The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program was created by Congress to increase
the availability of after-school programs across the United States. The program provides funding for centers that offer a variety of after-school programs. Eligible school districts receive federal grants on a per-child basis for students attending an after-school program at a community learning center within the district. The community learning centers are located within an elementary or middle school building and tend to use the school’s teachers to
staff the after-school programs. School districts must offer at least four of the 13 program types, defined by the 21st Century program, at their community learning centers. These activities include integrated education, health services, social services, recreational activities, cultural activities, literacy education, day care, telecommunications education, and technology education. An experimental evaluation of seven elementary school programs was conducted, but only the results of the first-year evaluation are available. Community learning centers had little impact on students’ academic outcomes. The program was effective in increasing parental involvement in schools. Another evaluation found positive impacts on the frequency of being tutored and number of afternoons spent watching television, but found no impacts on other
behavioral outcomes, or on academic, social/emotional, or parental outcomes.
DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM
Target population: Middle and elementary school students
The community learning centers funded by the 21st Century program vary across localities, but generally offer three types of activities: academic assistance, recreational activities, and cultural enrichment and interpersonal skills development. Generally, the first time-slot at the community learning center provides academic assistance to students and lasts for 45 to 60 minutes. After that, students most often engage in recreational activities or cultural enrichment and interpersonal skills development sessions. Expenditures for the middle school programs were estimated to be around $1,000 per enrolled student for an academic school year.
EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM
Dynarski, M., Moore, M., Mullens, J., Gleason, P., James-Burdumy, S., Rosenberg, et al. (2003). When schools stay open late: The National Evaluation of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, First-year Findings. Report submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.
Evaluated population: One thousand elementary students from even grantee school districts were evaluated during the 2000-2001 school year. The sample was 28 percent Caucasian, 67 percent African-American, 2 percent Hispanic, 1 percent American Indian, 2 percent Asian, and 0.3 percent Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Seventy-one percent of schools had at
least half of their students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
Approach: To evaluate the elementary school programs, researchers selected districts that
were considered most able to carry out an experimental design. The researchers noted that this limits the generalizability of the findings. Within these seven districts, a total of 1,000 students were randomly assigned to either treatment programs or a control group. Researchers gathered data using student questionnaires, school records, parent questionnaires, and teacher
questionnaires. These sources of data looked at academic performance, homework
completion, behavior, feelings of safety, and personal and social development.
Results: Students in the community learning centers did not receive higher grades in reading or math than did students in the control condition; however, their social studies grades were significantly higher. Reading test scores of treatment students were not higher than those of students in the control condition. The program also had no impact on student self-reports of completing homework, watching television, reading for fun, or feeling safe at school. There were also no impacts on number of suspensions, absences, teacher reported discipline problems, or students’ interpersonal skills. The researchers noted problems with the implementation of the programs in the various centers. Low participation was common across centers, averaging less than two days a week, and students were found to have higher attendance rates on days where academic tutoring or cultural learning sessions were not being conducted.
Zief, S. G. (2005). A mixed-methods study of the impacts and processes of an after-school program for urban elementary youth.(Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
Evaluated population: One hundred and two students from an urban elementary school
that serves low -income students were evaluated. Fifty-one percent of the
students were female, and 76 percent received free or reduced price lunch. The
sample was 90 percent Black, 3 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian, 1 percent
Indian, and 3 percent “other.”
Approach: Out of 102 students, 42 were randomized to the intervention group and 62 were
randomized to the control group during the 2001-2003 school year. Data on
attendance and achievement were collected from student records at the beginning
and end of the school year. Parent, student, and teacher surveys that assessed
behaviors, activities, supervision and support, social/emotional outcomes, and
parental outcomes were administered three times: after the 2002-2003 school
year, during the winter of 2004, and about six months after the program had
Results:At posttest, students who were assigned to the program saw a tutor more frequently
and spent time with friends after school less frequently than students in the
control group. However, these positive impacts did not continue at subsequent
follow-ups. Students participating in the program also watched less television
in the afternoon when compared with controls, but there were no group
differences in the number of hours of television watched per day. Impacts
disappeared at subsequent follow-ups. There were no impacts on other aspects of
supervision and support or on other behavioral outcomes, which included
substance use, homework, absences, and delinquency. There were also no impacts
on academic, social/emotional, or parental outcomes. There was a negative impact
on perceived safety at follow-up, with parents of intervention children
reporting more concern over their children’s safety than control parents. In
addition, in 2004, children who had participated in the program reported feeling
less safe when compared with children who had not participated in the program,
but these impacts were only marginally significantOne limitation of
the evaluation is that students whose parents did not return the survey were
more likely to be female and to come from more socioeconomically disadvantaged
SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
Dynarski, M., Moore, M., Mullens, J., Gleason, P., James-Burdumy, S., Rosenberg, L.,…Levy, D. (2003). When schools stay open late: The National Evaluation of the 21st Century
Community Learning Centers Program, first-year findings. Report submitted
to the U.S. Department of Education. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.
Zief, S. G. (2005). A mixed-methods study of the impacts and processes of an after-school program for urban elementary youth.(Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University
of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
KEYWORDS: Children (3-11), Elementary, Males and Females (co-ed), Black/African American, Community-based, School-based, Urban, Cost Information is Available,
After-School Program, Skills Training, Mentoring, Tutoring, Attendance, Academic
Achievement/Grades, Academic Motivation/Self-Concept/Expectations/Engagement,
Reading/Literacy, Mathematics, Social Skills/Life Skills, Delinquency,
information last updated 10/03/2012.