When Schools Stay Open Late: The National Evaluation of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program

Michael Connolly

U.S. Department of Education
April 2005

This third and final report on the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, a federal after-school program that serves almost 1,600 districts and 6,800 schools, once again concludes that the program is having little and in some cases a negative impact. (See here for the first report and here for the second). Ostensibly designed to provide a safe haven for academic and recreational activities, the study indicates that academic preparation is directionless, usually little more than supervised study hall. While students do report feeling moderately safer at school, the positives end there. Students in the program did not have higher test scores or better grades in math, science, social studies or English. Indeed, higher levels of negative behaviors were exhibited among participants, such as suspensions, teachers phoning parents over behavior problems, and students being disciplined by teachers. Such findings are troubling considering the program's current $1 billion price tag, which has ballooned from its initial $40 million budget in 1998. Intuitively, the idea sounds great (a safe environment in which extra help is provided for struggling students), but unfortunately, it appears that this program is doing little to justify its massive price tag. This one might be destined for the chopping block - as the administration has suggested but Congress has resisted. You can find the report here.

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