social situations and are removed from potential pressure from peers and older children. In fact, these social interactions are a commonly citied motive for youth to participate in theses programs. Many youth said they came because of their friends and were looking to make new friends (Fredricks, Hackett, Bregman, 375). Afterschool programs lower delinquency by providing the opportunity for adolescents to develop social relationships and incorporating adult-supervision.
However, it is important to note that these positive results are not found in every afterschool program. There are several common qualities attributable to these positive results. Proper organization is one predictor of a successful program. The strongest programs complement school activities by blending family, school, and the community with student interests. Sustained attendance, quality programming and staffing, and strong partnerships with the community are identified as three key features for successful programs (David, 84). According to Julie O’Donnell and Sandra Kirkner in their article, a successful framework requires “programs to provide safety, supportive relationships, meaningful youth involvement, skill building, and community involvement.” In addition, successful organizations had academic offerings, accelerated learning, recreation, and service opportunities. The strongest positive results were shown in studies that evaluated the effectiveness of specific courses provided by afterschool programs, such as Stay SMART (drug prevention) and Life Skills Training. These directed courses were shown to be most effective in reducing at-risk behavior and raising awareness of the consequences of drug use and unprotected sex (Pierre, Kaltreier, 693-695).
Participation is also pivotal to yielding results. Participation itself is multidimensional and includes enrollment, attendance, and engagement. These different aspects help explain variations in student outcomes. For example, evidence shows that those with high attendance and engagement benefit the most socially (Grogan, Henrick, Malikina, 5).
Finally, without proper funding, afterschool programs cannot thrive. Recent cuts in federal funding can be tied to a resurgence in youth crime. Without proper funding, staffing issues arise, activities offered are limited, and benefits for members are not reaped. In addition, the already limited funding usually goes to programs for younger youth. There is no federal program that directly funds afterschool programs for older youth (middle and high school aged). (Pelcher, Rajan, 7-8). Without the proper structure, consistent participation, and funding, programs do not see a decrease in at-risk behavior.
Problems with Afterschool Programs: Kaleigh Lain
There is a variety of levels of quality in after school care programs and can fluctuate on their ability to get students to attend on a regular basis (David,2011). A high quality after school program (ASP) can be of benefit to a child in many aspects of their life (Evans and Leung, 2012). Unfortunately, many programs are not following the best training systems for the children and therefore lack in real result. In a study of 73 programs, 27 of them lacked any results. Some qualities contributing to this are larger group size, not enough high quality staff, and less structure (Robert, 2009). Other issues that cause ASPs to be less successful are unclear objectives or a poorly designed program overall. Programs that mimic school are not very successful. It is important to design the program to work alongside school (David,2011).
Anderson-Butcher, Dawn, Newsome, and Ferrari point out in their article, “Participation in Boys and Girls club and relationships to youth outcomes,” that participation is one of the most important parts of an ASP. They point out that if a child is not participating, then none of the goals of the program can be met in that child’s case. They find that this is the key issue facing many programs (Anderson-Butcher, Dawn, Newsome, and Ferrari, 2003). The Article “Participation in boys and girls clubs: motivation and stage environment” by
Fredricks, Hackett, and Bregman echoes this by saying how children not wanting to come to the program is one of the biggest problems in ASPs. Some of the reasons cited for non-attendance are that the children’s parents are home to watch them, that the family has obligations, that the child needs to work or take care of family younger siblings, or that they find the program boring and just do not want to go (Fredricks, Hackett, and Bregman, 2010). A study talked about in the paper, “Student Engagement in After-School Programs, Academic Skills, and Social Competence among Elementary School Students,” found that in two different consecutive years, most children were absent around 20% of the time. They said that a lack of engagement was one of the key factors to the absence, and it is key to engage the students as much as possible to keep them attending regularly (Grogan, Henrich, and Malikina, 2014). Another problem with a lack of attendance that was cited in “After-School Programs for Adolescents: A Review of Evaluation Research” was that higher risk children were more likely to drop out of the program (Robert, 2009). Kids who have been coming longer are no less likely to be absent (Fredricks, Hackett, and Bregman, 2010). The best way to keep kids coming back is to engage them (Anderson-Butcher, Dawn, Newsome, and Ferrari, 2003).
One reason cited by children for coming was connections with staff. Staff was also cited as a reason for kids to stop coming (Fredricks, Hackett, and Bregman, 2010). Having a positive staff can significantly affect a student in an ASP, and being treated positively by staff can enhance children’s behaviors and emotions in positive ways (Anderson-Butcher, Dawn, Newsome, and Ferrari, 2003). Many sites struggle with high staff turnover (David,2011). This is often caused by that low wages coupled with few work hours per week and the reliance on volunteers for so many of the jobs. All of these things contribute to a high turnover rate and lesser quality staff (Pricher and Raja, 2016). Another problem that can arise is if there is not enough male staff, then issues with victimization, substance abuse, and delinquency often do not improve as much as they would with more male staff members (Evans And Leung, 2012). Staff members contribute to kid’s feeling connected to the program, being support systems, and acting as role models, so it is imperative that strong staff members are present in a ASPs (Pricher and Raja, 2016).
The children’s background adds another degree of difficulty to running an ASP (Durlak and Weissberg, 2007). Income can be one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of a child’s academic performance. School absences are more common in children from low income households. The programs will have to counteract the kids having missed school (O’Donnell and Kirkner, 2014). Also, kids in these areas are often exposed to drugs more. In a study of children from Boys & Girls club across the United States, 77% of the kids reported they could easily buy merijuana, 64% said they could easily get crack or cocaine, and almost half felt like the majority of people in their community used illegal drugs(Pierre, 1992). ASPs will need to counteract this with a drug program. Successfulness of drug programs usually declines over time, so it is important for the program to be an ongoing process (Pierre, 1992).
In summary, our research showed that properly funded and organized afterschool programs can provide a myriad of benefits for its members. Several studies of successful afterschool programs show increased academic performance, improved social skills, decreased aggression and at-risk behaviors, and an overall positive effect on participating adolescents.
Who we are
We are students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville who were tasked with raising funds for a cause we felt passionate about. It didn't take us long to realize that our inspiration was in our back yard. The Walter P. Taylor Homes Boys & Girls Club in downtown Knoxville was more than deserving of our help. We immediately began organizing, creating, and managing our campaign with the goal of giving back to our community in mind.