- Well-run after-school programs that offer a positive environment can help students in low-income, urban communities be more academically successful and feel more confident toward their schoolwork, a new study finds.
- Conducted by researchers at New York University, the study suggests that such programs, which often bring students in contact with instructors who are similar to them in age and background, are particularly beneficial for students at risk for behavior problems and disengagement from school.
- The study focuses on 256 mostly black and Hispanic elementary and middle school students attending five after-school programs operated by Good Shepherd Services, a nonprofit providing a variety of educational, enrichment, mentoring and other services in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn. The researchers found that academic skills especially improved over the course of a school year for those with social-behavioral difficulties, and that “academic self-concept” was magnified for students without those issues.
Students who had “higher levels of social-behavioral risk” but attended after-school classrooms with more positive environments also became more academically engaged, the researchers found.
The findings confirm that high-quality after-school programs can complement schools’ efforts to support disadvantaged students’ academic and social-emotional growth. The researchers defined positive after-school environments as those with “good social dynamics, responsive instruction, and behavior management.”
“Results from this sample of low-income, ethnic minority youth suggest the need to consider afterschool classrooms as a potential lever through which to align interventions that target academic development for youth facing distal and proximal risk in urban school-community contexts,” they write.
The results also suggest the need for schools to work in close collaboration with after-school programs and instructors to make sure students’ needs are understood. The researchers also recommend professional development for afterschool instructors on how to create a positive classroom environment.