NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

After-School Programs Ineffective

February 5, 2003

After-school programs do little to help kids academically and may even encourage bad behavior, according to a new federal study.

The comprehensive study examined 96 after-school programs and more than 5,000 elementary and middle school students. Among the findings:

  • Reading test scores, grades and completion of homework were no better among students in after-school programs than similar students who stayed away.
  • After-school programs did nothing to decrease the number of "latchkey children," home alone after school, but did decrease the number left in the care of older siblings.
  • Students in after-school programs did not report feeling safer than their peers, and were more likely to have sold or smoked marijuana than students not in programs.

Most students who used the programs attended less than twice a week.

There were slight improvements in the math grades of middle school students in the after-school programs, with a larger grade improvement for minority students than whites. And parents were more likely to volunteer at their child's school and help their children with homework if their child was involved in an after-school program.

Partially as a result of the study's findings, the Bush administration is asking Congress to cut funding for after-school programs -- so-called 21st Century Community Learning Centers -- from $1 billion to $600 million.

Source: Fredreka Schouten, "Federal after-school program ineffective, study finds," USA Today, February 5, 2003; Joshua Benton, "Report: After-school programs don't help kids much," Dallas Morning News, February 4, 2003; Mathematica Policy Research, " When Schools Stay Open Late: The National Evaluation of the 21st-Century Community Learning Centers Program," 2003, U.S. Department of Education.


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