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After-School Research

Seven education research groups have joined the effort to evaluate after-school programs and recommend ways to improve them.

Led by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory in Austin, Texas, a nonprofit research organization that receives federal funding, the researchers will focus their study on the federal government's 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The program provides recreation, enrichment, and academic activities to students in roughly 7,500 schools.

The U.S. Department of Education will spend $9.6 million on the three-year research project, which will involve 1,600 program sites.

The team of research groups will take a closer look at issues raised in a study released earlier this year by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. in Princeton, N.J.

That study suggested that the program, which was enacted during the Clinton Administration and was financed at $1 billion in fiscal 2002, had had few positive effects on student achievement. ("Study Critiques Federal After-School Program," Feb. 12, 2003.)

President Bush has recommended a 40 percent cut in spending for the program for fiscal 2004. Congress has not yet completed work on the spending bill that includes education.

The Mathematica study, however, did find an increase in mathematics scores among middle school students, particularly African-American and Hispanic students, when their scores were compared with those of students not in the program.

The new research project will complement Mathematica's work by looking for examples of effective practices in after-school programs. It will also provide training opportunities and help after-school staff members improve their results.

In addition to the Southwest lab, the other groups working on the project are: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, in Aurora, Colo.; the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, in Los Angeles; the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, in Portland, Ore.; SERVE, a regional education laboratory in Greensboro, N.C.; and the WGBH Educational Foundation and the Institute for Responsive Education, both in Boston.

Linda Jacobson

Vol. 23, Issue 8, Page 10

Published in Print: October 22, 2003, as Children & Families

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