Evidence-based Interventions: Summer Learning or Enrichment and Comprehensive Afterschool Programs MArch 2021

There is now a growing body of research and evaluation findings that clearly demonstrates that well-designed and delivered summer and afterschool opportunities and partnerships positively impact and affect a variety of important student results and outcomes.

What Does the Research Say About Afterschool?

This site is intended for advocates and decision-makers seeking information on evidence-based afterschool and summer learning as interventions potentially eligible for funding from the American Rescue Plan.

The American Rescue Plan 2021 directs substantial funding: “to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs, and ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on the student subgroups described in section 1111(b)(2)(B)(xi) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 6311(b)(2)(B)(xi)), students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care.” Source: congress.gov

What do we mean by “evidence-based interventions?

The legal definition in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7801) is an “...activity, strategy, or intervention that demonstrates a statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes or other relevant outcomes…”

Policymakers and practitioners are increasingly addressing equity by promoting the use of evidence as an important tool to strengthen opportunity and outcomes for young people. This is a powerful trend, but it needs to be a two-way street. Equity can also strengthen evidence by improving how the field generates and uses evidence. Learn more about the Evidence-Based Policy and Practice Initiative.

Summer Learning or Enrichment

Summer learning can play a meaningful and important role in helping young people recover from the damaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and in promoting educational equity.

To make a positive difference in a learning recovery strategy starting this summer, state and local leaders should build from what research and best practices tell us about how to have positive impacts and engage young people. This examination of multiple studies looks at program elements, focus areas, and engaging designs.

Planning for Impactful Summer Learning 2021

Summer programs have been demonstrated to produce a wide range of benefits for young people, including safety, physical and mental health, social and emotional development, and academic learning, according to a National Academies study. However, not all summer programs are equal, and not all children have equal or equitable access to summer programs. Summer is a time when disparities are perpetuated or exacerbated, underscoring the importance of leveraging community assets in planning, development, design, and evaluation of programs. Some, but not all, summer programs are specifically designed to achieve both academic and non-academic outcomes. Our research shows that such programs must be targeted to the needs of participants, have programming linked to desired outcomes, be of sufficient duration, and promote strong attendance. There is research-based guidance into how these kinds of programs, combining academics and non-academics, can be implemented.

Wallace Foundation: Evidence-based Considerations for COVID-19 Reopening and Recovery Planning: Summer Learning with Academic and Non-Academic Activities March 2021

Comprehensive Afterschool Programs

Evaluation studies demonstrate that 21st Century Community Learning Centers positively impact factors that are integral to the ABCs of student engagement and graduation: attendance, behavior, and coursework. Studies also show that Community Learning Centers are helping young people gain the workforce skills that will benefit them throughout their life.

Afterschool Alliance: 21st Century Community Learning Centers: The evidence base February 2020

Recent studies show the effects of youth participation in both early childhood education and afterschool opportunities on achievement in elementary, middle and high school and beyond. Consistent participation in afterschool activities during elementary school was linked to higher grades in 9th grade (the high school transition), even after controlling for child and family factors. Economically disadvantaged youth especially benefited from consistent participation in activities during elementary school, even after controlling for child and family factors.

Studies based on data from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD), a study that has followed more than 1000 children since their birth through age 26. Folder of Resources.

Afterschool programs offer children opportunities for developmental relationships and rich experiences that combine action and reflection; together, these help children develop their own set of critical skills, attitudes, and behaviors. Afterschool programs also provide a safe, supervised place for children during the hours when many parents or caregivers are at work. Municipalities often have a wide range of afterschool and out-of-school time (OST) providers, and many have established afterschool “systems” that serve as coordinating entities to reduce fragmentation, redundancy, and inefficiency and to increase OST access and quality, especially for those in marginalized communities. Coordinated systems can improve access by addressing common barriers, such as transportation, convenience, affordability, and number of available slots.

Wallace Foundation: Evidence-based Considerations for COVID-19 Reopening and Recovery Planning: Afterschool Coordination Systems to Support Afterschool Programming Brief and Bibliography March 2021

Key Resource Sites

This site was designed as a curated, top-level look at the evidence base for afterschool and summer learning. For more comprehensive collections, visit these trusted sites:

This site was developed by experts and practitioners with extensive afterschool and summer learning expertise. Advisors were convened by the Readiness Projects. The intent is for this site to be a temporary help as the American Rescue Plan rolls out. To contribute a resource, email here.


The 50 State Afterschool Network; Alaska Afterschool Network; Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg; JackF; S. Wells/Life Pieces to Masterpieces; Shauta Marsh/Big Car Collaborative; Jacksonville Arts and Music School