Successful Programs

Several groups in the field have attempted to define what is needed for after-school programs to be successful but there is little that defines “success.” The C.S. Mott Foundation Committee on After-School Research and Practice, comprised of researchers, evaluators and program experts, jointly developed the Framework for Successful After-School Programs, which identified the following aspects of successful programs:

  1. Effective partnerships to promote learning and community engagement.
  2. Strong program management including adequate compensation.
  3. Qualified after-school staff and volunteers with regular opportunities for professional development and career advancement.
  4. Enriching learning opportunities that complement school-day learning, utilize project-based learning, and explore new skills and knowledge.
  5. Intentional linkages between school-day and after-school staff including coordinating and maximizing use of resources and facilities.
  6. Appropriate attention to safety, health and nutrition issues.
  7. Strong family involvement in participants’ learning and development.
  8. Adequate and sustainable funding.
  9. Evaluation for continuous improvement and assessing program effectiveness.

A second group, The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning, identified 13 Indicators of Quality After-School Programs. We affirm them here because their presence or absence directly affects the learning that will take place. Most items on this list are quality indicators in any setting, regular or out-of-school. We have grouped them by the area of teaching and learning they affect.

Student Engagement

  1. Promoting student engagement
  2. Employing motivational strategies to engage learning
  3. Providing a positive program environment

Curriculum/ Content Focus (planning)

  1. Clear goals for content practice
  2. Assigning research-based activities
  3. Aligning content materials with standards
  4. Developing links between content and school day activities


  1. Using research-based curriculum and teaching strategies
  2. Providing effective program management, support and resources (e.g., staffing, experience and trainings, evaluation)
  3. Providing opportunities for student practice


  1. Assessing program effectiveness periodically
  2. Reviewing student progress periodically
  3. Resetting goals based on assessment results

Other researchers found that programs missing any one of the following four elements-sequence, active students, focus and explicitness—did not achieve positive results. (Durlak and Weisberg)

We must consider how to employ these indicators as instructors and students interact in the after-school setting. To do this we must first think about the students.