What Works? Common Practices in High Functioning Afterschool Programs

Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, a greater emphasis has been placed on academic development during the afterschool hours. Research has found that students’ participation in afterschool program is beneficial to academic achievement and social adjustment.

In an effort to identify and incorporate quality practices into existing and future afterschool programs, the U.S. Department of Education commissioned the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning (a project of SEDL, now an affiliate of AIR) to study high-functioning 21st Century Community Learning Center programs. The purpose of this study was to document practices used to develop resources and professional development that address issues relating to the establishment and sustainability of afterschool programs, to provide models and indicators of promising practices, and to highlight other descriptive information that local sites can access in planning new afterschool programs or improve existing ones.

Fifty-three afterschool programs, representing eight regional divisions of the nation, including rural and urban programs and community-based and school district related programs, were identified using rigorous methods. Promising practices in content delivery, program organization, and program structure were studied.

The National Partnership synthesized the study findings on effective practices to develop an online Afterschool Training Toolkit. The Toolkit provides assistance to programs in ensuring high quality, standards-based academic content, and in utilizing research-based teaching and learning strategies. Through the use of the Toolkit, concrete strategies are provided to help practitioners build programs and staff capacity.