To the Editor:
The article “High-Quality After-School Programs Tied to Test-Score Gains” (Nov. 28, 2007) led me to a somewhat surprising story behind the story. The article was about a study that showed significant improvement in test scores and other measures in children who participated in after-school programs. This is a subject of interest to me, so I downloaded the study and read it.
The text of the study read essentially as the article described it. At the end of the text, however, there are tables that give statistical data on student gains on different measures. While the tables show positive gains on math test scores, the cells for reading tests are left empty.
The explanation below the tables states that cells were left empty if there was no statistically significant gain shown in that area. So what this means is that the high-quality after-school programs had a positive impact on math test scores, but no significant impact on reading test scores.
The fact that the study appears to show these after-school programs have no measurable effect on literacy seems to me to be as significant as the finding that the programs have a positive impact on math. It stands in stark counterpoint to the gist of the discussion in the study and in your article, which both seem to be telling us that after-school programs really do work.
In fact, the contrast is so stark that I wrote to the study’s authors to be sure that I did not misinterpret the tables. They confirmed my reading of their data. They did not explain why they did not talk about the literacy finding in their write-up.
I am an enthusiastic reader of Education Week, and look for it to be, as you say, the “newspaper of record” for American education. Thus, it raises concern to me that research I read about in your paper may turn out to be significantly different from what was reported.
John K. DiPaolo
Beginning With Children Foundation
New York, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 2008 edition of Education Week as After-School Article Leads To ‘Story Behind the Story’