Abstract: Effects of an Urban Afterschool Program on Behavior and Academic Performance among High-Risk Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12483 Effects of an Urban Afterschool Program on Behavior and Academic Performance among High-Risk Youth

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 3:00 PM
Seacliff D (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Kimberly A. Bender, PhD , University of Denver, Assistant Professor, Denver, CO
Daniel Brisson, PhD , University of Denver, Assistant Professor, Denver, CO
Anne Powell, PhD , University of Kansas, Assistant Professor, Lawrence, KS
Shandra Forrest-Bank, MSW , University of Denver, Research Assistant, Denver, CO
Elizabeth K. Anthony, PhD , Arizona State University, Assistant Professor, Phoenix, AZ
Background and Purpose: The Bridge Project, an urban afterschool program located in three public housing communities, serves approximately 200 youth each academic year. Bridge project participants are primarily youth of color; 53% of participants are Latino, 18% are Black, and 13% are Asian. Youth self-select to participate in a range of intervention components that includes tutoring (73%), skills training (39%), and mentoring (10%). Each intervention component aims to enhance positive youth development, prevent problem behavior, and increase academic success. Several studies have been conducted with subsamples of Bridge Project participants by investigators affiliated with the program. Key findings from three investigations are presented here.

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.