Methods: A pretest-posttest design was used in study 1 to determine whether standardized reading levels among Bridge Project participants changed during one academic year (N=60). The Flynt-Cooter Reading Inventory was used to assess reading levels in fall and spring semesters. Study 1 also examined levels of self-efficacy at pretest and posttest using the Morgan-Jinks Student Efficacy Scale. The relationship among level of program exposure, self-efficacy, and academic success was examined in study 2 (N=128). In these analyses, academic grades in math, science, reading, and social studies were regressed on program exposure, self-efficacy, and sociodemographic variables. Study 3 aimed to identify peer and neighborhood level risk factors for problem behavior at school and for academic achievement (N=120). Using indicators from the School Success Profile, self-reported problem behaviors and academic grades were regressed on friends' deviant behavior and neighborhood peers' deviant behavior, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics.
Results: Study 1 findings revealed that reading (t=-10.8, p<.001) and self-efficacy (t=-5.5, p<.001) scores among Bridge Project participants increased significantly between fall and spring semester of the academic year. Importantly, 75% (N=45) of youth experienced at least a one-grade level improvement in reading during the school year. Results reported in study two indicated that level of participation in Bridge Project program components was positively associated with higher academic grades (B=.109, p<.05), even after accounting for the significant influence of self-efficacy (B=.20, p<.001). Finally, neighborhood deviant behavior was positively associated with youth self-reports of behavioral problems in school (F(df=5)=3.1, p<.05) but was not significantly related to youths' academic achievement (F(df=5)=.86, p=.515). Conversely, friends' deviant behavior was a strong predictor of both behavioral problems (F(df=5)=3.3, p<.05) and academic achievement (F(df=5)=2.4, p<.05) in study 3.
Conclusions and Implications: Findings assessing a range of behavioral and academic outcomes among Bridge Project participants illustrate the promise of afterschool interventions for high-risk children and youth in urban neighborhoods. These findings should be considered in developing and testing afterschool program components. Challenges in collecting longitudinal data and implementing rigorous research designs in afterschool settings are delineated. Lessons learned from Bridge Project investigations are noted.