NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

After-School Programs Chalk Up Disappointing Results

February 19, 2003

Although the federal government shovels out more than $1 billion a year to help finance after-school programs in 7,500 public schools nationwide, the funds have not helped children academically, according to a report by Mathematica Policy Research and Decision Information Resources Inc.

Worse still, the program -- which is aimed at latch-key children -- seems to have provided a greater opportunity for them to sell or dabble in drugs.

Among the key findings:

  • Grades and reading test scores of elementary students in most subjects were not higher than those of nonparticipants.
  • For middle school students, grades in math were slightly higher -- but there was no difference in other subjects.
  • Participants were more likely than nonparticipants to sell drugs, smoke marijuana and cigarettes, steal, engage in fights, and be arrested or detained by police.
  • The programs did produce some positive outcomes among some black and Hispanic students -- but none among white students.

The cost of the program was about $1,000 per student -- with teachers making an additional $16 or $17 an hour for their after-school services. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program started in 1998 with a $40 million congressional appropriation. Last year, it was funded at $1 billion for the current fiscal year.

President Bush has proposed 2004 fiscal year funding at $600 million, despite the disappointing results.

Source: George Archibald, "After-School Programs Don't Teach," Washington Times, February 19, 2003.

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