A review of 30 studies on after-school and summer programs across the country found mixed results regarding their benefits on student academic performance.

Students who were below grade level in English gained the most from these programs, according to some of the studies. Middle school students with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder also improved their social and emotional skills.

Yael Kidron and Jim Lindsay of the American Institutes for Research conducted the comprehensive review, “The effects of increased learning time on student academic and nonacademic outcomes: Findings from a meta-analytic review,” for the Regional Educational Laboratory of Appalachia. A brief by the authors summarizes their findings.

Although the programs were generally slightly positive for elementary school students’ literacy and math achievement, the programs at the middle school level had a small negative effect on literacy and no discernible effect on math achievement, according to some studies.

The small positive effect on literacy and math achievement occurred under the following conditions:

  • Certified teachers instructed the students;
  • The lessons were organized and focused with clear learning objectives;
  • Students learned through hands-on activities, project-based learning and field trips.

Across grades K-12, many of the programs also had a small but positive effect on academic motivation, the review found.

Of 7,000 studies on expanded learning programs identified for possible review, only 30 met the authors’ design criteria. Half of the studies were done in the past five years.

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