A $1 billion federal after-school program did little to help students, a Mathematica study concluded.
The study indicates that elementary students participating in the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program felt safer than students not enrolled but were more likely to engage in negative behaviors.
Compared to control groups, there was little effect on academic achievement, but low-performing elementary students in after-school programs showed some gains in English grades. There was no difference in homework completion or parent involvement; elementary children in the program, who typically attended two to three times a week, weren’t less likely to be in “latchkey” situations. Participation correlated with misbehavior in school, perhaps because children not in the program spent more time under the care of parents and relatives.
Teachers observed higher levels of negative behaviors during the school day for program students, such as being suspended, being disciplined by being made to miss recess or sit in the hall, and having parents contacted about a problem.
Most centers spent about $1,000 per student per year. It hardly seems worth it.