After School Programs Make the Grade

Students score higher when participating in structured programs

(RxWiki News) Earning those A's and stickers happens more often when kids have a set time to do homework, especially if students have extra help after school.

Structured after-school activities help improve children's grades in school, a new study has found.

These researchers found that grades improved from the start of the year to the end of the year among those students who frequently participated in club activities.

The more frequent students' participated in their programs, the greater the improvement in overall GPA.

"Help your kids do their homework."

The study, led by Ken Springer, PhD, and Deborah Diffily, PhD, associate professors in the Simmon's School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University, looked at after school activities in the Boys and Girls Clubs of America during the 2009-2010 academic year.

The organization is one of the nations's oldest after school programs and serves more than 4 million children during the school week.

The study included 719 students in second through eighth grade who took part in one of 12 after school programs in the Greater Dallas chapter.

Their programs fall into five areas, including Character and Leadership; Health and Life Skills; Arts; Education and Career; and Sports, Fitness and Recreation.

Students are divided by age and have a daily set time to work on homework during the program.

Clubs provided information on the intensity of each program, as well as the time spent in the programs and the breadth of participation.

Researchers looked at students' grades in math, science and English from the first and last six-weeks of the school year.

They also looked at student attendance, as well as their overall grade point average and absences for the year.

Their attendance accounted for the total number of days they were present in the program, which program themes they participated in and how often they participated the days they were there.

The breadth that students participated in each program was measured in high, medium and low if the student attended at least 80 percent, 50 percent or at least two of the meetings respectively.

School attendance for both elementary and middle school students also improved.

The grade point averages of those students who did a greater number and variety of after school activities improved "only among elementary students, and only when program participation was substantial,” the authors said in a press release.

“After-school programs are increasingly viewed as a means of supporting children’s physical, academic, social and behavioral development,” the authors said in a press release.

For middle schoolers, breadth wasn't linked with a better GPA. And breadth didn't affect the number of absences for both age groups.

"The extent of participation and the variety of programs attended both appear to be important, particularly among younger children," the authors said in their report.

Dr. Diffily said after school programs can provide a sense of success in a child, even if the student isn't necessarily successful during the school day.

“For children who live in poverty — often those who attend Boys and Girls Clubs — the clubs can ameliorate the pressures of poverty, such as living in an overcrowded apartment or a lack of after-school snacks,” she said.

The authors note several limitations in their study. They did not consider other reasons that could link intensity or breadth with GPA.

They also did not find any effects on GPA during the first six weeks or quarter of the academic year, nor did they consider how involved the kids were in their results.

The study was published online August 7 in the Journal of Community Psychology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 13, 2012