High-quality afterschool and summer programs promote positive child and youth development, support in-school learning and facilitate the growth of a skilled workforce. However, millions of children, especially the neediest, miss out on opportunities to be in a safe, enriching environment before and after school and in the summer. The Afterschool Alliance estimates that 15.1 million children in the U.S. lack adequate out-of-school time (OST) opportunities.
There are many reasons why access to afterschool programs is so limited. One critical factor is that the delivery of services and the infrastructure that can support programs in many municipalities are not fully connected, which often leads to inefficiencies and poor overall outcomes.
In an effort to test out solutions to remedy the problem of fragmented services and generate lessons that would be useful to cities across the country, in 2003, The Wallace Foundation invested $58 million to help five major U.S. cities define and develop the key elements of a coordinated system of OST programs. The cities of Boston, Chicago, New York City, Providence, R.I., and Washington, D.C., each received $5-12 million over the period of the grant.
In October 2010, in a report commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, the RAND Corporation documented lessons learned from implementation of the five cities' strategies between the project's inception and the spring of 2009. The three-volume "Hours of Opportunity" report is available at www.wallacefoundation.org
The answer from RAND researchers was clear: Systems can help improve access and quality. "This initiative provided a proof of principle - that organizations across cities could work together toward increasing access, quality, data-based decision making and sustainability," writes report author Jennifer Sloan McCombs, policy researcher at RAND Education.
This Nation's Cities Weekly special report highlights critical insights from the Hours of Opportunity publication about the common elements that must be in place for cities to expand access to citywide systems of high-quality OST programs.
In addition to documenting key findings from The Wallace Foundation's investment in the five cities, the report includes examples of progress in three additional cities - Denver, Louisville and San Francisco - from a study of the use of management information systems in coordinating OST efforts. The Hours of Opportunity report draws on data collection, a review of the literature on OST and interviews with key city leaders, community organization representatives, principals, program providers and staff at The Wallace Foundation.Read the rest of this
Nation's Cities Weekly Special Report in the digital edition.