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Out-of-School-Time Academic Programs

Out-of-school-time (OST) academic programs focus on helping students improve academic achievements in kindergarten through 12th grade. The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends OST programs to improve math and reading knowledge of at-risk students. The Task Force notes that these programs show promise for improving health outcomes and health equity. Programs should emphasize academic content, although the other elements of these programs such as service learning can also be beneficial for youth and their communities.

These programs are scheduled after regular school hours during the school year and summer. OST programs can include reading-focused programs, math-focused programs, or general programs. Some programs may supplement the academic portion of the program by providing additional resources for students, including snacks and meals, as well as counseling sessions and recreational activities. In rural communities, OST programs provide important resources to families and help to support healthy, safe youth development. These programs may provide youth with activities that enhance academic and other, non-academic skills.

Examples of Out-of-School-Time Academic Programs Addressing SDOH:

  • The Montana 4-H Club, run through the Montana State University Extension, is the largest OST youth development and education program in the state. The program works with youth around the state in all 56 counties and 7 reservations, and provides hundreds of different learning and skill-building opportunities. The program uses adult volunteers who focus on training and youth empowerment. Youth can participate in a variety of projects such as agricultural training and learning how to raise livestock, sew, cook, and use new technology. Results from the program show that participants gain concrete knowledge, as well as skills related to public speaking, writing, and general communication.
  • The Bristol Borough 21st Century Community Learning Centers provide OST programming for Pennsylvania youth in elementary through high school focused on reading, math, and science. The programs provide support to improve student's academic achievement and aim to serve as a safe gathering place for youth and their families. For example, the centers organize dinners for participating families and provide parents with access to computers.
  • The Rural Alaska Community Action Program (RurAL CAP) runs the Resilient Alaska Youth (RAY) AmeriCorps Program. RAY engages youth from remote tribal communities in afterschool and OST activities, education, and community service to help connect them to their culture. The program recruits AmeriCorps members directly from the villages and members from their local tribe supervise them. The program is based on an evidence-based model for tribal communities called Project Venture, which aims to educate, empower youth, and reduce risky behaviors such as substance use. The program also attempts to build meaningful relationships for youth and a connection to their culture as resiliency assets that can help protect them from participating in risky behaviors and to reduce rates of suicide.
  • The 4-H Rural Youth Development program, Engaging Youth, Serving Community, focuses on empowering local youth by equipping them with knowledge and skills to build capacity and make changes in their communities. These programs, including afterschool programs, focus on including rural youth as integral members of the community and involving them in all steps of community planning and decision-making. The programs recognize the importance of building youth leaders and champions in rural areas to have a greater impact on community well-being.

Implementation Considerations

Afterschool programs may require specialized training of staff and the need for additional professional development resources. Creating strong partnerships within the community can be important for implementing and sustaining these programs. Partners can also help with family engagement, which is critical to keeping attendance at levels that justify retaining the program. Family engagement in afterschool programming has been shown to be an important factor in children's achievement and success. Children are more likely to attend afterschool and OST activities when they receive support from their families and caregivers.

Resource considerations are also important for these programs. Providing nutritious snacks and having sufficient space for kids and families can help improve program attendance and success. In addition, programs that can provide transportation may be more successful, since this is a common barrier for students being able to attend programs in rural areas.

Resources to Learn More

21st Century Community Learning Centers
Includes resources and research about before and afterschool programs. Includes information about 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the only federally-funded afterschool programs.
Organization(s): Illinois State Board of Education

Reports: In-depth Reporting on Afterschool
Presents research on the impact of afterschool programs and provides examples of strategies for implementing programs.
Organization: Afterschool Alliance