METHODS: This study utilized a survey research design with a convenience sample of 237 21st CCLC school communities in Ohio. A total of 1,650 stakeholders participated, representing program staff, educators, parents, and community partners. Respondents completed the online version of the Ohio-Quality Assessment Rubric (Anderson-Butcher, et al., 2007), a tool that assesses stakeholder perceptions of program quality and outcomes related to various 21st CCLC program components. Using descriptive statistics, data were analyzed to identify strengths and weaknesses across various program components (i.e., youth development programming, partnerships, staffing). T-tests and analyses of variance tests were used to determine differences across school communities in relation to the school community demographics of interest.
RESULTS: Respondents reported the highest quality programming in the area of youth development programming. Clear needs were identified related to parent/family engagement and targeted strategies to support youth presenting signs of risk. Professional development needs for staff across the 21st CCLC programs were also described. Further analyses point to the diversity of partnerships and program quality across sites. Stakeholders working within school communities serving elementary-aged youth rated overall program quality more favorably than those serving older youth. Program sites with longer histories of partnership reported higher quality programming than sites with fewer years of engagement in the partnership agenda. Differences were noted across geographical regions and stakeholders, pointing to important partnership and program needs (and related capacity-building priorities) based on local and individualized needs and strengths.
CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: This study highlights areas of strength and areas for continued improvement in 21st CCLC programs. While such initiatives foster key outcomes and support youth development, there is a need for additional emphasis on capacity building in critical areas (i.e. parent/family engagement). Findings also suggest that there are general, local and individualized needs for professional development. While funding is provided for program operation, there is often little opportunity for capacity building that ultimately leads to sustainability. In conclusion, social work can begin to think of OST as an important medium for supporting youth development and learning. As such, opportunities to support youth in out-of-school time should continue to be examined.