March 5, 2018
Washington state study shows positive impact from afterschool and summer learning programs
By Juliet Taylor
Program Officer, Raikes Foundation

Learning doesn’t end when the school bell rings—so why should our investment in Washington’s students stop at the end of the school day?

New research from Washington state reiterates the benefits of high-quality expanded learning opportunities – including afterschool and summer learning programs – on students’ development and academic achievement.

Exactly how impactful are high-quality afterschool programs on kids’ success?

Last year, we partnered with the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and researchers from the American Institutes for Research to answer that question. Here’s what we found based on a survey of 11 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs serving students in grades 4 through 9 across the state:

  • A growing body of research shows high-quality afterschool programs can help young people develop the social and emotional skills that help them excel in school and in life, and Washington state’s study continued to build that case. The study found that key youth development measures, like positive mindset and interpersonal skills, increased as students regularly attended high-quality afterschool learning programs.
  • When students participate in high-quality afterschool programs, they know it. Students perceive their own personal growth as greater while participating in high-quality afterschool programs.
  • Young people are more likely to have positive youth development outcomes when they reported having opportunities for agency and positive peer interactions in the program. This was especially the case when programs were high quality. This finding is consistent with recent research on adolescent development which shows that students crave new, exciting experiences where they can have meaningful and authentic opportunities to manage their learning and pursue program goals, even more so when they’re around their peers.  
  • Programs serving younger school-age children provide fewer opportunities to build a sense of student agency. Across the state, we must encourage and support programs to incorporate these elements into their programs, particularly because the state’s expanded learning opportunities for younger adolescents are critical to supporting full-time working families.

Expanded learning programs are a key part of setting up students for success academically and in the community. Washington state should continue to focus on the quality of expanded learning opportunities, particularly as it works to strengthen its services from birth to young adulthood for young people across the state.

We must continue to advocate for high-quality learning opportunities for all students to ensure every young person in Washington has an equitable chance to succeed.