Out-of-School Time Programs

Out-of-School Time (OST) programs represent an array of programs that provide children and youth with a range of supervised activities designed to encourage learning and development outside of the typical school day. While some focus on educational outcomes, others seek to affect multiple outcomes, such as psychological well-being and social competence. OST programs may be offered in school-, faith-, and community-based settings, may serve any age range, and may be delivered on school days and on days when school is not in session, such as weekends, holidays, and summer breaks.

OST programs include afterschool programs, summer learning programs, and programs offered before the school day. During the academic year, programs that serve students between the hours of 3 pm and 6 pm provide students the opportunity to take part in safe, structured and supportive environments, during the hours they are most likely to engage in, or become a victim of, crime (Little, 2007). 

OST programs are not likely to be effective unless they are implemented with high quality and use best practices. Approaches found to be successful include: (a) training students on personal and social skills (Durlak, Weissberg, & Pachan, 2010); (b) using a focused and intentional strategy based in a positive youth development framework (Metz, Goldsmith, and Arbreton, 2008); and (c) encouraging involvement over a succession of years (Vandell et al., 2005). 

Several resources exist to assist those starting an afterschool program (for a list of these resources, see Additional Resources).

Questions your program should answer:

  1. To What Extent Are You Reaching Your Target Population?
  2. To What Extent Are Effective Skills Training Practices Being Used?
  3. To What Extent Does the Program Offer a Positive Developmental Setting?
  4. To What Extent Are Youth Participating in Services?
  5. To What Extent Are Participants Engaged in the Program?
By ChildTrends 

Resources Cited

Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R. P, & Pachan, M. (2010). A Meta-Analysis of After-School Programs that Seek to Promote Personal and Social Skills in Children and Adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45, 294-309.

Little, P. (2007). The realm of afterschool: A world of diversity. After School and Out of School Time. The Massachusetts Special Commission on Afterschool and Out-of-School Time. Retrieved 5/1/11.

Metz, R. A., Goldsmith, J., & Arbreton, A. J. A. (2008). Putting it all together: Guiding principles for quality after-school programs serving preteens. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures. 

Vandell, D. L., Shernoff, D. J., Pierce, K. M., Bolt, D. M., Dadisman, K., & Brown, B. B. (2005). Activities, engagement, and emotion in after-school programs (and elsewhere). In H. B. Weiss, P. M. D. Little, & S. M. Bouffard (Eds.), New directions for youth development: No. 105. Participation in youth programs: Enrollment, attendance, and engagement (pp. 121-129). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Additional Resources

21st Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC): 21st CCLC is the only federal funding stream dedicated exclusively to afterschool programs. Visit the Department of Education’s 21st CCLC website to find all you need to know about eligibility, regulations and more. But remember – in order to apply for funding you must visit your State Education Agency’s website. 

Afterschool Alliance: Alliance has found that roughly 15% of the nation’s children are enrolled in afterschool programs. They provide tools and resources to develop a quality afterschool program including, start-up guides; program development, management and curriculum building strategies; funding and sustainability strategies, and state-level resources.

Afterschool.gov: A one-stop website connecting afterschool providers to federal resources that support children during the non-school hours.

Beyond the Bell: Start-Up Guide: This toolkit from Learning Point Associates provides ideas to get you started conceptualizing and implementing your program.

Council on Accreditation: Offers certification and accreditation for afterschool programs and maintains a set of quality standards for the field.

National Afterschool Association:  A membership association for professionals who work with children and youth in diverse school and community-based settings to provide a wide variety of extended learning opportunities and care during out-of-school hours. They are dedicated to development, education and care of children and youth during the non-school hours.

National Institute on Out-of-School Time: An action-research institute providing a national perspective on the critical issues facing the out-of-school time field through research, education, training and program development.

National Summer Learning Association: A network hub for thousands of summer learning program providers and stakeholders across the country, providing tools, resources, and expertise to improve program quality, generate support, and increase youth access and participation.

Resource Guide for Planning and Operating Afterschool Programs: This SEDL toolkit (3rd edition) provides a description of resources to support 21st Century Community Learning Center afterschool programs. Many of the entries will also apply to before-school, summer, and community learning center programs. Resources meet three basic criteria: they are timely; they are readily available; and, they are relatively inexpensive.

Starting a Program Resources: This Department of Education website compiles various resources on starting and operating an afterschool program.

The After-School Corporation: A New York-based non-profit working to change public policy and expand public funding in New York and across the nation so all kids can have high quality experiences outside of the regular school hours. They develop and promote models for afterschool, evaluate the effectiveness of programs and share findings with afterschool educators around the country.

Utah Afterschool Network’s Start a Program Guide: This toolkit was created by the Utah Department of Workforce Services in collaboration with the Utah State University Extension 4-H. This toolkit is a useful resource for those afterschool providers who are located in rural areas. See ABC...123: Starting your afterschool program, pages 2-3